Granite Mountain Hotshots
Memorial State Park
Many people who visit Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park will only stay long enough to read the signs near the parking lot that summarize the tragedy of the Yarnell Hill Fire that claimed the lives of 19 brave, young firefighters June 30, 2013. Those with the stamina and fitness to go all in will be rewarded with a thoughtful memorial that honors the hotshots and gives Arizonans a chance to pay their respects for their sacrifice.
The state park is a few miles south of Yarnell and its parking lot is on the edge of State Route 89 against a rocky bluff. There are only a dozen spaces for long-term parking and two others for 10-minute visits to quickly look at the memorial signage. A shuttle runs from SR 89 and Shrine Drive in Yarnell from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The hike up the granite slopes of the Weaver Mountains is gradual. The Hotshots Trail rises 1,200 feet over 2.85 miles to reach an overlook with a ramada at an elevation of 5,460 feet. It looks down on the valley where the wind-driven fire overtook the fleeing Granite Mountain Hotshots. They scrambled to get to a safe area at Boulder Springs Ranch that was just a quarter mile away.
It takes roughly two hours to reach the overlook with 19 stops along the way to read the granite plaques that tell the story of each young firefighter.
At the top of the mountain, the views include Yarnell, the desert far below near Congress and the distant Vulture Peak close to Wickenburg. Overhead, a lattice of jet contrails casts white streaks across the blue sky. It’s a spot for quiet reflection as the wind whips a makeshift flag on a ramada. There’s a tribute wall where fire and police departments from near and far have posted their patches along with other mementos.
Journey Trail in Hotshots' footsteps
The Journey Trail takes off from the overlook down 400 feet and three-quarters of a mile to a circular memorial near where the firefighters perished. Plan on another hour roundtrip for those who descend this trail to this hallowed site.
Hikers should bring food and water for the long hike. There is no water on the trail. Portable restrooms are in the parking lot. Take all the usual precautions for Arizona hikes: wear a hat, apply sunscreen and wear layers of clothing. State park officials suggest starting before noon for those who wish to do the entire hike and carry a flashlight in case one has to hike out after dark.
I would advise against doing this hike from May to September when temperatures can top 90 degrees with virtually no shade along the trail. Go at dawn if you do hike on a hotter day. I also suggest getting to the parking lot as early as possible, especially on weekends, to get a parking space.
The park, which gets over 30,000 annual visitors, is about 70 miles northwest of Phoenix and half that distance from Prescott. For more information:
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