The Pinaleno Mountains, topped by 10,720-foot Mt. Graham, are the highest and most spectacular of southeastern Arizona’s sky islands. This is the perfect place to escape the blistering June summer heat of the desert. The Swift Trail (State Highway 366) is one of Arizona’s premier scenic drives, offering beautiful scenery from the desert floor to cool alpine spruce-fir forests at the top. The drive is comparable to driving from Mexico to Canada in an hour and a half. Due to its scenic beauty, Highway 366 was designated a state scenic parkway in 1993. The trip begins at the junction of State Highways 191 and 366 (Swift Trail). It is 35.2 miles long (one way) and ends at the Clark Peak Trail (TR301) which goes to West Peak Lookout (7 miles).
When the sun goes down, Mount Graham offers one of the best star watching venues in the state. The Vatican and the University of Arizona maintain several large observatories here, where the skies are studied nightly. For hiking, the Arcadia Trail, which starts at Shannon Campground, offers a descending five-mile (one way) trek with spectacular views of the desert far below. This National Recreation Trail hugs the side of the mountain and takes hikers through a mature forest of giant spruce trees. At an elevation of about 8,500 feet, the trail can give you the sensation of being in a plane as you look down at the breathtaking panorama. In addition to the Arcadia Trail, other trails that offer excellent hiking include the Ash Creek Falls Trail, the Grant Creek Trail (No.305), and the Grant Hill Loop Trail (No. 322).
(Please check below for additional hike descriptions).
From Phoenix, head east on the Superstition Freeway (Highway 60) to Miami/Globe (75 miles). In Globe, drive southeast on State Highway 70 and continue through the San Carlos Apache Reservation to the town of Safford (77 miles). In Safford, head south on State Highway 191 (at the sign for Roper Lake State Park). Continue for about seven miles on Highway 191 to Highway 366 / the Swift Trail. Continue on the Swift Trail for approximately 30 miles to Soldier Creek Campground (see campground information below).
Leader: Chuck Parsons
Please send an email to by Monday, June 1, if you would like to sign up for this trip.
Several of us will be leaving at 8:00 AM on Thursday morning, June 11, and will attempt to secure several adjacent campsites at the campground, depending on how many people sign up for the trip.
For anyone else who is leaving on Friday morning and would like to caravan together, I would suggest meeting in the parking lot next to Burger King off Power Road and the Superstition Freeway (our usual meeting location for Superstition and Superior hikes). Plan on meeting on Friday morning, June 12th, at 8:00 a.m. and try to get away about 8:15. You will have about a four-hour drive ahead of you and should arrive at the campground by about 12:30 PM – just in time for lunch. For those of you leaving at different times, please let me know when you plan on leaving, so I will know when to expect you at the campground.
There are five developed campgrounds on Mt. Graham. All individual sites are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Those of us leaving on Thursday morning will try to secure three adjacent sites at Soldier Creek Campground, depending on the number of participants. Soldier Creek CG is located between mileposts 139 and 140 and sits at an elevation of 9,300 feet. It is approximately 30 miles from the Highway 191/366 junction out of Safford. Each campsite allows up to ten people and two vehicles. All sites are $10 per night. There is no water available at the campground, but good drinking water is available at Columbine Corral just down the road. There are two flush toilets in the campground, but no showers. One table and one fire ring is provided per site.
With the amount of snowfall Mt. Graham has received this winter, it’s very unlikely there will be any fire restrictions at the developed campsites, and we can have wood or charcoal fires in the provided grills or fire rings. That, of course, is subject to change, depending on the weather and latest forest service rulings. I’ll check once again as we get closer to the June 12th date for the latest fire restrictions.
Service Stations and Supplies:
There are no service stations or stores on Mt. Graham. Your last chance for gas or supplies is at the Mt. Graham Market on Swift Trail, approximately 1/2 mile from the Hwy. 191 junction. Please make sure that you have plenty of gas, water, and ice since it’s a long drive back down the mountain to re-supply.
The week before the Mt. Graham trip, I will send out a more detailed checklist to all participants who have signed up for the trip.
Some Available Hikes:
Ash Creek Falls Trail #307
Arcadia Trail #328
Round the Mountain Trail #302
Grant Goudy Ridge Trail #310
Shake Trail #309
Ladybug Trail #329
Clark Peak Trail #301
updated March 26, 2009