Because the road in is particularly rough, consider taking the Brushy Canyon Trail to connect to the Monte Vista Trail just past its own trailhead.
This trail is also sometimes referred to as the "North Fork Trail".
As of early September 2021, the Rucker Canyon Road is closed due to flood damage at the Red Rock Canyon junction, which suggests there is likely damage to the North Fork Road as well.
As of May 2021, the road to the trailhead is in rough but 4WD/high clearance passable condition. A segment of the trail at the bottom end follows a blown out wash for several hundred yards before picking up and remaining in generally good condition for the remainder of the trail. Intermittent deadfall, light vegetation overgrowth in places, and small sections of erosion damage or debris flows are the primary issues, though there are several areas of narrow tread up high above Buckskin Saddle as well. Overall, this trail is very passable to hikers aside from the deadfall.
Length: 4.09 mi
The Monte Vista Trail is accessible from three locations.
The lower elevation southern terminus is at the end of the rough, occasionally washed out North Fork Rucker Canyon Road (FR 628). High clearance vehicles are a must for this road and you may reach a point where you want to park and walk the remaining distance. Drive up Rucker Canyon Road (FR 74E) 4.66 miles to just beyond Cypress Park Campground. After crossing Rucker Creek, you will very shortly make a left turn at a corral onto FR 628. (31.77677, -109.31245) The trailhead is 1.8 miles north. (31.79954, -109.31970) As of August 2019, this road has been damaged again by a flood event and is only drivable partway before abruptly ending in a dropoff without warning.
The Brushy Canyon Trail connects in from the southwest only 300 feet north of the trailhead. (31.80040, -109.31965) This junction is not signed, but that trail heads west-northwest to cross the creek before swinging south on the opposite side and climbing southwest towards a saddle.
The Turtle Mountain Trail dead ends at the Monte Vista Trail 0.17 mile before reaching the top of Monte Vista Peak, (31.82530, -109.31313) and the Crest Trail does the same 80 feet northwest along the Turtle Mountain Trail. (31.82548, -109.31326)
The Monte Vista Trail begins at the end of the North Fork Rucker Canyon Road (FR 628), and while there is no trailhead sign here, there is a rock blocking motor vehicles from continuing beyond the end of the road and a hitching post and Wilderness boundary sign also indicate the trailhead position. (31.79954, -109.31970) Going straight north from here, the trail very quickly meets the eastern terminus of the Brushy Canyon Trail after 300 feet. (31.80040, -109.31965) There is no sign or visible trail here, but there may be rock cairns. Head west-northwest and cross the creek and you will shortly come to a more visible path on the opposite bank.
Back to the Monte Vista Trail, it continues basically north for another 150 feet before crossing to the west side of the creek, temporarily exiting the unburned pine stand it had been in until now, then returns to the east side 600 feet beyond. Maintaining the same general heading, with gradual curves to the west and east occasionally, the trail makes a wide 180° turn to the right in 350 feet. (31.80328, -109.31934) It is quite wide here and is likely on the remnants of an abandoned road. Over the next approximately 400 feet it gradually curves back to the north while climbing to a shelf above the bottom of the canyon.
After passing through a short layer of somewhat burned oak trees, the remnants of the old road end after a little over 0.1 mile and it's all single track trail from there on, (31.80454, -109.31860) with tall, largely unburned pines dominating the landscape for most of the rest of the hike.
From here on out, the trail is largely in excellent condition and very easy to follow. Frequent switchbacks and some steep climbing ensue. It crosses back and forth across the creek several times as it climbs farther up the canyon. After about 0.9 mile (31.82044, -109.32044) it passes through a patch of burned trees for 0.16 mile, and you may encounter blown over trees across the trail here. ⅓ mile later, the trail crosses Buckskin Saddle, (31.82379, -109.32273) which is marked by a sign. There is a lot of standing dead mixed in among live trees here, and it is unfortunately not a great place for camping at present.
Climbing out of the saddle to the north-northwest for 0.1 mile, the trail then switchbacks three times before entering a largely straight climb to the southeast for 0.36 mile. Another four switchbacks follow over 0.34 mile, passing almost entirely through a grassy, treeless zone that was burned in an earlier fire. At the last switchback in this segment, a sign marks the junction with the Bear Spring Trail, (31.82356, -109.31638) which heads west before rapidly losing elevation. This is a very short, very steep trail to the only source of water in the area.
The Monte Vista Trail heads east-northeast out of the switchback, slowly curving to the northeast over 0.24 mile before abruptly changing direction to the northwest (31.82515, -109.31291) for the remaining hundred feet to the signed junction with the Turtle Mountain Trail, (31.82530, -109.31313) which connects in from the north. The Crest Trail lies 80 feet north along that trail.
The remaining climb to the top of Monte Vista Peak is relatively short and steep. It starts climbing immediately out of the junction, initially heading southwest as it climbs the ridge, then swinging northwest and contouring around the north side of the peak. After a pair of switchbacks, it emerges just below a storage shed on the east side of the lookout complex. A cabin, the lookout tower itself, and an outhouse lie to the west. A spectacular view of the entire region can be had from the helispot (31.82493, -109.31559) and surrounding clearing west of the tower. During fire season, the tower may be manned.
Last updated September 5, 2021.