Beacon Trail

Important Note

This is an unofficial trail name.

Length: 0.69 mi

Difficulty: difficult

Condition: moderate

Elevation range: 6600 ft – 7245 ft

Elevation gain/loss: 640 ft ↑

Average slope: 17.6%


The Beacon Trail begins at Hands Pass (31.99094, -109.29577) along Forest Road 356, a rough jeep road accessible from Whitetail Canyon to the north or Pinery Canyon off Forest Road 42 to the south. Conditions of FR 356 can change drastically due to weather, especially in Whitetail Canyon, so caution is advised. This road is currently badly washed out from both directions and closed to motor vehicles on the Whitetail Canyon side.


The structure at the end of this trail was one of thousands of visual airway beacons across the United States, built by the U.S. Postal Service and Department of Commerce.1 This particular beacon, designated T5, was part of the Phoenix to El Paso Airway.2 The steel frame of the shed is still standing, though the sides melted off it in the fire; the base of the 51 foot high beacon tower can be seen to the west of the shed, with other pieces lying nearby.

Trail Description

The Beacon Trail begins on the west side of Forest Road 356 at Hands Pass. (31.99094, -109.29577) This area was heavily burned during the Horseshoe 2 fire of 2011 and it may not be immediately visible as a trail and may appear to be a small wash instead. After roughly 100 feet, it angles briefly to the right and then swings back around to the left and begins to be more recognizable as a trail shortly after. The next 0.45 mile provide steep climbs between several long switchbacks. At the end of a long, roughly straight section, interesting rock outcrops can be seen with the Chiricahua crest visible behind. From there it's a little over 0.2 mile across 5 switchbacks to the top, where the frame of the beacon's generator shed stands. (31.99131, -109.30072) Portions of the Chiricahua National Monument can be viewed from the top, and the Monument boundary lies not far to the west.


Topographic map of Beacon Trail



Last updated May 3, 2017.