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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Big Creek Trail #320A, AZ

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Guide 32 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Safford
4.3 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,040 feet
Elevation Gain 760 feet
Accumulated Gain 823 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.32
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
41  2017-09-18
Frye Fire 2017 Aftermath
10  2017-05-06
Mount Graham 10,720
10  2016-10-20
Mount Graham 10,720
15  2016-06-23
High Peak Road #507
14  2014-05-19
Mount Graham 10,720
4  2012-06-20 PrestonSands
20  2012-05-25
High Peak Road #507
13  2011-05-07
Pinaleno Grand Tour
Page 1,  2,  3
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, Jun, Aug, Sep → Early
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:02am - 6:29pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Big trees, little creek, and squirrel envy
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
The Big Creek Trail (trail #320A) is an old logging road that runs up the Big Creek drainage to the Mt. Graham ridge line. It has no official name, yet it is in better shape than many of the "maintained" trails in the Pinaleno Mountains. The Mt. Graham Red Squirrel Refugium closure affects the last couple of hundred yards of the trail, where it joins forest road/trail #507 (see Graham Ridge #507 hike description). The Refugium closure area (above 9800 feet) prevents one from legally making a sweet loop hike by connecting with the Graham Ridge #507 trail. The Big Creek Trail may be a trail to nowhere, but the lush forest it travels through makes up for it.

The most difficult part of the hike is locating its starting point, which is marked by a closed to all vehicles sign. This sign is surrounded by trees, and is barely visible from the Swift Trail highway. To the right (south) of the sign, there is an ancient logging road that is blocked by a fallen log. A couple of small cairns lie in the road. Follow this old road into the forest. It soon becomes a narrow foot path, although the grade of the logging road is still apparent beneath the overgrowth.

At about 0.25 miles the trail crosses over to the north bank of a seasonal creek. The half mile point finds the trail ambling among scattered old growth douglas firs, whose massive trunks dwarf the surrounding trees. A short distance later the trail begins a steep climb up the mountainside that terminates around the 9500 foot level. At this point the old logging road suddenly becomes a meadow covered shelf and arrives at a switchback marked by several cairns. There is a road junction here, at about the one mile mark. The left (north) fork contours over to Big Creek itself, 0.1 miles away. It will most likely have water. The right fork is our road. Follow it south.

The trail passes through a tree tunnel on its way to a small saddle at 1.25 miles, where it makes a 180 degree turn to head north. There are some limited views and a small campsite at the saddle. Another overgrown logging road heads downhill to the east. However, the main logging road (trail #320A) continues north. After gently climbing for a third of a mile, it turns east and enters spruce forest.

As the old logging road nears the 9800 foot contour, another overgrown logging road splits off to the left and heads downhill. Keep going straight.

At about 1.6 miles the forest suddenly opens up into a beautiful meadow. It's quite a treat and tempting to enter, but, unfortunately, it is in the forbidden Red Squirrel Refugium! Law abiding hikers should turn around here, and return the way they came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-01-16 PrestonSands
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    guide related
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 25 deeper Triplog Reviews
Big Creek Trail #320A
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Frye Fire 2017 Aftermath
On Thursday 9/14 the top portion of the Swift Trail (366) was opened back up to the public.
This was the first opportunity for the Gila Valley residents to drive up and view the effects from the Frye Fire.

I drove up and parked at High Peak road. Completed a big loop to & through the above linked trails/campgrounds.

I've only got 2 thoughts -

#1 - The fire was good for the overall future health and growth of the Pinaleno Mountain range for the decades and more to come, I do not deny that fact.

#2 - For myself ..... the 40+ year hiker, backpacker, camper, fisherman & photographer of this magnificent mountain range ..... I am totally devastated and heartbroken by the destruction I viewed on top.
The Pinalenos will never be the same for the rest of my life.
I am shook, I am bitter & I am angry, but I am also very thankful that I got to see and share with my family and friends the incredible beauty of what once was. There will be many more great memories made on this mountain ..... just in a different way now and in different locations.
Big Creek Trail #320A
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I am not sure which way people usually take to knock out this "off-limits" high point, however, this way seems to be the most redeeming (due to the short, but pleasant hike up Big Creek Trail) and the most straightforward/logical in terms of avoiding the observatory and being detected.

It may take a minute to locate the beginning of Big Creek Trail and there is some deadfall to contend with for the first few tenths of a mile, however, after that, the old road bed becomes a pleasant trail, with a mild grade and some impressive old growth pines and firs. After Big Creek Trail, its more old road bed to the top of Graham. This part was also relatively pleasant and scenic. A little bit of a match stick, post apocalyptic scene on the summit, but the views are great!
Big Creek Trail #320A
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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:
Big Creek Trail #320A
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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.

Big Creek Trail #320A
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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.
Big Creek Trail #320A
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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!!!
Big Creek Trail #320A
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Heading down the Swift Trail from Webb Peak, I approached Hospital Flat, where a lone figure was quickly crossing the meadow like a sasquatch. "Is that Chad?" It was! I picked him up and we were soon hiking up High Peak Road, admiring the scenery along the way. We went down Big Creek and then over to Treasure Park, where we surprised a flock of turkeys. We took the back way into Snow Flat, arriving in time to watch the sunset, where the wind really picked up and the temperature dropped. We followed Snow Flat Road up to the Swift Trail and turned north to follow it back in the dark to our vehicles at the end of the pavement, where we parted ways for the evening. Good times as always, Chad! :)

I sat in the cab of my truck, exhausted, cold and hungry, wondering what I should do with the rest of my evening. I could go home, but why? A solution presented itself. I cooked Ramen in the cab, watched a movie on the portable dvd player and then drove like a zombie back to Hagens Point to spend the night. After 3 hours of sleep, I was up at dawn and driving straight to work in Tucson. An enjoyable (and tiring) weekend ;)
Big Creek Trail #320A
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Was just about to head up the mountain when I received a surprising text from Preston letting me know that he was on top of Graham ..... Cool, we met up on top and went for a Big Island hike!

Wet Canyon - On the drive up I first stopped at Wet Canyon and man was it beautiful. Lots of green now with excellent creek flow and many butterflies along the water.

High Peak/Big Creek Loop - Preston found me walking along the Swift Trail at the Hospital Flat meadow and from there we hiked up High Peak Rd then down the Big Creek Trail completing the loop.

Swift Trail/Treasure Park to Snow Flat - A short walk down the ST then brought us to Treasure Park where we decided on the "back road" trail down to Snow Flat for sunset.

A couple of miles up Snow Flat road & down the Swifty at dark took us back to the start.

Wildlife spotted on this day - White-tail does, Garter Snake, Turkeys, Vultures, Mexican Jays, Two-tailed Swallowtails & 3 Peccary I almost hit crossing the ST straightaway on the drive home.

Another excellent trip spent with the Yeti on this most beautiful day atop ole' Graham!
Big Creek Trail #320A
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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 :)
Big Creek Trail #320A
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Waking up tired at Twilight Campground following a late night of star photos, I headed up The Mountain, hoping to beat the storms. I trudged up the Big Creek Trail in heavy humidity, then turned onto High Peak Road #507, bound for one of my most favorite places, where I ate raspberries and enjoyed a world class view. Strong, chilly winds kept thunderstorms from building, thankfully, though I was watching the sky carefully. Explored the top end of Crazy Horse canyon, had lunch in an aspen thicket, greeted my corkbark friends, then continued back to Big Creek Trail, where I explored its upper (9800') side trail. Back at the trailhead, I lounged for a bit in an exhausted stupor, contemplating where to go next.

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 22.75 miles to the unsigned trailhead at milepost 137.17 (this point is 0.15 miles after the Treasure Park turnoff, and 0.1 miles before Hospital Flat Campground). On the east side of the highway there is a small cairn on the shoulder of the road. Barely visible in the trees just east of the cairn is a large CLOSED TO ALL VEHICLES sign. This is the starting point for the trail (see description). Trailhead gps coordinates: 32.66671 N, 109.87275 W
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