Swift Trail Scenic Drive up Mt. Graham – Autumn Color in Arizona

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 starry night sky with RV

The Milky Way rained glitter on us every night.

Arizona is cotton country, and cotton was being harvested all around us.

Cotton fields Safford Arizona

The land of cotton!

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!

Cotton fields harvest time Safford Arizona

Harvesting done, all that remained was bare fields and rolled bales of cotton.

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.

Swift Trail Scenic Drive Mt. Graham Arizona Coronado National Forest

The Swift Trail Scenic Drive heads up off the desert floor to the top of Mt. Graham

Soon the landscape began to change, and hardwood trees in the peak of autumn color began to appear.

Golden fall color Coronado National Forest Arizona

As we drove higher, we began to see some fall color

The road curved higher and higher, often making sharp, steep hairpin turns, and the colors became more and more vivid.

Swift Trail Scenic Drive Mt. Graham Arizona

The road passed through all the eco-systems of Arizona in a scant 20 miles

Fall colors Mt. Graham Arizona


Golden yellow and brilliant orange leaves filled the trees, and we stopped to get out and savor the crisp autumn air.

Fall arrives in Mt. Graham Arizona

Evergreen and vivid orange side by side.

Autumn leaves Mt Graham Arizona


A few miles further up the road we came across a small stream with water tumbling over rocks here and there.

Mt. Graham Swift Trail Scenic Drive Arizona Waterfall fall colors

A babbling brook was surrounded by colorful leaves.

Vivid leaves floated in the water, and the air had a moist, pungent smell.

Fall leaves on Swift Trail Scenic Drive Arizona

Leaves submerged in the stream.

Mt. Graham Arizona Waterfall in autumn

The stream rushed by.

Time flew by as we became immersed in our photography. We had so much fun trying to capture this special spot on camera.

Photographing fall colors Mt. Graham Recreational Area Coronado National Forest Arizona

We were both in our element, soaking up the bright colors and pungent smells of fall leaves.

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.

Campsite Arcadia Campground Mt. Graham Coronado National Forest 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!

Arcadia Campground Coronado National Forest Mt. Graham Arizona

Arcadia campground would be a delightful place to stay for a while.

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.

Fall color Swift Trail Mt. Graham Arizona

We got a last glimpse of color as we drove even higher up the mountain.

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.

View from top of Mt. Graham Arizona

The view from the top was hazy and brown as we looked out over ripples of lower mountainsides

The road continued on, but it turned to dirt, so we turned around. As we drove down, we passed back through the vivid colors.

Autumn leaves Mt. Graham National Recreation Area Arizona


And then we stopped for a picnic lunch by the babbling brook.

Picnic Swift Trail Scenic Drive Coronado National Forest Arizona

A great spot for a picnic!

What a truly beautiful day that was!

RV boondocking in Arizona


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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6 thoughts on “Swift Trail Scenic Drive up Mt. Graham – Autumn Color in Arizona

  1. 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. 🙂


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