Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

Located along Highway 89, approximately 2 miles south of the small town of Yarnell, Arizona, sits the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. It’s a unique state park, dedicated as a memorial site to a mass tragedy. On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the 20-man Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. They were a specialized group within the Prescott Fire Department whose mission was to help combat wildfires. After being deployed 34 miles south to Yarnell, the Hotshots found themselves encircled by the fire, with nowhere to go. There was evidence that the crew deployed fire shelters, which failed. Only one firefighter, Brendon McDonough, survived — because he was serving as a lookout in a location separate from the others. 

The staircase leading up to the trail.

Started by a single lightning strike in the Weaver Mountains, the National Fire Protection Association lists it as the greatest loss of firefighter life during a wildfire since 1933. It’s also one of the greatest losses of firefighter life in the United States next to 9/11, and the deadliest wildfire, of any kind, since 1991. Then-Vice President Joe Biden attended the memorial in 2013, stating “All men are created equal. But then, a few became firefighters”.

Beginning portion of the trail. As can be seen, it’s immediately uphill.

To get to the main memorial site, where the firefighters met their fates, you must hike 3.5 miles one way to the observation deck, uphill, with the elevation starting at 4,318 feet (1,316 m) and climbing to 5,460 feet (1,660 m). As Wiki puts it, “It is steep and rugged with over 200 steps carved into rock and several switchbacks”. The memorial up there comprises 19 rock baskets, connected by chains, forming a circle around the fatality site. Along the trail are 19 granite memorial plaques, each with a photo and short biography. There are also benches along the way.

For those who cannot climb the trail to the observation deck, there is a memorial and information located at the base, right off the parking lot. Unfortunately, due to my mother’s bad knees, hot weather, and my young daughter being with us, hiking 7 miles round-trip was not in the cards for us. Therefore, we really appreciated the memorial and information at the base.

There’s a large sign with background information about the incident, along with individual photos and a group photo of all 19 firefighters who tragically lost their lives (please see above). There’s also a map of the trail and some trail information. Furthermore, there is a large, bronze statue of a Granite Mountain Hotshot, dedicated to those 19 brave souls. It was donated to the park by the Wildland Firefighter Guardian Institute in 2018. A park ranger will likely be nearby, ready to help explain the history of the area and answer any questions.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives that day are as follows:

Eric Marsh, 43

Jesse Steed, 36

Clayton Whitted, 28

Robert Caldwell, 23

Travis Carter, 31

Travis Turbyfill, 27

Sean Misner, 26

John Percin, 24

Joe Thurston, 32

Wade Parker, 22

Anthony Rose, 23

Garret Zuppiger, 27

Scott Norris, 28

Dustin Deford, 24

Will Warneke, 25

Kevin Woyjeck, 21

Andrew Ashcraft, 29

Grant McKee, 21

Christopher Mackenzie, 30

Overall, I’m disappointed that we couldn’t hike to the actual memorial site; however, I fully plan on doing so once the weather officially cools down. Located approximately one hour south of Prescott, 1.5 hours from Phoenix, and 2.45 hours from Flagstaff, it’s a very doable day trip. Or you can make it a stop on a road trip, like we did, going from Prescott to Wickenburg. Wherever you’re coming from, this is a wonderful place to stop and pay your respects to the 19 courageous souls who heroically gave their lives to help save others.

One thought on “Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

  1. The USFS funded the Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) and Report (SAIR) and this YH Fire and GMHS tragedy is the biggest cover-up, lie, and whitewash in wildland fire history. It was entirely predictable and preventable in spite of the media blather.

    As noted at an October 2013 YH Fire Site Visit Integration Phase;:”This was the final, fatal link in a long chain of bad decisions with good outcomes, we saw this coming for years.”

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