By Sean Hernandez
Off the beaten path on Humphrey’s Peak lies a hidden piece of history that has been a part of the mountain for 74 years. On Sept. 15, 1944, a B-24 crew returning from a training mission flew headlong into the mountain after veering off course in poor weather conditions.
To this day the wreckage remains on the mountainside. If the excitement of climbing the tallest point in Arizona isn’t enough, then you’ll be pleased to know that this attraction on the mountain makes it a little more adventurous.
The best way to get to the wreckage is to take the Humphrey’s Peak Trail. Starting at the base of Snowbowl, the trail begins through an open meadow and makes its way into a dense aspen forest. The trail quickly begins to ascend, at times with a steep incline that can take a lot out of someone in combination with the rise in altitude.
There is no published route to the wreckage site, so it’s recommended that anyone who is attempting to find the wreckage either have a guide or a GPS device to check the location once off the trail. About seven switchbacks into the trail, there is a large rock field next to the trail. Crossing over this field and heading north up the mountain is the most direct route to the wreckage.
Our group decided to continue a little further up before going off trail. Packed with ribbons to help remember the way we came, we began trekking through the wilderness. We wound up over the wreckage which was nice since we didn’t have to climb up any more of the mountain. The rest of the day was spent gradually descending the slopes, examining the wreckage as we went.
Due to the cold temperatures and dry climate that are present on Humphrey’s Peak year-round, the B-24 wreckage is well preserved. Broken sections of aluminum wings and fuselage are still just as shiny as they would’ve been when the plane was still flying. The wreckage is spread over several acres of a rock field which can be at times difficult to maneuver.
On its own, hiking Humphrey’s Peak is a challenge. Adding the element of going off the trail increases the difficulty immensely. Anyone looking to take on this hike should make sure they are in good condition for the hike, have proper hiking gear and plenty of water, and a guide whether that be other people or a GPS. The chance to get up close and see the wreckage made all the aches and pains worth it.