Heliograph Trail #328A

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Heliograph Trail #328A

In 1886, one of the most innovative approaches General Nelson Miles enacted in the final campaign against the small band of Apaches led by Geronimo was a system of heliographs. Atop mountain peaks throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, signal officers and soldiers manned stations using mirrors, or heliographs, to flash coded messages to military camps beyond the reach of telegraphs. However, contrary to a number of published accounts, Heliograph Peak was not part of the 1886 Geromino campaign heliograph network. A few years after the Geronimo campaign, the US Army undertook testing of a much larger heliograph network, to evaluate the effectiveness of a heliograph communications system. In December of 1889, a party lead by Lt. Eggleston of the 10th Cavalry visited the prominent mountaintop that later became known as Heliograph Peak and found that was a good point to connect nearby Fort Grant, located 6 miles to the west and more than 5000 feet lower in elevation, with a heliograph station near Fort Bowie, more than 40 miles to the southeast. Within a few years the Army decided heliography was not going to be an effective means of communication and developed other methods. In the 1910s, the Forest Service explored the use of heliographs to communicate between different locations in the Pinaleno and Galiuro Mountains. In 1933, a 100-foot fire lookout tower was erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is still used by Forest Service personnel during peak fire season in early summer. Heliograph Trail branches off the Arcadia Trail #328 about a mile from Shannon Campground and leads to the top of this historic peak. If you would rather not return by that same route, you can put together a loop by following the Arcadia and Heliograph trails to the summit then returning by way of the Heliograph Road, which is closed to public motor vehicles. A short trip along the Swift Trail (AZ 366) back to Shannon Campground completes this four-mile loop.

At a Glance

Open Season: Year-round
Usage: Light
Operated By: Safford Ranger District

General Information

Directions: From Safford drive south 8 miles on US 191 to AZ 366 (the Swift Trail). Turn right (southwest) onto AZ 366 and drive 22 miles to the entrance of Shannon Campground and the road to Heliograph Peak Lookout. At the end of Shannon Campground, take the Arcadia Trail #328 for one mile to access the Heliograph Trail. For additional access information see the write-up on the Arcadia Trail #328.



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  Area/Length : 
1 mile

  Elevation : 
9,200 feet - 10,022 feet