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Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail

Basics
Location:
A few miles west of Glenwood Springs
Setting:
Mountainous
Length:
1 mile/2.4 km
Difficulty:
Intermediate,
Difficult
Time:
1 to 4 hours
Elevation Change:
1150 feet
Season:
April - October

Description

The Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail is a memorial to those who lost their lives while battling the South Canyon fire and a tribute to firefighters everywhere. Its purpose is to honor our living and our dead, to help us understand what happened there, and to allow us to reflect on the lessons we have learned so we can prevent future tragedies.

The trail was built by a community literally walking through the grieving process. It began as a footpath made by families of the firefighters and others as they hiked the mountain to pay their respects to those who had died, and to try to understand what had happened. In response to the community's need, and in an effort to increase understanding, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and volunteers built the trail.

Over 100 volunteers from Glenwood Springs and the surrounding area built the main trail and water bars in October 1994. In April 1995, 60 cadets from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs installed wooden and stone steps, hauled mortar to the observation point for stone benches, dug holes for interpretive signs, and developed an area for reflection at the base of the hill where 12 of the firefighters fell. Local businesses donated goods and services throughout the trail's construction.

The trail takes visitors on the journey of a firefighter. It was left steep and rough, allowing visitors to experience something similar to what firefighters encounter. Signs provide visitors with information about how firefighters care for each other and their community, why they would choose this job, and what they need to be aware of to do their job safely and efficiently.

The main portion of the trail is about one-mile long and leads to an observation point with good view of the memorial sites. Signs there explain what happened during the South Canyon Fire. The signs also describe the fire season of 1994, different types of firefighting crews, and how the mountain is coming back to life.

Beyond the observation point, a footpath leads to the sites where firefighters died. The footpath, marked only by rock cairns, is not maintained. Its rough condition is intended as a tribute to firefighters and the challenging conditions under which they work.

The trip from trailhead to memorial sites and back is about four miles. It climbs 700 vertical feet to the observation point, and another 450 feet to the top of the ridge leading to the memorial sites. Visitors making the entire trip should plan on spending between three and four hours, should bring food and plenty of water, and wear sturdy hiking shoes and clothing appropriate to the weather.

Books

Let veteran hiker and outdoor writer Maryann Gaug introduce you to fifty of Colorado’s finest trails. View the Continental Divide, journey to Colorado’s highest point, hike beneath immense sandstone cliffs, or visit the nation’s largest dinosaur track site.

Details

Location:
A few miles west of Glenwood Springs
Setting:
Mountainous
Length:
1 mile/2.4 km
This trail can be up to 8 miles roundtrip if you explore.
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Difficult
Time:
1 to 4 hours
Elevation Change:
1150
Season:
April - October
Additional Details:
Steep grade. Hiking only. No horses, bicycles or motorized vehicles.

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

From Glenwood Springs, take Interstate 70, west about 5 miles. Take the Canyon Creek Exit (#109), turn east on the frontage road. The road will end at the trailhead.


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