How to get there: If you’re coming from Quartzsite, take Highway 95 north for 6.5 miles. Turn right onto Plomosa Road and follow it 20.2 miles to the town of Bouse. In Bouse, follow Maine Street east over railroad tracks and turn left on Rayder Ave. Rayder becomes Swansea Road. If you’re coming from I-10/Vicksburg Junction, continue north on Vicksburg Road for 8.0 miles. Turn left onto AZ-72 and follow it for 19.6 miles to Bouse. Turn right on Main Street, then left on Rayder Ave. Rayder becomes Swansea Road. Staging and an information kiosk are available to the left at the fork.
The trail: From the town of Bouse, Swansea Road almost immediately becomes a wide, graded dirt road. Stay left at the fork where Butler Valley Ranch Road goes right. The road remains fairly uneventful for the next several miles as it turns right and heads northeast. Ignore side roads as you pass through numerous dry washes. After the mile mark, you may be able to see the Parker 425 Baja Race course off to your right. The annual race winds through this area and over some of the local roads.
At 5.3 miles you’ll cross over the Central Arizona Project Canal, and at 5.6 miles, you’ll see the boundary of the East Cactus Plain Wilderness Area. The 14,000+ acre wilderness area features unique dune topography and desert vegetation. Continuing northeast, the road remains wide and washboardy. At 10.4 miles you’ll come to a junction known as Midway. This used to be the halfway point for the railroad running between Swansea and Bouse. Stay left through the intersection. Going right is an alternate way to Swansea (Railroad Canyon Trail) which can be used to make a loop.
After Midway, the road begins to narrow as it twists and turns its way through the mountains. At 16.0 miles, way out in the middle of nowhere, you’ll find yourself at a 4-way stop sign. Proceed right. Left is an alternate way in from Parker and straight will take you to Planet Ranch. Continuing east, the road resumes its climb as you pass over a natural gas pipeline. As you pass 20.0 miles, the road becomes its roughest. The grades are relatively steep and some of the curves are tight. At 21.4 miles you’ll make a sharp right turn and reach the highpoint of the trail. From here, everything is downhill as the road hugs the mountainside. You also should have a nice view of Swansea Townsite. The trail drops over 500 feet and passes a restroom and info kiosk off to the left once you reach the bottom at 22.7 miles. Stay right at 23.0 miles to get to the townsite.
In Swansea, there are many different ruins and buildings to see. Off to the right (south side) of the trail are the numerous mine shafts, most of which have been covered with very strong metal grates. The foundations of the mining offices are on the north side of the road. The trail turns left at 23.2 miles. After the turn, the big row of miner’s cottages will be on the left. The road continues north over a small bridge made up of the tailings. We recommend parking somewhere along this section and getting out to walk around the different ruins. There is so much to see. The old dust chamber and smelter are to the southeast. Additional ruins, like the general manager’s house and more company house foundations can be seen if you continue north along the road leaving Swansea. In Swansea, you have two options for additional trails: 1) Swansea Pumping Plant Trail – more difficult but short trail that follows water pipeline from Swansea to the pumping plant on the Bill Williams River 2) Railroad Canyon Trail – more difficult and returns back to Midway. It follows the old railroad grade through a narrow canyon. When you’re done at Swansea, return via the way you came (easiest) or choose another option.
Summary/Trail Ratings: This 23 mile trail remains easy throughout its entire length. There are lots of washboard sections but even low clearance cars can make it. Some of the grades are steep, some of the turns are tight, and some sections of the final descent may make novice off-road drivers nervous. We’ve rated this trail a ‘1.5’ out of ‘10’. Allow 2-3 hours of driving the trail at a slow pace. Allow for at least an hour to explore Swansea. It’s very easy to spend more. When doing this trail, be prepared for desert travel. The trail is easy but longer. It can get very hot in the summer so carry extra food and water. This trail is closed 1 weekend a year during the Parker 425 Race (usually around Superbowl Weekend in early February).
Status: Open | Trail Type: Out-and-back | Length: 23 miles one way | Approx. Time: 2-3 hours
Take an easy, 23 mile drive to one of the best preserved ghost towns in the state. The abandoned town of Swansea once operated as a large scale copper mining operation. Today, numerous ruins throughout the area make this a must see.
Page last updated: 4/10/2016