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Hospital Flat Nature Trail, AZ

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Guide 19 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
3.2 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 1.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,980 feet
Elevation Gain 196 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 2.23
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
5  2018-05-31 cactuscat
10  2016-10-20
Mount Graham 10,720
15  2016-06-23
High Peak Road #507
11  2014-10-20 winotron
10  2012-05-24 outdoor_lover
12  2011-08-02 sirena
20  2011-03-31
Cunningham Loop Trail
9  2010-10-11 SkyIslander18
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → Any
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:07am - 6:18pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
alpine therapy
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
Continuing on in my series of hikes that are not really destinations but rather "something to do if you are in the area", is the Hospital Flat Nature Trail. Built by the Safford Rotary Club, this easy loop hike circles around the little hill that separates Hospital Flat from Treasure Park. Hospital Flat gets its name from the military hospital located there in the 1870's and 80's. Rather than be made to suffer in the desert heat at nearby Fort Grant, sick or wounded soldiers were brought up to Hospital Flat to recuperate in the cool alpine environment. Today, the expansive meadow that forms Hospital Flat is the location of a forest service campground and this scenic little trail. The trail is easy to follow for the most part, except where it ends at the turnoff for Treasure Park, where the myriad of other paths get a little confusing. Starting this hike from Hospital Flat solves that problem. State highway 366, which provides access to this hike, is closed yearly due to snow from November 15 to April 15, at a point one mile before the trailhead.

At the end of the Hospital Flat Campground road, about fifty feet to the left of campsites 10 and 11, is a well trodden trail leading into the meadow. Follow this trail downhill to the far side of the meadow, where it meets a little creek, near campsite 9. There will be a large wooden sign there, marking the start of the Hospital Flat Nature Trail (32.66533 N, 109.87560 W). The first of many wooden posts with the word "trail" and an arrow, appear here as well. These markers are scattered along the rest of the trail. Just past the signs, the trail plows through an alder thicket, and crosses a little wooden bridge over Big Creek. A metal donation/trail guide box that appears to be abandoned sits beside the trail at the edge of the campground. Now you'll begin following Big Creek downstream through a peaceful riparian area full of large leaved cow parsnip and skunk cabbage plants. Young alder trees crowd small crystal clear pools along this gently trickling alpine stream. A narrow grassy meadow soon follows, amid dense stands of fir and spruce.

About a third of a mile in, the trail turns southeast, and begins to climb out of the creek bed, following an old logging road. Pines proceed to replace the spruce trees, and the trail widens out. Aspens appear once the trail turns north and begins climbing along side the Treasure Park road.

The trail leaves the old logging road just before reaching a parking area along highway 366, at the start of the Treasure Park road. A few more "trail" signs attempt to direct you back to Hospital Flat from the highway, but I couldn't make any sense of them among the intertwining paths and fallen logs. It's easier to just hang a left on the Swift Trail (highway 366) and follow it for 0.4 miles back to Hospital Flat Campground.

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2007-07-18 PrestonSands
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 15 deeper Triplog Reviews
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Perfect day to be on top of the mountain!
A variation of a loop I did last October.
The snow is now disappearing fast on top.
All of the creeks and drainages were flowing good with snow melt.
Approx 25% of this hike was in snow.
Most of my route was past the closed winter gate and I saw not a person the entire hike.
Only wildlife sighting the entire day was on the drive back down the mountain where I saw a rooster walking down the Swift Trail at the Coronado sign ..... What The :pk: True story :lol:
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Leaves are falling all around
It's time I was on my way
Thanks to you I'm much obliged
For such a pleasant stay.
- Page/Plant -

Chasing autumn colors up high. Main focus was the aspens ..... and I found them!
High Peak Road delivered, my favorite grove looked good. I was about a week late, but most still held gold.
From #507 I finally completed the newly built connector trail over to the Big Creek Trail, cool little trail!
Next up was Hospital Flat then down to Treasure Park. Big Creek was flowing good so I added on Big Creek Falls to the trip. Super fun boulder hopping down that canyon and the falls were a highlight.
I then took the "spooky" back trail down to Snow Flat, ate & rested a bit by the pond before the climb up to the Swift Trail. Swift Trail then brought me back to the start completing the loop.

Upper mountain closes November 15th so this was probably my last trip up high for this year. The lower Swift Trail however is starting to get good with color ..... real good! The next week or so should be primo for a scenic drive along the switchbacks.

Good day for wildlife - 1 buck, 9 does, 6 Abert's & a dozen gobblers at Snow Flat.

Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Up High Peak road,
Down Big Creek trail,
Across the road to Hospital Flat,
Swift Trail back for the loop.
Lower Big Creek was the highlight, very green.
70 degrees at 9000 feet, light rain the entire Big Creek trail down.
Not much water flow anywhere up high,
Flowers are just starting, mountain needs rain soon to get it all going.
Saw a turkey on the drive back down fly up a 30 foot cliff, did not know they could do that!
Graham was good to me today.
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Up High Peak Road,
Down Big Creek Trail,
Over to Hospital Flat for the Nature Trail,
Then the Swift Trail back to the start.
Along the way we out-n-backed a cool little spur trail that was brought to my attention by Mr Sands.
Thanks Preston, we will be returning to that spot for an overnight!
9000 ft. elevation temps were perfect, good flower and fungus show with 5 white-tail does and 5 Abert's squirrels spotted today. Thanks to the Big Island & Addie for an awesome day!!!
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Our 3rd short hike of the day on Mt. Graham. The narrow path cuts across the meadow and leads you to the start of the trail. This trail is a nice creek-side stroll for its first half. Good amount of water in the creek. Soon we left the creek and headed up into the forest. There were some aspens here that still had good color on them. The trail ended a little abruptly at the Swift Trail and we weren't quite sure if there was a way back other than the road, so we walked the road a bit back to our truck.

Nice peaceful little hike. Nobody else out there. Not exactly worth it as a destination, but worthy of a stop on the way up the Swift Trail.

Some golden aspens, mostly along the 2nd half of the trail.
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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This is always one of my most anticipated & favorite trips up Graham every year!

Every year the last upper 14 miles of the Swift Trail is closed for winter on November 15th and is reopened April 15th. I like to go up a week or so before the reopening (and the crowds move in) and hike in on the closed road. The plan for this one was to hike up to Grant Hill and form a loop down through 3 of the lower campgrounds which I completed.
Just an awesome experience as always. Walking the closed Swifty and through all the empty campgrounds was a bit eerie and a little surreal, but also made for a very peaceful & tranquil day through the forest and all to myself.
Very little snow left on top now and just a few small flowers starting to come up as the upper mountain is coming out of winter. And the deer ..... oh deer ..... counted 6 on the drive up/down and 12 along the trails with one just 20 feet off the Grant Hill trail feeding without a care of me walking by! There was no sign of bear or bigfoots yet.

Other than a great 30 minute talk with the mountain police officer, I saw no one else on top of the Big Island the entire day. It was a wonderful trip and one I will continue to do every year - OK, I'm now ready for the crowds :| and the HAZers :)
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Next stop on our agenda is the Nature Trail that originates at Hospital Flat Campground. Beautiful meadow with awesome views all around....This is a Loop Hike that follows Big Creek for awhile and then meanders off through a Pine and Aspen Forest. The Aspen are absolutely gorgeous right now, as their new leaves flutter and shine when the Sunlight hits them. Very pretty Hike that was well worth the stop. Just the Meadow where the Campground sits is reason enough to visit this awesome little area and I got to see and hear about the history behind this area as well. Another winner in my book..... :D
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Pinaleno Mountains
Day #1 of mine & Pam's 2 day stay on Graham. I thought for the first day it would be fun to just drive up the Swift Trail and hit many of the shorter (1-2 mile) "nature" trails and leave the longer day hike trails for the next day. After meeting up at Roper Lake SP, we headed up the Swifty with the first stop being at upper Arcadia -

Arcadia Nature Trail - Short & sweet stroll along the mountain side and up through the pines & oak to a nice overlook of Noon Creek ridge & Wet Canyon below. Good start to the day!

Ladybug Peak - Always a favorite of mine to bag on the way up or down the mountain. The ladybugs are starting to congregate on top and I will have to return in a few weeks to view the full spectacle of hundreds of thousands!

Big Creek Falls - Big Creek was not flowing at it's best today, but that made it possible to hike right down the middle of the creek's rock slabs down to the big falls. Always a scenic canyon to hike down heavy flow or not!

Hospital Flat Nature Trail - One of the prettiest meadows on the entire mountain! Hiked the standard counter-clockwise loop and just took in the beautiful forest scenery with a lunch break back at the campground before continuing on up the Swift Trail.

CP Flat Loop - Trail of the day! The aspens on this trail were almost full and the walk through "Letty's Grove" was truly the highlight of the day! We both sat at the end of the grove not really wanting to leave, but the sun was starting to fall and we needed to get down to Riggs Lake and secure our camping spot for the night.

Riggs Flat Lake - After looping the campgrounds, we decided on a camping site (#1) and spent dusk getting camp set up and eating dinner. Night brought a campfire, some star trail photography & a couple of hours of good ol' campfire conversation! I settled into my tent around midnight and fell asleep to the sound of high mountain wind blowing through the pine trees above me.

Great day #1 with Pam atop my backyard mountain home!!!
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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Tour de Mt Graham
Started off on the Cunningham Loop Trail, apparently took a wrong turn and was long past a missed junction before I realized my mistake. Turned out to be a great loop anyways! Cool breezes, great forest, no rain, abundant flowers and water.

Could not find the Crazy Horse Trail, the area has received major burn damage and is heavily overgrown.

Big Creek Trail is not marked, but was in great shape.
Hospital Flat Nature Trail
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With the back half of the Swift Trail (Hwy 366) still closed until April 15th, I decided that I just could not wait anymore for it to open and mountain biked my way in to the trails. I first biked in to the Grant Hill TH and hiked the lower Cunningham Loop, jumped back on my bike and rode down to Hospital Flat and hiked the nature trail, then back on the bike down to Treasure Park and hiked down the Big Creek Falls trail. Spent about an hour at Treasure Park before jumping back on the bike and riding back up to my truck parked at the High Peak Rd TH.
All 3 trails still have a few patches of snow on them and I was up to my knees on one short stretch along Cunningham Loop. Weather was perfect and all the trails were beautiful!!! I really thought by biking in I would be the only person on this side of the mountain for the day, but I must have been passed by 10 vehicles driving up that I assume were Mt. Graham telescope workers. This was the first time I have ever mountain biked on the Swift Trail and it ended up being one of the funnest day trips I have ever had on the Grahams!

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Safford, head south on U.S. highway 191. Turn west onto state highway 366 (Swift Trail). Follow highway 366 for approximately 22.8 miles to the signed Hospital Flat turnoff. Turn left at the sign, and follow the campground road to its end. The trail is unmarked at first, but starts 50 feet to the left of campsites 10 and 11. The trail takes off across the meadow, and reaches a trail sign at the far side (see description above). Trailhead gps coordinates: 32.66602 N, 109.87500 W
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