Above: The parking lot at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park trailhead southwest of Yarnell, Arizona was about half full at 3 p.m. on May 19, 2017.
The new Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park that opened November 30, 2016 is receiving so much use that often visitors are turned away when the small parking lot is full. Arizona State Parks reports that approximately 10,500 people have visited the site, more than the small parking lot can handle at times.
The park honors the 19 wildland firefighters that were killed on June 30, 2013 when they were overrun by the suddenly very active Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona, 90 miles northwest of Phoenix.
The park consists of a trailhead on U.S. Highway 89 approximately two miles west of Yarnell and a 3.6-mile trail leading to the fatality site. Along the trail are 19 stone plaques honoring each of the fallen Hotshots and six interpretive signs that tell their story.
The trail is fairly steep with quite a bit of elevation change, up and down, and can take four to six hours round-trip for the casual hiker.
The trailhead is located on an east-west section of the highway where the road contours across a very steep mountain. The highway is divided at that point with the eastbound lane several hundred feet below the westbound lane.
If you are driving east toward Yarnell you will not pass directly by the trailhead — you will see it only if you are heading west. However the state built a new road connecting the two opposing lanes about a quarter of a mile to the east. Signs direct eastbound travelers to turn left to get on the connecting road. Upon reaching the westbound lane, you turn left again and drive down to the parking lot and trailhead.
When I was there on May 19 about half of the 17 parking places were taken. According to an article in the Daily Courier the parking lot often being full has motivated park managers and locals to find a way to keep folks from being turned away. One idea being tossed around is to offer a shuttle.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
The group’s idea is to create a shuttle system that would take visitors from an overflow lot in Yarnell to the state park south of town. The group is looking into grant opportunities to help fund the shuttle, Lechner said.
Along with relieving the traffic frustrations for visitors, Lechner said the shuttle also could help the Yarnell businesses by bringing more the visitors into town.
“The best way to honor the sacrifice made by the Hotshots is to make Yarnell the most wonderful, thriving community as possible,” she said.