Storm King Fourteen Memorial Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5682 - 6392 feet
Cellphone: 0-5 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Storm King
Fee: none
Attractions: Fallen Firefighters Memorial





The Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail is located about 5 miles east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The short but steep trail leads to an overlook of the area where 14 firefighters lost their lives in the 1994 South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain. Before hiking the trail consider watching part1 and part2 of the videos made by the National Interagency Fire Center that include first hand accounts from some of the firefighters that were there on the fateful day, July 6, 1994.


To get to the trailhead take Exit 109 on I 70 and follow the signs on the north side of the interstate. The exit is about 5 miles west of Glenwood Springs.


The parking area is at the very end of a short stub of Highway 6.


Numerous plaques at the trailhead and along the trails length commemorate the 14 firefighters that lost their lives and provide visitors with information about firefighting in general and the events that occurred on the fatal day of the South Canyon Fire.


The first 6 tenths of a mile is very steep with an elevation gain of almost 600 feet.


At 6 tenths of a mile the trail reaches the ridge where the west side of Storm King Mountain comes into view. From here the trail turns north and follows the ridge for another quarter mile before descending slightly to the overlook.


The overlook sits on a small bench that faces the side of Storm King Mountain where the fallen firefighters were unable to escape the rapidly advancing fire. Plaques at the site explain some of the details of the fire but watching the videos and hearing from firefighters that were there on that day really brings it home.


This can be a somber place indeed. For some the feelings of sadness can be almost overwhelming. There is a trail that leads from the overlook to the actual spots where each firefighter fell on the opposite side of the basin. Tread lightly, though, on the ground made hallow by the loss of those so young, out of respect for them and also for those that bear the load of carrying on without them.


On the trail up you might happen to notice a coin studded stump in the fashion of a 'wishing tree' with a pile of seashells at its base.


Plaques near the trailhead carry the obituaries of each of the 14 firefighters.


On July 2, 1994 I was driving our Ford Aerostar van, with my wife and kids inside, to Glenwood Springs to go swimming. That particular model had a problem with its control module that would cause it to stall as it did on that day just below Storm King Mountain. While waiting on the shoulder of the interstate for the motor to cool off I looked up and could see a tree smoldering high up on the mountain. I thought that if I had a shovel I could climb that mountain and put out the tree. Of course, I wondered if there was more to it than what I could see from the highway but every since then I have never been able to quit thinking 'what if?'. Now I wonder if anybody that lived near the base of the mountain ever had similar thoughts. For a profound experience, watch the videos and 'Take a hike'.