The Granite Mountain Memorial Hike Honors the Firefighters Who Lost Their Lives in the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire
By Amanda Lane, owner, The Hike Shack
The Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Hike has been on my to-do list for some time now. I finally checked it off recently, and highly recommend taking a day to make the trip down the hill to enjoy this amazing journey.
The 2013 Yarnell Hill fire started with a lightning strike and ended in tragedy beyond comprehension. Not only did 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots lose their lives, but also, the fire reached the town of Yarnell, destroying homes and buildings and changing the scenery from Peeples Valley to Yarnell Hill. The pain, grief, and sorrow extended throughout our own hometown and the nation. Whether we personally knew any of the men or learned about them only through this tragedy, they’re now more than familiar to all of us.
Because the temperatures in Yarnell are warmer than those in Prescott, and because the hike is exposed and about seven miles round trip, I chose a cooler day for my hike (the summer months are not ideal for this one).
I left town about 9 a.m. and began my one-hour drive to Yarnell, a tiny town with a restaurant or two and a few antique shops (there is a convenience store and gas station just north of Yarnell if you need to refuel or grab extra snacks and water). A memorial site in the middle of town is currently being built through donations and volunteers. It contains a beautiful laser-etched picture of the Hotshots, as well as amphitheater-style area organizers, plan to use for a number of future events. This hike provides a good opportunity to teach kids the importance of fire safety. It also gives visitors a great sense of what a hard-working, passionate person a firefighter has to be, in order to be successful in an incredibly challenging and demanding career.
The hike begins on Yarnell Hill, just a few miles past the small town.
The trail, a state park, is very well done. There is a beautiful bronze memorial statue at the trailhead, as well as restrooms and maps.
The park consists of two trails: the 2.5-miles-long Hotshot Trail, which contains memorial plaques with a picture and information on each of the fallen, as well as wildfire information; and the one-mile Journey Trail, which leads down the hill to a memorial site where the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew perished in the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire.
The hike is rocky and steep, climbing almost 1500 feet during the seven-mile round trip. There is nowhere to get water or use the restroom on the trail, and the hike does take some time to complete, so leave the trailhead prepared if you plan you make the entire journey. There are benches to rest on along the way, beautiful views to enjoy, a peaceful and respectful atmosphere amongst hikers that was beyond words (even on a trail busier than any I have hiked since The Grand Canyon).
A couple of notes about parking and preparation:
This is a state park, which means state park rules apply. Officials recommend giving yourself four hours to complete the hike. Parking at the trailhead is minimal; a free shuttle service runs Friday through Sunday, from the Yarnell Fire station in the middle of town (I highly recommend using the shuttle; on the day I went, the trailhead lot was full by 10 a.m.). The first pick up is at 9 a.m., with the last drop off at 1 p.m., and the last pick up for return around 4 p.m.
Remember to bring donations for the shuttle, plenty of water, a hat, good footwear, snacks, and your trekking poles. This is a hiking-only trail and pets are allowed on leash. This is also a park and follows State Park rules.
A helpful and friendly State Parks employee can often be found at the trailhead offering information and tips for a successful adventure.
Learn more about this hike at https://azstateparks.com/hotshots/explore/trails.