Some Excellent Mountain Hiking – Prescott, AZ

Prescott and Prescott Valley are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, complete with granite mountains.  We tackled three hikes while here; Granite Mountain Trail #261, Granite Mountain Hotshots Trail and Woodchute Trail.

City of Prescott with Granite Mountain in the background

Granite Mountain Trail #261

Showing us their new hometown, Hans and Lisa invited us to join them and friends Howard and Ann for this hike which ends near the mountain’s 7,626′ summit.  The trail dipped in and out of a wash and passed a pile of massive granite boulders that give the place its name.  These folks were moving along faster than we usually do, so we completed the 8.2-mile hike with a 1,654′ elevation gain in record time (for us).

Hiking with the Prescottonians – a great workout!
It was a clear day, so the San Francisco Peaks were visible on the horizon
From a lookout we saw Prescott and deep-blue Watson Lake next to our campground below, with the Bradshaw Mountains in the distance
A great hike with great friends, thank you Hans and Lisa!

Granite Mountain Hotshots Trail


This memorial trail honors the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who were trapped and perished in 2013 while fighting fast-moving flames.  It was a fairly strenuous climb up Weaver Mountain Ridge before descending into the box canyon where the tragedy occurred:

The trail along the ridge
Along the trail we read plaques dedicated to each of the 19 Hotshot firefighters who lost their lives.  For sure one of our most emotional hikes
A photo and story of each fallen Hotshot

Wildflowers helped lighten the mood, as we continued to learn the history of wildland firefighting and stories detailing the infamous Yarnell Hill fire:

Having previously seen the movie “Only the Brave” that featured The Granite Mountain Hotshots, we were reminded of what a tremendous job these folks do day in and day out with little recognition:

At 3.5 miles into the hike, looking down at the fatality site from the observation point
A display showed the fatality site two weeks after the fire in June, 2013

We continued less than a mile down a steep trail, approximately the same route the crew took for a better firefighting position but then ended up trapped by the fire.  They were unable to see through the smoke or escape from the incredibly fast-moving flames.

Getting closer to the canyon and the town of Yarnell beyond

The memorial consists of 19 gabions, one for each Hotshot, united by chains, representing their eternal bond. We took our time to pay respects and reflected on their fate and the life they gave to save others.  It was a poignant and disquieting visit

Crosses represent the actual spot where each fallen Hotshot made his last stand
An emotional but excellent hike

Woodchute Mountain

Our final hike in the area was on one of Arizona’s 73 broad mountaintop peaks.  It’s named for a wood chute that was constructed to supply lumber to the town of Jerome during its mining heyday.  We almost ditched this hike because of cold wind and sleet that morning, but we’re glad we persisted because the weather improved and it turned out to be a wonderful adventure!

As we meandered along, the trees opened up and we started seeing views of Verde Valley, the red rocks of Sedona and the Mogollon Rim to the northeast.  We also saw Chino Valley and Granite Mountain that we had hiked days before.  Soon we were looking down on State Route 89A, the winding road that leads to and through Jerome:

First we had to go up…
…then we saw the road to Jerome, a cool town to visit if you get a chance
A soon-to-bloom Agave
Red rocks of Sedona in the distance
Going through a beautiful forest
View of Verde Valley below
Another great hike!

I leave you with a brewing storm at the Mogollon Rim – time to head home from this hike!


  1. It was so much fun seeing you two and sharing a bit of our new home town! Glad you got to hike Woodchute, it sure looked cold! Hope to see you again in the fall!

  2. We thought “Only the Brave” was an excellent depiction of a tragic situation. If I did that hikr, I’d probably be in tears!

    You guys are in great shape to do those hikes. Way to go!

    • The movie was rated as 90% close to actual. And that powerful scene where they all got inside the fire blankets was the saddest part. Being on the actual site where they have fallen made it more emotional.

  3. Good to see you hiking with Hans and Lisa again! 🙂 If you’re close to Portland this summer, let me know. If it works out, I can take you guys on a hike in my neighborhood.

  4. Three great hikes. It’s nice that you got visit with Hans and Lisa. Thanks for sharing the Hotshots Trail. What a beautiful memorial to these brave individuals. I’m not sure I would be able to complete this. I tend to be very over emotional. Nice visit to Prescott!

  5. Fantastic hikes … such grand scenery makes the effort more than worth it. We loved Prescott and had military installations been less distant, we might have settled there instead of Colorado Springs.

  6. Yay, great hikes to put on our Prescott itinerary! Like others have said, the Hotshots hike would be emotionally difficult, but what a great way to honor and remember the fallen. Thank you not only for tackling it but for sharing that experience.

    • When you visit Prescott, ask for the trail map at the visitor center, there’s a whole bunch of trails to choose from. But be sure to do the hike around Watson Lake.

  7. I’ve seen a couple other articles on the Hotshots Trail, but none have been as impactful as this. It truly seems like something everyone “should” do to appreciate just what these courageous firefighters take on, but it must be very difficult, both physically and emotionally. Your photos showing just how close the fire was burning to the populated areas nearby explain why they were trying so hard to contain it, and the fact that they all died together in that small circle shows how quickly they became trapped. The memorial is so well done, it just breaks your heart.

    • It was truly a heart wrenching visit at the memorial. And having seen the scene in the movie where they all covered themselves with their fireblankets made it all so real 😦

  8. Those are such beautiful hikes, and your photographs of the scenery are wonderful. The Hotshots Trail is a powerful and touching memorial to the bravery of those firefighters. Your words and photos brought up a lot of emotions for me—my nephew was on a hotshot crew until he was injured fighting a fire. I’m always humbled by people who are willing to risk their lives to save others.

    • These hikes were paybacks for being flatland hikers for four months! And yes it was an emotional sad hike especially at the end 😦 So sad for those heroes.

  9. Another great post ML and Steve. So nice you got to visit Lisa and Hans and share a hike together. And I agree with Pam, not sure I could have finished the Hotshots Trail. What a very impressive memorial for them.

  10. Great photos and a good read. I’ve been meaning to make it to that area, but after seeing your post I’m really going to make the effort! I think I’ll wait until it cools down a little though lol

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