Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park
All Arizonans were shocked and saddened when on the late afternoon of June 30, 2013 a raging wildfire swept over the high desert terrain near Yarnell, Arizona tragically killing 19 firefighters from the Prescott area.
Now, 3 1/2 years after their heart-rending deaths, the State of Arizona has forever memorialized their sacrifice by dedicating and opening the 320-acre Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park at the site of this terrible calamity on Yarnell Hill.
The trailhead for the park is located along the southbound lane of Highway 89A approximately 2-miles south of Yarnell. Parking is limited as only 15 dedicated parking spaces are found at the trailhead.
The hike to the solemn Fatality Site involves two trails and an in-and-out total distance of 7-miles. The first trail, known as the Hotshot Rail, is 2.85-miles in length and rises some 1,200 feet in elevation from the trailhead to the Observation Deck. Because of the large rise in elevation, this trail is considered difficult.
Every 600-feet along the Hotshot Trail a granite plaque is found that shares the photo and a story of one of the 19 fallen Hotshots. Additional interpretive signs are also found along this trail providing information about wildland firefighting.
At the Observation Deck visitors can look down into a small valley upon the Fatality Site and to the east the Town of Yarnell. A Tribute Wall is available here where personal thoughts, patches and mementos can be left in honor of these men.
From the Observation Deck, the 3/4-mile Journey Trails allows visitors to descend some 400-feet, following the same path that the 19 Hotshots rushed down while rapidly clearing ground brush in a failed attempt to survive the howling wildfire that was racing down the hill behind them.
At the Fatality Site 19 wire gabion baskets, encircle and protect 19 crosses that mark the 19 closely bunched fallen positions which now and forever will be some of Arizona’s most hallowed ground. Each wire gabon is filled with rock from the surrounding hills and each has attached a large metal purplish ribbon.
The 19 gabions are joined together by a series of chains which forever ties together this eternal team of firefighters. A path with reflection benches surrounds the gabions and also leads to a memorial flagpole.
Those choosing to get out and make this memorial hike are reminded to dress appropriately. During the winter months snow has been known to fall upon Yarnell Hill. During the summer months, the journey will be hot. There is no drinking water along the trails nor are there any restrooms.
It is recommended that all visitors begin their hike before 12-noon as the roundtrip journey will take the average hiker at least 5 hours. Sufficient water and food are also advised. Flashlights are recommended just in case ones journey is not completed until after dark.
Hikers are asked to pack out any trash. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails as long as owners pick up after their four-legged companions.
During the park’s dedication ceremony on November 30, 2016, Governor Doug Ducey called the Hotshot Memorial State Park “a place to reflect, to mourn, and to learn” for all Arizonans. He concluded his remarks by promising that this state park will “always be a sacred place.”
Destination Name: Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park, Yarnell, Arizona
Address: Two miles south of Yarnell on the southbound lane of Highway 89A.
67 miles from Carefree Highway & I-17..
Hours: Daily - sunrise to sunset
All photos - credit Arizona State Parks