It takes a special person to fight fires; especially wildfires in remote mountainous areas.
On June 30, 2013, Arizona lost 19 very special men in the Granite Mountain Fire near Yarnell. The tragedy gained nationwide attention and became the storyline for the 2017 big screen movie: Only the Brave.
In an effort to help others honor and remember the 19, Arizona State Parks carved a roughly 3-mile trail to the fatality site that is now open to the public. As visitors to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park climb the steep trail, they’re made aware of the challenges these fine men took head-on. Along the way, hikers pass by one memorial for each of the 19 lives lost. Each memorial, laser-etched in marble, contains the name of one of the deceased hotshots along with a brief biography.
Slideshow: The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives
It’s through these plaques that we learn these men were not just dedicated to fighting fires. They’re also cherished sons, husbands, fathers and friends to the people who were closest to them.
Additional interpretive signs placed along the trail provide information about wildland firefighting. Strategically placed benches allow you to rest and appreciate the beauty of the area.
Hotshot Trail offers stunning desert and mountain views to those who make it to the top. An observation deck is located at 2.85 miles from the trailhead. From here, you can see the Fatality Site some 400 vertical feet below.
To fully grasp the full impact of the site’s meaning, venture the extra 3/4 mile downhill on Journey Trail to the spot where the men perished. A memorial consists of 19 gabions linked together with chains and 19 cross markers positioned in the directions the men were found, lying together as a team.
Some experiences you never forget. This hike is one of them. Challenging, scenic, touching.
If you’d like to visit Granite Mountain Hotshots State Park, allow yourself about four hours to take in the full experience. This map will get you there:
What an awful way to die. It is so wonderful they have commemorated them.