Swift Trail Scenic Drive

MODERATE 5 reviews
#1 of 3 trails in

Swift Trail Scenic Drive is a 69.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Safford, Arizona that features a great forest setting and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
69.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
9580 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

nature trips

scenic driving

forest

views

historic site

Swift Trail Scenic Drive starts in the desert valley and climbs Mt. Graham to dense forest and cool temps compared to the valley. The highway, beginning 7 miles south of Safford, shoots straight through the desert scrubland toward the Pinaleno Mountains and the sky island of lush, forested mountain peak rising from the desert. The sweeping parkway quickly gives way to dramatic switchbacks and tight turns as it begins to climb the diverse mountains, home to 10,720-foot Mount Graham, the tallest peak in the range and the third tallest in Arizona. In less than 35 miles, travelers find themselves about 6,000 feet higher and 20 degrees cooler than when they started from desert to spruce, and everything else in between, in an hour-and-a-half. But this stunning drive deserves far more than 90 minutes. Travelers should plan at least four hours for the 72-mile round trip. From November 15 to April 15, the Forest Service closes the top of the Swift Trail near Hospital Flat, about 22 miles from US Route 191, due to winter weather. At the junction of State 366 and US 191, motorists should reset their odometers to better pinpoint destinations along the trail. At about 3,200 feet, the area around the junction thrives with the resilient plants that are signatures of the desert: paloverdes trees, ocotillo, prickly pear and saguaro cacti. But the scenery outside the car window rapidly changes as the road heads into the peaks. About 4 miles into the drive, the parkway enters Coronado National Forest and the scrub gives way to Sonoran grassland. The gently rolling hills change to cliffs and canyons. A dirt road turns off the parkway around mile 6, leading 1 mile to Jacobson Overlook, an impressive panoramic view of the Gila River Valley. Sage and dense stands of oak now cover the steep slopes alongside the road, though prickly pear, yuccas and smooth, red-barked manzanitas still stand alongside them.

5 days ago

Love the drive! Beautiful scenery with great twists and turns to the road

scenic driving
11 days ago

This is a good way to get out of the desert heat in the summer. This road takes you from the desert floor to over 10,000' feet high. You can drive up to Heliograph peak, where there used to be an old fire tower there, not sure if it still is. Drive further and you'll have access to Mt. Graham which is the highest point. Further on down the road and you'll reach Riggs Lake. Used to be able to fish for trout here. Again, been a while since I've been up there, so don't know if you still can.
This range has the highest vertical relief of any range in AZ. 7000'. It is said that this mountain range also has the "highest diversity of habitats" than any other range in North America. That's pretty noteworthy. The forests at the top are dense and thick. I remember ferns that grew as tall as I was. Worth the steep drive up!!

2 months ago

Currently closed about halfway up at the Ladybug Trailhead.

scenic driving
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The drive up Mt. Graham is absolutely stunning with a twist of terrifying. Some sharp turns and drop offs with no guard rail. But it is worth it when you get to the top, you can see the valleys below.

scenic driving
Saturday, December 12, 2015

Very scenic and great camping and hiking opportunities. It is great for a summer adventure when the desert is hot.