November 2015 – After a whirlwind nine month trip around the country in our RV this season, we left New Mexico‘s City of Rocks behind and crossed the border into Arizona. We had come full circle and arrived back at our winter roosting grounds.
We heaved an enormous sigh of relief and reveled in the thrill of being able to enjoy an endless stream of days with no agenda and no need to hustle down the road to our next destination. During the nights, the Milky Way showered stars over our rig.
Arizona is cotton country, and cotton was being harvested all around us.
Huge rolled bales of cotton were lined up on the edges of the fields. One day as we drove past a field in the morning, it was full of fluffy cotton plants. When we drove past that afternoon, all that was left was flat dirt and hay bales lined up on the edge of the field!
Towering Mt. Graham formed a backdrop to many of the views around us, and one morning we drove the roller coaster Swift Trail Scenic Drive that snakes up the nearly vertical slopes of this mountain. Starting at the desert level at the bottom, within a few miles we were making switchbacks.
Soon the landscape began to change, and hardwood trees in the peak of autumn color began to appear.
The road curved higher and higher, often making sharp, steep hairpin turns, and the colors became more and more vivid.
Golden yellow and brilliant orange leaves filled the trees, and we stopped to get out and savor the crisp autumn air.
A few miles further up the road we came across a small stream with water tumbling over rocks here and there.
Vivid leaves floated in the water, and the air had a moist, pungent smell.
Time flew by as we became immersed in our photography. We had so much fun trying to capture this special spot on camera.
We had thought we’d missed the fall foliage season in our travels this year, leaving the famous states like Vermont and upstate New York and even Oklahoma way too early. Yet, here we had finally caught up with autumn and found fall aglow in all her splendor right in Arizona.
There are quite a few small campgrounds on this stunning road up Mt. Graham, and we stopped to look around Arcadia Campground. Oh, to have a tiny trailer, van or pickup camper!! This campground was utterly charming, with paved loops and not a soul around but the campground host. What a place to become immersed in the colors of fall for a few days!
Climbing higher still, we passed out of the last of fall’s peak and into a colder zone where the colors had already come and gone.
And then we reached the highest summit of the road where the view stretched out across the rolling brown mountains to the valleys far below.
The road continued on, but it turned to dirt, so we turned around. As we drove down, we passed back through the vivid colors.
And then we stopped for a picnic lunch by the babbling brook.
What a truly beautiful day that was!
The Swift Trail Scenic Drive is a wonderful excursion for RV travelers who find themselves in eastern Arizona. If you are lucky enough to have a short trailer, van or a truck camper, the drive is steep and twisty but doable, and the campgrounds beg to be camped in. For anyone with a bigger rig, there is a wonderful state park campground near the base of Mt. Graham, Roper Lake State Park, and the scenic drive is easy to do in your tow vehicle or toad! More info and links below.
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Here’s a little more info about Mt. Graham and the Swift Trail Scenic Drive:
- Mt. Graham Recreation Area – Coronado National Forest Website
- Roper Lake State Park – RV Camping for any size rig
- Swift Trail Scenic Drive – The route up Mt. Graham
- Where is the Swift Trail Scenic Drive? – Google Maps (approximate)
Other blog posts from our RV travels featuring eastern Arizona and/or other scenic drives in the state:
- Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains – The Eastern Slope
- Willcox Arizona’s Sandhill Cranes – It’s a Wild Party!
- Desert In Bloom – Hunting Spring Wildflowers in Arizona
- A Majestic Scenic Drive on Arizona’s Bush Highway
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Beautiful! We have stayed at Roper Lake early in the spring and done a drive up the mountain and a hike through the remaining snow. That drive is beautiful any time of the year!
We saw some early snow on the mountain, Lisa, but not until a few days after driving up it! The wildflowers there in the spring would be just gorgeous…
We love staying at Roper Lake, too. But I didn’t know about the scenic drive up Mt. Graham! Your captures of the rushing water and the Milky Way are fabulous! Glad you caught up with the autumn colors. 🙂
We were lucky and were able to follow the colors into central Arizona too… pics coming up in the next post!
Beautiful Photography. Thank you.
We appreciate your positive feedback, Jon. Thank YOU!