UPPER HOSPITAL FLAT GROUP SITE

Overview

Upper Hospital Flat is a great place for groups to escape the summer heat of surrounding deserts and retreat to a scenic meadow in the Pinaleño Mountains of southeastern Arizona. The area is known for camping, scenic driving, picnicking, birding, wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking and history. 

In the 1880s, the campground served as the site for a field hospital for ailing soldiers from nearby Fort Grant, hence its name. The restorative powers of this cool, high-elevation location also attracted officers and their families seeking a summer refuge from desert heat. Today, Hospital Flat serves as popular getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and campers.

Recreation

The campground lies along the Swift Trail Scenic Drive, which takes visitors from the Sonoran Desert at 2,900 feet to alpine meadows and forest on the 9,000+ foot ridges of the Pinaleño Range. Because of its diverse habitat, the area is well-known for birding and wildlife watching.

Nearby Hospital Flat Campground includes a 0.75-mile nature trail that gives interpretive information about the meadow and its plant and animal inhabitants. 

The Swift Trail also provides access to a number of hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking trails, along with several other campgrounds that invite you for an afternoon picnic. A trip up to Rigg’s Lake, stocked with trout by Arizona Game & Fish, or to the Columbine Visitors Center could make a worth-while day trip as well. 

Facilities

Upper Hospital Flat can accommodate a group of up to 50 people. Several first-come, first-served individual sites are located nearby in the Hospital Flat Campground (must pay separately). The group site is equipped with a picnic table, parking area and campfire ring with a grill. Dead-and-down firewood may be collected in and around the campsite.

Note: There are no toilets on site. One portable/self-contained toilet is required for every 15 people.  

The road leading into the group site is mainly suitable for higher-clearance vehicles.

Natural Features

The campground sits along Big Creek in a mixed conifer forest, adjacent to a meadow that comes to life with wildflower blooms in late summer. The 9,000-ft. elevation offers pleasant summer temperatures. 

The Coronado National Forest covers 1.78 million acres of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Elevations range from 3,000 to 10,720 feet in 12 widely scattered mountain ranges, or “sky islands,” that rise dramatically from the desert floor, supporting biologically diverse plant communities.

Nearby Attractions

The Mount Graham Wilderness Study Area, which includes the 10,720-foot Mount Graham, the tallest mountain in southern Arizona. Columbine Visitors Center, Riggs Lake, and a variety of trails can be accessed along the Swift Trail Scenic Drive. 

The town of Safford is approximately a 1 hour drive from the Hospital Flat campground, heading north on SR 191. Safford is home to our Ranger Station, where you can go to find information about trails, camping, hunting and fishing, and other questions you may have about our district (open Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm).

Charges & Cancellations

Please review the Rules & Reservations Policies page on recreation.gov

From Safford, Arizona: Take State Route 191 south for 6 miles. Turn right onto State Route 366/Swift Trail and travel 23.3 miles to the Upper Hospital Group Site entrance on the right (MM 137.2).  

From Tucson, Arizona: Take I-10 east for 90 miles. Take exit 352 for State Route 191, and turn left toward Safford. Drive 26.3 miles north and turn left on State Route 366/Swift Trail. Continue for 23.3 miles to the Upper Hospital Group Site entrance on the right (MM 137.2). 

This site has a $25 per night fee and a $5 per vehicle per night fee. Your check-out through recreation.gov will only include the Nightly/Daily rate. You must pay the per vehicle fee by cash or check upon arrival at the designated Fee Station.

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