You will experience the ecological equivalent of driving from Mexico to Canada all in one leisurely afternoon on this sky-scraping, switchbacking mountain road. The Swift Trail, named for T. T. Swift, the first supervisor of the Coronado National Forest, takes you from cactus-studded Sonoran desert at 2,900 feet in the Gila Valley to alpine meadows and forests on the 9,000' high ridges of the Pinaleño Range. The mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona have come to be called “Sky Islands” because they are surrounded by desert and isolated from one another by seas of arid environment so different from the tall forests that grace their upper slopes. Of all the Sky Islands in southeastern Arizona, the Pinaleños are the highest and one of the most extensive. This trip starts in a desert landscape where cactus, yucca and mesquite are the prevalent plant species. The climb begins and the life zones start to change almost immediately. From low desert scrub, to oak grasslands, to pinyon-juniper woodlands and finally to forests of pine, spruce and fir, the road winds past breathtaking panoramas, lush forests, and picturesque mountain meadows. Several points of interest will vie for your attention along this historic route constructed during the Great Depression by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among these, Heliograph Peak was a signal outpost during the wars of expansion of the late 1800’s. Hospital Flat, a wildflower-carpeted meadow, and Treasure Park, where legend has it that a fortune in gold and silver was buried by Mexican banditos, are accessible by short side trips. In addition to these points of interest, the road provides access to a number of hiking, horsebacking, and mountain biking trails, a mountain lake stocked with trout, and many campgrounds.
At a Glance
||Location: Pinaleño Mountains southwest of Safford.
||Safford Ranger District
Directions: Drive south from Safford on US 191. About 8 miles from the center of town turn southwest on AZ 366, the Swift Trail, and continue 35.2 miles to the end of the road. Mileage/Driving Time: 70.4 miles round trip, allow about 5 hours (more for a few side trips.)