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Heliograph Peak from Shannon GC - 12 members in 27 triplogs have rated this an average 3.7 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jul 27 2008
SkyIslander18
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 Guides 3
 Photos 4,732
 Triplogs 1,688

49 male
 Joined Sep 29 2004
 Small Town USA
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 27 2008
SkyIslander18
Hiking2.00 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking2.00 Miles
1,024 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
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Jun 23 2007
chumley
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 Guides 75
 Routes 667
 Photos 13,318
 Triplogs 1,430

46 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 23 2007
chumley
Hiking4.20 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking4.20 Miles   1 Hour   45 Mns   2.40 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
Started my hike at 11am. The campground host warned me of resident bear just above switchbacks before trail junction. He said my dog would likely be aware of it before me.

The hike started off very easy in thick forest for about 10 minutes, and then 10 minutes of some good switchbacks gaining elevation. Very mature conifers provide nearly complete shade in this section.

Reach saddle at top of switchbacks with no sign of the bear. GPS indicated 9/10ths of a mile to here.

Just across the saddle, the trail forks. The right/upper trail leads to heliograph peak. The left/lower trail leads to Arcadia CG. Proceeding upwards, the trail traverses a steep section on an exposed east-facing rocky slope cresting at the the top of a ridge and then levels out and climbs along the west side of the ridge heading south directly toward the peak. This area was burned in the 04 Gibson Fire, and the subsequent openness allows for first view of the fire tower.

The trail however turns west and traverses a rough hillside of boulders and small aspen that have grown since the fire. It eventually begins to switchback before coming to a false peak, where there is a slight view of the towers on heliograph peak to the north.

This part of the trail is very rocky/bouldery and often difficult to follow given the loss of trees in the fire.

Just before reaching the peak, the trail enters a beautiful grassy meadow with young aspens and then exits on the closed access road a few hundred yards west of the peak.

GPS read 1.9 miles, and it took me 25 minutes more to hike the top half of the trail. My actual trip was an hour long, but that included a couple of short stops to catch my breath and a 10 minute break to give my dog a chance to drink and cool off a bit. The exposed upper half of the trail offers very little shade if you are hiking on a sunny day, though the breeze was steady and cool.

Up top, there was the buzzing sound of power generators, presumably for some of the numerous communications towers located on the peak.

The cabin was padlocked closed and the fire tower showed no signs of life. So, despite the sign indicating not to do so, I climbed the tower for a better view and some pictures. About 1/2 way up, I noticed the watchman leaning out the window above me scolding me for climbing the tower.

The campground host at Shannon said that most of the watch staff have no problem with visitors, but that there are a couple who don't tolerate them. If you don't have prior permission, stick with the sign and don't climb the tower.

I'm always interested in a loop hike over returning the same way I came, so I decided to take the closed service road back to Shannon. I'm glad I didn't hike up this way. It was an easy hike down, but the grade would have been steady and grinding going up, and the road doesn't offer much in the way of scenery or shade. Though this side of the peak was spared from the fire, so the sides of the road are often shaded and there are some amazing old growth trees.

About 1/2 mile from the bottom, water comes bubbling out of a spring and crosses beneath the road. You will find this little creek trickling through Shannon campground as you get to the bottom.

The trip via the road was marked at 2.3 miles, so it was a bit longer than the trail.
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Profound observer
Sep 02 2006
PrestonSands
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 Guides 168
 Routes 149
 Photos 5,534
 Triplogs 1,318

42 male
 Joined Apr 12 2004
 Oro Valley, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 02 2006
PrestonSands
Hiking2.00 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking2.00 Miles   1 Hour   15 Mns   1.60 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners partners
Tom Sands
A nice evening hike with my dad, while we were camped at Shannon Campground. We turned around at the junction with the Heliograph Trail, and watched low clouds blow over the peaks of the Pinalenos.
Flora
Flora
Mexican Silene
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"I'm going for a coffee, but you never know when a hike might break out." -Jim Gaffigan
Sep 03 2005
bryanmertz
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 Guides 1
 Photos 26
 Triplogs 199

47 male
 Joined Feb 28 2003
 Phoenix, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 03 2005
bryanmertz
Hiking4.00 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking4.00 Miles   2 Hrs   30 Mns   1.60 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Spent a couple nights up in the Pinaleno's over the Labor Day weekend. This was my first trip, but I'll be back. Climbing from about 3800' at Safford to over 10,000' in 13 or so miles; the Swift Trail is one of my new favorite roads.

I really hadn't know these were so big before! We stayed at Shannon CG; which is a developed site - but we had the end to ourselves.

The trail starts in pretty lush (during this trip) forrest, and climbs to the lookout tower on Heliograph Peak. There is still a lot of damage near the top from the Nuttal fire; and staying on the trail proved a little tricky.

We hiked during a lite rain and overcast. The views were still impressive from the top though. The only draw back is that there are half dozen or so cellular towers up there now, and a diesel generator pumping out fumes.

Here is a link to the FS page.
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Jun 27 2005
desertgirl
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 Guides 20
 Routes 1
 Photos 3,098
 Triplogs 438

female
 Joined Mar 31 2002
 Chandler, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 27 2005
desertgirl
Hiking3.20 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking3.20 Miles   1 Hour   30 Mns   2.13 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Well, its hot in PHX so me n' the dogs decided to get up into the Pinalenos..n' pines for some cool weather. I had wanted to go check out Heliograph Peak - It's been on my to do for a long time. As I drove up to Shannon Campground I gleefully watched the temperature gauge drop a whole 25F as I drove up the winding roads up :) ....The range folded us in and soon the devastation of the Nutall fire was apparent -- flames had raced down the slopes and consumed everything -- burnt pines all the way down -- It was sad and I began to wonder if the trails were open (Darn I should have looked it up before I left ..); I figured since the campgrounds were open I might be lucky...I so wanted to hike the trail :)

Expansives views at every turn as we gained altitude made it a chore to keep my eyes on the winding road. Soon we were past the areas of the fire and the green pines cloaking the mountain slopes, jagged intrusions of white-green rock outcrops and a clear blue azure sky made for some wonderful pictures. Way below you could see the agricultural patches -- green circles fed by mechanized irrigation in the forbidding plains already turning into dustbowls. We soon were at Shannon Camp - Silver and Skye bound out of the SUV and were wanting to go hike ....or may be just get out of the moving vehicle! I was glad to be out too...It had been a long and slow (via Safford -- may be there's a quicker way) drive out there. The camp site was quite nice (future group hike possibilities ....); no fire damage, rustling pines and chirping birds and a green carpet of grass, babbling creek with flowers everywhere.

Pack on, leashed up we headed up to the trail head only to be greeted with a bright orange netting -- Trail Closed - due to Nutall fire damage. I was not sure if I should go on .....It would be hard to say I did not see the sign. I was disappointed but the dogs were gamboling about chasing butterflies; so we turned around and went down to the babbling creek that runs by the camp site to play in the water and checkout the flowers. Soon we found a boot path and we were following it along...by the creekside. We followed the drainage for a short while and soon the path turned uphill and we trudge on -- the altitude was telling; the dogs set the pace and I was working hard keeping up ...about 20 mins we turned around a ridge and we contouring our way high above the drainage and you could see the damage from the fire. There were hugh fallen trees, charred ground and burnt out tree stumps and much loose rock underfoot. As we pushed on - there were signs of the returning forests, saplings were already poking their way up reaching for the sunshine; ferns and wildflowers covered the ground. Soon the boot trail intersected a well established tread -- we had gained the Arcadia Trail- elation followed - :? by "I am not supposed to be here" The flat well built tread was welcome...I debated if I should continue on this closed trail ...Well, I had to check it out so I continued on uphill...as I neared the high point along the trail; the burned out forests returned and soon we were at the sign for the spur trail to Heliograph Peak. The orange netting was across the trail "Trail Closed". :( So I decided to turn back ....we stopped at the saddle and taking the views...it was clear day and we could see far...Other ranges in the region look small compared to the Pinalenos. After a while, we retraced our way back to the trail head ...via the detour .. more playing in the streams; the dogs learned they could fish for tadpoles; more digging through fallen decomposing trees - Skye caught sent of something and wanted to run of chase down the scent. We stopped to play in the may small waterfalls the fallen logs had created; admired the lush greens of creekside plants, gently nodding columbines, baby's breath looking gorgeous white blossom and reeds.

Soon it was time to head back..the pups were tuckered out and asleep the minute they got into the SUV. I made my way down the hill, taking in stunning vistas, the thick pine carpet that covered the unburnt slopes -- I could see no stands of aspen - a sign that there had been no major fires in the area - these were mature pine forests. Hopefully these don't get ravaged by fires soon...I wanna hike them! As you made your way down the hill the thick stands of pine were slowly replaced by ponderosa, pinion and manzanita and stands of maple marked the drainages...This should be lovely in the fall. On the way back down, I ran into a few turkey vultures feasting on roadkill. They were so heavy they could hardly takeoff -- basically hop flying off to the side ...I admired them for a while and then head back down ...and settle in for a long drive back home! A great day ..even though I could'nt hike the hike I had planned on. :)
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Oct 17 2003
Ziggy
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 Photos 22
 Triplogs 4

66 male
 Joined Sep 08 2003
 Tucson, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 17 2003
Ziggy
Hiking3.20 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking3.20 Miles   1 Hour   50 Mns   1.75 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Did this hike on Friday morning in mid-October. My quest was to find some autumn foliage. I was not disappointed. There were many aspen trees and some oaks that were in the middle of their splendor. This was a very enjoyable hike not too terribly difficult. The elevation gain is over 1000 feet but it is not radically difficult. The trail is well defined. At the peak it is over 10,000 feet and by a forest service cabin there is a picnic table, which you can take five. This is a heavy forested area with spectacular views of the valley below. This is a nice hike and was very enjoyable.
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Nov 18 2002
k9hiker
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 Triplogs 1

female
 Joined Nov 17 2002
 Phoenix, AZ
Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
avatar Nov 18 2002
k9hiker
1,024 AEG
1,024 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
CHCoA - Group
I hiked this trail in early September with four other women and four dogs who all belong to the hiking club I run. Judging from the nearly nonexistant amount of other visitors, I'd say we picked the best time to explore the Pinaleno Mountains. That is if you are looking for solitude, fantastic views, cool weather, and wildlife sightings.

You have to access the one mile trail leading up to Heliograph Peak from the Arcadia Trail. The shortest and easiest route is from the Shannon Campground (9500'), which is were we started from. The first mile of the Arcadia trail is well marked and easy to follow. It's covered by a pine forest canopy mixed with some of the tallest Aspens I've ever seen. About a half mile in, the trail begins to switchback and forth up the hill to the junction with the Heliograph Peak trail. This junction was also clearly marked.

The mile trek up HP trail #328A is a bit strenuous due to increasing altitude and grade but totally doable even for someone who just had a baby five months prior. There are a few mini false summits stratigically placed just to give keep you a place to catch your breath. Just before the real one there is a small alpine like meadow with little stands of Aspens peering out from the tall grass. Look left as you step out of the meadow onto a dirt road. You will see the 100 foot historic steel fire tower and the rustic cabin the fire lookout lives in, which other than the amazing view, are the main attractions on the summit.

According to the Coronodo National Forest, Heliograph Peak was originally used by the U.S. Signal Corps during the mid-1880's campaign agaist the Apaches. In that Heliograph is one of the highest peaks in southeast AZ, it was used as part of a signal system named for the signal mirror, or heliograph, used by the solders to communicate messages over great distances. Today, the peak is used as an important fire lookout tower for the NFS. On a clear day several other southeastern Arizona mountain ranges can be seen from the peak including the Santa Catalina's in Tucson. You also get a great view of the observatory atop Mt. Graham.

You can return the way you came or head down the dirt access road. Both will make the trek about 4 miles from Shannon CG to the top and back to Shannon.

If you go other than in Summer, check with the Safford Ranger station for road closure info. HWY 366, the main road in, will have some closures depending on snowfall.
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average hiking speed 1.9 mph
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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.

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