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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Heliograph Peak Loop, AZ

Guide 45 Triplogs  0 Topics
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 4.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,990 feet
Elevation Gain 1,003 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,030 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.25 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9.4
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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15  2019-07-10
Heliograph Peak Loop
32  2017-10-13 SkyIslander18
41  2017-09-18
Frye Fire 2017 Aftermath
8  2016-08-18 cactuscat
45  2016-07-17 AZHiker456
6  2016-06-18 trekkin_gecko
12  2016-06-18 johnlp
5  2016-06-06
Heliograph Peak
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Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,617
Trips 1,516 map ( 7,711 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  5:34am - 7:17pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2017 Frye Fire48.4k
🔥 2004 Nuttall30k
🔥 View All over Official Route 🔥

Thunderstorm magnet
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
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From my home in Safford, I watched an especially nasty looking thunderstorm hover over Mt. Graham during the early afternoon of July 4. "If the storm moves on, I'm going hiking up there", I thought. It did, and I did. Within an hour, I was at Shannon Campground, hoping to make the top of Heliograph Peak before another thunderstorm blew in. With a copy of the Mt. Graham topo map and rain gear in my pack, I started up the Arcadia Trail. For the first mile, I hiked through beautiful stands of tall firs and aspens. Upon reaching the saddle, the trail to the top of Heliograph Peak split off to the right. The trail crossed over a short rocky ridge and soon arrived on the northern slope of Heliograph Peak. The 2004 Gibson Fire had completely cooked this area, but thousands of new aspens were already chest high.

The rest of the way up was slow going due to erosion following the fire and thickets of aspen covering what remained of the trail. Old log erosion bars and new cairns showed the way. Once the abandoned fire tower was in view, the trail left the burn area and passed by a couple of small blue spruce trees. Nervously eyeing a new thunderstorm overhead, I shot some pictures of the top of the peak and the historic Heliograph Cabin. Somewhere up here is where the U.S. Army had a heliograph (a sun reflecting signal mirror used to communicate over long distances) during the Apache wars of the late 1800s. A loud crack of thunder soon let me know that it was time to go.

I decided to return via the old fire road, as the forest it passed through appeared to have been spared from the Gibson Fire. I made good time descending the road, passing through pristine forest and watching a thunderstorm wreak havoc on Mt. Graham itself. I shot pictures constantly on the way down while hiking past some of the biggest trees I've ever seen. "This is the most beautiful hike I've been on in a long time", I thought. After a couple of miles, I passed by the permanently locked gate (the road has been off-limits to vehicles for years due to habitat needs for the Mount Graham Red Squirrel) and was back at the turnoff for Shannon Campground.

I walked the short distance back to the start of the Arcadia Trail, through the empty campground, and sat down in the bed of my truck. A busy woodpecker kept me company as I wrote this trail description down under a stormy sky at Shannon Campground. I love this mountain!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2006-07-07 PrestonSands
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To Shannon CG Trailhead
    From Safford, head south on SR 191. Turn west onto state SR 366 (Swift Trail) and follow 20.9mi. Turn right and follow 0.2mi to Shannon Campground.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 193 mi - about 4 hours 4 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 143 mi - about 2 hours 41 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 338 mi - about 6 hours 7 mins
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated
    help comment issue

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