"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial, AZ Hike

Surprise, Arizona
Thousand Trails RV Resort

On June 28th, 2013 a lightning strike in the Weaver Mountains started what became the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. The next day the Granite Mountain Hotshots were assigned to help with the fire.  What a tragedy it turned out to be.  Nineteen lives were lost that day.
A map of the trail.  You start at the bottom and end up at the Observation Deck.  You can look down at the Fatality Site or you can hike the 3/4 mile red trail to it.
The Granite Mountain State Memorial Park was opened to the public on November 30th, 2016 as a tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  We had been able to visit some of the other memorials since the tragedy but were not able to visit the new Memorial State Park as we were very busy with family matters while we were in Arizona last year.  The Memorial State Park has a 3 mile hiking trail (one way) with 1,200 feet of gain.  There are over 200 stairs cut into the mountain and 19 memorial granite plaques with a story and picture of each of the Hotshots.  Several other signs along the trail give information about wildland firefighting, history and more information related to the Yarnell fire. At 5460 feet elevation the Hotshot Trail ends at the Observation Deck looking down to the Fatality Site. There are benches, a Tribute Wall and signs with more information here. To reach the Fatality Site you hike down 3/4 of a mile on the Journey Trail to where there are 19 crosses where each Hotshot was found.  There is a fence around the area to protect it.

There is a very well done geocache series in honor of the Hotshots nearby that we had previously started and two more at the Memorial State Park.  One is at the entrance and one is up at the observation deck.  We wanted to find the last two and finish the series.
We drove up to the park in the morning and were lucky to find a spot at the bottom.  There are only about 13 or so.  There is a shuttle that will take you here. You can get directions and trail info HERE.
 You start up some steps and right up the trail.  I'd call it a moderate trail.  Nothing hard or too steep, just mostly uphill.  The only flat part is just before the Observation Deck.  If you aren't into hiking, you can get a good feel for it by taking your time and hiking a short distance to the first plaque.  Wear hiking boots or good, sturdy shoes.  Bring plenty of water.  There is no water or bathrooms on the trail but there are a couple of outhouses at the parking lot at the bottom.
Looking up at the beginning. 
Looking down to the small parking lot.
As you climb you can see the highway down below.

Looking across the saddle you can see a group of hikers.  This is very zoomed in.  They are in the lower left corner.

Beautiful vistas from all directions.
The only flat part just before the Observation Deck.

Looking down towards the Fatality Site which is out of the picture to the right.  And beyond that is the tiny town of Yarnell.
The circle in the above photo is a zoomed in view of the Fatality Site.
One of the memorial plaques.  This one is of Sean Misner whose wife was from our town of Placerville, CA.  We happened to be home when his body was returned.  It shut down our little town while the procession of firetrucks, police, etc came through.  I think our entire town turned out for it.  The overpasses were decorated and covered with flags.  It was very moving.
Looking at the fatality site and the area around it just after the fire.  (above)  And below is the Tribute Wall.  What a very somber and touching place this is.

This is a picture of the Hotshots taken in front of a Juniper tree that is thought to be over 2000 years old.  The oldest in the world.  They were sent here before the Yarnell Hill fire started to protect it while another fire burned nearby.  Luckily they were able to keep the fire back as it burned right up to the tree.
At the Fatality site there are benches that circle the area so that you can rest and reflect.  There were many mementos left all around the site.  We saw coins, badges, letters, angels, hats and rocks.
Some of the painted rocks.

The flag which flies at half mast.
You can see some of the 19 purple crosses in the middle of the circle where their bodies were found.
Back out we hike.  We came across a group of college kids which were in uniform in the Air Force ROTC.  We had a great time talking with them and we criss-crossed them most of the way down as we would stop and take pictures for them as they posed for group shots.

While I was surprised how much re-growth there was of the area, you could still see many burned trees.

There are those kids again at the top of the hill.  See them on the boulders?
There they are!

We loved all the rocks and boulders.

 We really enjoyed this hike.  We learned more about the Hotshots and the area.  It was sure amazing to hike it and see where it all happened.  We rented the movie, Only the Brave, and watched it a couple of nights later.  It was very sad, but very well done.  I recommend the hike if you can.  If you can't, well there is great info at the bottom to see and read.  We liked the movie and were glad to learn more about the survivor.
The 2000 year old Juniper Tree.
 We hoped to hike out to the tree with some former fire fighter/RV friends that live in the area and had worked with some of the Hotshots, but the weather for this Friday is still calling for snow, wind and very cold temps.  I guess we'll have to save this hike for our next visit. As the 5 year anniversary of the fire is approaching this June, I can imagine this will be a busy area.

On our way back home we did a little more geocaching and came upon a really neat, old pioneer cemetery in Congress.


One of the interesting art pieces in the roundabouts/rotaries in Wickenburg.  This is another town we have not been able to spend much time in over the years even though we've driven by it a hundred times.  I guess that'll have to wait until our next visit as well.


  1. Great post. That's a hike to remember. Not a fan of hikes down and back up but this would be worth it. Cool photos. You guys never slow down.

    1. It's especially touching when you've spent time in the area, saw it on the news, did they hike and saw the movie.

  2. So nice a memorial park has been dedicated to those brave men. We'll have to check out that movie.

    1. It is Arizona's first memorial park. We wanted to see the movie on the big screen when it first came out but just didn't have the time. It came out on rental at Red Box so we had a movie night.

  3. Guess I never realized that was in this area, think we may try this before we leave. Great post and photos.

    1. Thanks. Most of the US was aware of this fire and the tragic deaths of the fire crew. If you spend any time in Prescott, these areas are definitely worth some time.

  4. The last time we were in this area the memorial was still in the planning stages. What a magnificent trail this is to pay tribute to these Hotshots. Thanks for sharing. Now we need to get back to see it in person.

    1. They did a great job. It can be much cooler and quite windy up there. As you know, layers.

  5. Thanks for telling the story. True American heroes.

  6. What an awesome trail dedicated to those who lost their lives. It had to be emotional walking the trail reading those tributes and realizing what it must have been like for them.


I’d love to hear from you! It’s more fun when you leave a comment!