Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

"I get asked a lot why this park is special. This is sacred ground. This is where the hotshots lost their lives. The ground is honored and protected. It is not only a recreational park, but it is a park where people come to pay their respects. We have had firefighters from all around the world, from Germany to Iraq, come to pay their respects, so I must say that this place is a melting pot of honor.” — Jared Welsh, ranger, Arizona State Parks and Trails

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

A lightning strike ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire southwest of Prescott in the summer of 2013. The communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley were in danger of being overtaken by the flames, and elite hotshot crews were called in to fight the toughest fires in the toughest terrain. While building fire lines to deprive the advancing fire of fuel, unpredictable winds moved the fire into a canyon near Yarnell and trapped the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. Arizona’s first memorial state park leads to the sacred ground where 19 brave young men lost their lives.

Getting There

The remote Weaver Mountains in Prescott National Forest provide the pristine backdrop for this special state park. The park is located off Highway 89, renamed the Granite Mountain Memorial State Highway. From the north, the slow and scenic drive winds through the pine forests and granite outcroppings that the Prescott area is known for. For visitors approaching from the south, Highway 74 passes Lake Pleasant and Highway 60 winds through the Western outpost of Wickenburg. Throttle down as you approach the granite mountains on Highway 89, where the memorial park asks visitors to be mindful.

The Hike

The trek in is uphill most of the way. Trail stewards did an expert job planning the switchbacks and carving 200+ granite stairsteps to navigate the toughest climbs, but even experienced hikers consider the 7-mile roundtrip a test of strength and endurance.

At the summit of the first ridgeline, the trail winds through a canyon and climbs to a second ridgeline where a bench at the halfway point encourages hikers to take a break. A sign there advises hikers with less than half of their water remaining to turn back. Otherwise, dig in for the toughest climb of the hike that reaches the final ridgeline. Just past the 2.5-mile marker, the trail comes to an observation point overlooking the fatality site with the city of Yarnell in the distance. This is where hikers need to decide if they have enough water and energy to add 1.5 miles to hike in and out of the canyon to reach the site where the fallen heroes made their last stand, represented by 19 interlocked gabions on the canyon floor.

Visitors do not need to complete the entire hike to pay respects to the firefighters who lost their lives. At 19 stops along the trail, memorial plaques present portraits and personal stories of the men who perished. At the observation point overlooking the fatality site, a tribute wall includes more notes and mementos left by visitors who have traveled to the site from around the world.

Visit Yarnell

While 127 homes in and around Yarnell were lost in the fire and the city was evacuated for eight days, no residents lost their lives. One look at the natural beauty of the area and it is clear why locals affected by the fire decided to rebuild in Yarnell. After hiking the Hotshots trail, stop in Yarnell to reboot at any of the cute mom-and-pop cafes and browse the surprising collection of art galleries and antique shops. Stop by the Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial Park, which now anchors the center of town and memorializes the brave members of the hotshot crew.

Visit Destination Website

In memory of Andrew Ashcraft, Robert Caldwell, Travis Carter, Dustin DeFord, Christopher MacKenzie, Eric Marsh, Grant McKee, Sean Misner, Scott Norris, Wade Parker, John Percin Jr., Anthony Rose, Jesse Steed, Joe Thurston, Travis Turbyfill, William Warneke, Clayton Whitted, Kevin Woyjeck and Garret Zuppiger.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

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