Driving to the LBT.

LBTO is located on top of Mt. Graham, Arizona, approximately 150 highway miles from The University of Arizona in Tucson (see map).link here. The Observatory is at 10,500 feet elevation, so anyone with serious breathing or heart problems should check with their private physician before attempting the trip. There are limited lifesaving resources on hand to perform resuscitation techniques.

The Observatory Base Camp is located six miles south of Safford, Arizona on State Route 366, also known as Swift Trail. Base Camp is located on the east side of Mt. Graham at the base of the mountain. Follow this link to directions to the Base Camp. Link with map

  • Coming from Tucson , Travel East on Interstate10, take exit #352 and drive north on State Route 191 about 26 miles (past State Route 266) to the intersection of State Route 366. Turn left onto SR-366 and proceed one mile to the Base Camp on your right.

  • Your Squirrel Refugium Pass (link here information about Refugium passes) vehicle pass, radio and gate key must be obtained at the Base Camp before heading up the mountain.

  • Please check in with the office staff to insure your permits are in order and to "log in" your presence at the observatory. The Base Camp office opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 4:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday except for holidays. Inquire for after hours or weekend access for the location of key/radio drop box and combination to the Base Camp pedestrian gate.

  • The road from the Base Camp to the observatory site is 30 miles of winding switchbacks. The road is narrow and there are no guardrails. The first 21 miles of roadway are paved and the remaining 9 miles consist of a dirt/gravel surface. Tire traction is amazingly low on the dirt surface. Vehicle speed (yours and the other persons) is an important ingredient for your safety. You must always drive defensively. Please drive with the utmost caution and stay on your side of the road. The last 2 miles of the observatory access road are one-lane, so the MGIO radio must be used to be sure that no traffic is coming in the opposite direction.

  • During the winter the road surface can become extremely hazardous, covered in "black ice" or packed snow. The road is maintained by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the MGIO maintenance crew. Typically ADOT takes care of the paved road surface and MGIO takes care of the last nine miles to the site. We will do our very best to provide site access via a four wheel drive vehicle with tire chains on all four wheels. During the winter, please check with the Base Camp to ascertain road conditions.

There are several options for an observer to get to LBTO. Please indicate your choice on the observing preparation from:

Option #1: Rental Car (at your expense). Be sure to acquire proper insurance protection for your vehicle. We suggest a 4 wheel drive vehicle. A good portion of the travel is on a non paved road. The mountain also gets heavy snow in the winter months, making driving conditions very challenging.

Option #2: If space is available, one of the LBTO vehicles leaves from base camp at 6:00 and 10:00 am, Monday thru Thursday. Reservations must be made in advance if this is your choice of transportations. You may leave your vehicle at base camp until your return.

Warning! The road to the top of Mt. Graham is very dangerous due to extreme curves and elevation. Don't drive in bad weather or if you have not had enough sleep. Enquire at the base camp regarding schedules for snow removal equipment and use of snow chains if required. The phone number for the MGIO Base Camp is +1-520-621-8650.

-- DavidThompson - 22 Dec 2006, -- JohnHill - 09 Jan 2007
Topic revision: r4 - 09 Jan 2007, JohnHill
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