Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial: What you need to know before hiking the memorial trail

YARNELL, AZ - On June 30, 2013, nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew died working to protect their communities from a large, yet unpredictable, wildfire.

The 20th member of their crew, Brendan McDonough, was assigned away from the fire and was the sole survivor.

360º VIDEO: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial 360º experience

Three years later, on Nov. 30, 2016, Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park -- the state's first memorial park -- opened in Yarnell, Arizona, as a way to honor and remember them.

The 7-mile single-loop round-trip trail -- roughly 3.5 miles each way -- ventures through the Weaver Mountains and down to the fatality site, which now serves as a memorial to the men.

The trail itself is difficult. Before you go, here are a few things to know about the park and the trail.

GETTING THERE + PARKING

The trail's entrance and parking lot are located off State Route 89, just south of Yarnell. As you drive up the mountain, signs will point you to the park's entrance.

Parking at the entrance is limited. There are 13 spots total. There are also two portable toilets to go to the restroom -- the only restroom facility along the trail.

Shuttle service: There is a temporary shuttle service that will ferry people between Yarnell and the park's entrance. The shuttle will run daily from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. through Oct. 31.

The shuttle is free and will run every 30 minutes.

The pick-up location is at the Assembly of God Church, 17125 W. Fountain Hill Lane in Yarnell. The drop-off is a at the park's entrance.

State park officials recommend arriving during the morning hours when traffic may be lighter. If the lot at the park's entrance is full, drivers will have to either continue along S.R. 89 (it's one-way at the park entrance) and drive up again or park in Yarnell.

GALLERY: Photo tour of Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

HIKING THE TRAILS

The trail at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Park is a 7-mile round-trip hike and is not considered to be an easy hike. There are more than 200 carved stairs, switchbacks, 5- to 8-percent elevation gains, and dirt pathways that are sometimes narrow. Officials recommend allotting four hours to complete the full hike. Download trail map.

It is defined by two trails:

Hotshots Trail: The 2.85-mile hike (one way) takes you to the Observation Deck which overlooks Yarnell and the Fatality Site. Every 600 feet, a memorial plaque for each of the deceased hotshots has been installed into a rock and tells a little bit about their stories. There are also benches to rest and look at the views of the valleys below.

Journey Trail: The Journey Trail begins where the Hotshots trail ends and leads 0.75-miles down to the fatality site.

THE FATALITY SITE

"On this revered ground, our heroes gave the ultimate sacrifice," reads a sign at the entrance to the Fatality Site.

Nineteen gabions -- metal rectangular cages filled with rocks -- surround the area where the Hotshots were found. Each one is connected with a chain, symbolic of the team they were a part of.

Within the circle are nineteen metal crosses, each bearing one of the Hotshots' names, carefully placed in the direction they were found, according to the website.

There are a few benches for people to rest and pay their respects.

HIKING TIPS:

  • Understand the difficulty level before going hiking
  • Bring enough water and snacks for four hours of hiking
  • Wear proper clothing and shoes, bring a hat and sunscreen
  • Cellphone reception can be spotty. Let someone know where you're hiking and when you should return.

For more information, visit https://azstateparks.com/hotshots/explore/trails.

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