Sweeney Road

Important Note

When in use as a logging road, Sweeney Road traveled the entire distance between Barfoot Park on the crest of the Chiricahuas and the town of Paradise far below. While segments of the road can be found in the last few miles above Paradise, they are fragmented and heavily overgrown. As such, this guide will be treating a point along the Paradise Road (FR 42B) as the lower terminus for the present. The location of the sawmill at Barfoot Park is unknown at this time, so the upper terminus will be considered to be along the Barfoot Park Road (FR 357) just above the park itself.

This is an unmaintained and abandoned historic route and it is overgrown and washed out in many places but passable on foot. It also crosses modern roads in multiple locations and in a few cases continues along those roads for a distance before the old route forks away from the present.

Length: 3.87 mi

Difficulty: expert

Condition: terrible

Elevation range: 5985 ft – 8365 ft

Elevation gain/loss: 2,265 ft ↑ / 120 ft ↓

Average slope: 10.5%


Sweeney Road is accessible from multiple locations between Paradise and Barfoot Park, where it repeatedly crosses four different modern roads.

The lower-elevation eastern terminus lies at the back end of a rough 600 foot road loop along the Paradise Road (FR 42B), 1.5 miles above the Forest Boundary sign south of Paradise or 0.92 miles from the western terminus of Paradise Road with the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42). The eastern half of the loop is overgrown and washed out, and the western half is not recommended to be driven on either, so it's best to park along FR 42B and walk in. Sweeney Road leaves to the northwest, 230 feet into the west side of the loop. The junction here is overgrown and not particularly obvious. (31.91489, -109.23772)

The first crossing of the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) occurs at a 180° hairpin turn in that road. The lower segment of Sweeney Road connects in from the east next to one of the reflector posts which has black tape applied to it in places. (31.91914, -109.24659). The upper segment begins 130 feet to the northwest along the north edge of the hairpin turn and requires ascending the more gradual right edge of an otherwise steep slope. (31.91937, -109.24688)

The second crossing of the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) is three quarters of a mile by road above the first and occurs on during a short straight section to the north-northeast before FR 42 swings left to the northwest for a longer straightaway. Sweeney Road crosses from the northeast to the southwest. (31.91990, -109.25077)

Sweeney Road descends via a short spur from the Rustler Park Road (FR 42D) 0.84 miles above Onion Saddle. (31.92387, -109.26074) Turkey Park lies roughly a quarter mile to the southeast of this point. Other shorter logging roads also connect in here, so after descending the 80 foot spur you must take the left fork to get onto Sweeney Road. (31.92366, -109.26086)

The road climbs above the Rustler Park Road (FR 42D) three tenths of a mile above the previous junction. (31.92066, -109.26300) A steep slope is present here, so care must be taken to reach the shelf on the level above where Sweeney Road parallels the modern road at a much steeper grade.

A junction with the Barfoot Park Road (FR 357) occurs near the northern terminus of the Crest Trail. Head towards the clearing containing a pile of dirt/gravel to the northeast. Sweeney Road descends from the northern edge of this clearing. (31.91729, -109.26765)

0.58 miles beyond the previous junction in the direction of Barfoot Park, Sweeney Road leaves the modern route again and travels along a modern spur road for 140 feet before turning left at a fork (31.91881, -109.27460) through a dispersed campsite with a fire circle and initially heading northwest.

The higher-elevation western terminus lies on the north side of the Barfoot Park Road (FR 357), 720 feet above the small parking area and plaque on the west edge of the Barfoot Park meadow. The route is very faint and hard to see from the road at this point. (31.91788, -109.27775)


Sweeney Road was built by Ed Sweeney around 1903 in order to provide an much shorter route from his sawmill at Barfoot Park to Paradise in order to transport lumber to the town and its mines. Prior to its construction, wagons had to make a significantly larger journey down the west side of the Chiricahuas, through Apache Pass to the northwest, and around the north end of the mountains before dropping back down to Paradise. A three mile route down the (albeit rather steep) Sweeney Road was highly preferable. B. B. Riggs built an equivalent road on the west side of the range at the same time, which was referred to as Riggs Road.1 It is unclear whether this followed the present day Pine Canyon Road (FR 357) or if it was further north where the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) descends into Pinery Canyon.

Trail Description

Lower Terminus at FR 42B to First FR 42 Crossing

From the lower terminus a short distance off the Paradise Road (FR 42B), Sweeney Road very briefly heads northwest before straightening out to the west. The first 180 feet pass through a stand of oaks which have grown up in the middle of the road, making it difficult to find at first. After exiting the trees, the way becomes much more clear. Over the next 300 feet, the road makes a gradual bend to the southwest, climbing as it bends. As it levels out on a flat area, evidence of old clearings on both side of the road is present, and a spur road heads off a short distance to the northwest into one of the clearings. It is unclear whether this was a mine site, a homestead, or something else.

Continuing to the southwest for 300 feet, the road contours around the south face of a hill and heads west. After approximately 450 feet it narrows to the width of a trail for a short distance and passes between trees and bushes growing in the original route. Immediately beyond, it bends to the southwest as it crosses a drainage and climbs through a washed out section of road. Catclaw encroaches on the path in places here. 150 feet after the drainage crossing, the road makes a wide U-turn to the northeast over a 200 foot stretch, then angles to the left for 350 feet, then back to the right where it begins a moderately straighter route up the ridge. The road is fairly heavily washed out in places along here, and it may be occasionally necessary to walk to one side of it.

After a quarter mile climbing along the top of the ridge, the road begins to angle to the north-northeast for its push to a saddle at the higher divide. This 0.16 mile stretch is very rocky and overgrown, but is cut into the side of the slope and it is still possible to see the row of rocks positioned all along the outer edge of the road, despite many additional rocks having fallen from above over the years. At the saddle, the road bends nearly 180° to the left and continues to climb. A faint path leaves to the east from here but fades away fairly quickly. It's possible this once existed as a foot or pack trail which connected to or was overlaid by Sweeney Road.

The next 350 feet pass along the north side of a ridge, with a nice rock wall visible on the left side of the road at one point. Climbing somewhat, it then angles to the southwest before making a wide 0.15 mile U around a hill and ending up at a fenced-in rain-collecting game water tank. This tank is built atop the old route, so continue to the left side of the fence and immediately west of the tank you'll pick up the road again, heading west for its final 450 feet before reaching the first crossing of the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) along the eastern edge of one of its hairpin turns.

First FR 42 Crossing to Second FR 42 Crossing

Turn right and continue along the Trans-Mountain Road (FR 42) for 90 feet to the northwest. A dirt cliff with rocks placed in a row at its top lies ahead on the edge of the road. The cliff angles down to the right, and at the right side you can easily walk up a relatively gradual incline before turning left and walking west along the edge. After 50 feet, Sweeney Road angles to the northwest away from FR 42 and passes through a wooded area as it curves north over a 250 foot stretch. This area has been used as an illegal campsite and there is a large amount of trash in the woods around.

At a small clearing, the road swings back to the left, initially heading west before swinging yet again to the north across a 200 foot segment. At this point the original route is overgrown and you'll need to bypass it briefly to the right and pick it up again beyond the brushy area that obscures it. The road heads roughly to the west—it bends down to the southwest and then back northwest) through an overgrown by passable stretch. This area was burned in 2011 and the fire helped clear some of the brush that originally obscured the route. After 600 feet it swings down to the southwest again and climbs steeply to its second crossing of the Trans-Mountain Road.

Second FR 42 Crossing to FR 42D

After crossing the Trans-Mountain Road for the second time, Sweeney Road continues directly across it in the same direction—roughly west-southwest. The ascent to it is somewhat steep due to the modern road being cut directly through its path. Almost immediately after crossing FR 42 here, the terrain and tree cover changes as the road enters a tall pine forest and the surface becomes less rocky and more gradual.

The road continues along a south-facing slope, gradually bending to the northwest over the next 500 feet before contouring back to the west-southwest for another 500. A somewhat wide bend to the northeast across a 100 foot stretch occurs here as the road begins a set of switchbacks to climb through the forest to Turkey Park. 300 feet beyond the start of the bend, you'll angle to the north.

Over the next six tenths of a mile to Turkey Park, the road bends seven more times but generally remains easy to follow, as it is cut into the surrounding terrain fairly well. Occasional downed logs across the road block passage, but can be bypassed without issue as there are no steep slopes here. Fire passed through here but left the majority of the pines unharmed except for a few occasional patches.

After swinging to the west after the last major bend, the road enters Turkey Park. Note that many maps show this park as being somewhat further to the southeast. From here, the route becomes somewhat faint for a time. After crossing a somewhat large diameter downed tree, you will need to swing to the right and pass between two trees, then cut across the clearing to the west-northwest. As you reach the other side of the clearing, approximately 200 feet later, you should be able to pick up the road again as it swings further north and then to the west after 400 feet. You will now be just below the Rustler Park Road (FR 42D). Additional logging roads continue from here to the southwest, and it's possible the original Sweeney Road once went in that direction from here as well, but fire damage and the construction of the modern road has obscured its route in this area, so a segment of travel along the modern road is required from here. An 80 foot spur road heading northeast from here connects Sweeney Road to the Rustler Park Road. At the junction with the modern road, rocks are positioned to block vehicular access and a partially burned sign is present for the same purpose.

Walking Along FR 42D

Turn left on the Rustler Park Road (FR 42D) and head southwest. After approximately 1000 feet, you may be able to see traces of the original route of Sweeney Road on the slope above to the right. These are faint and fragmented, so there is little point in climbing to follow them for such a short distance. 450 feet further, FR 42D makes a sharp bend to the right and then begins curving to the left. Approximately 275 feet beyond the sharp bend, you will come to a dirt cliff on the right side of the road. You may be able to see some traces of Sweeney Road in places, but the best approach is on the left side of the cliff, where it is less steep. Climb to the level above and approximately 80 feet from FR 42D you'll encounter Sweeney Road again, heading roughly east-west.

FR 42D to FR 357

Turning left onto Sweeney Road, you'll pass across a flat saddle of sorts for approximately 150 feet before swinging to the southwest and beginning to climb. Sweeney Road parallels the modern road for some time in this segment, but climbing high above it at a steeper angle.

Over the next 600 feet, along the southeastern face of a steep cliff, the road occasionally becomes faint where it has eroded away, but it continues in a nearly straight line for this entire stretch until reaching a protruding point in the terrain which must be contoured around to the left. After 200 feet heading south, the road widens again and swings back to the southwest. An area of intense fire damage is entered at this point.

600 feet later, you will swing away to the right, finally moving away from FR 42's route. The road makes a brief and gradual bend to the north—a dirt tank or some sort of excavation lies 100 feet to the north here—before settling into a west-southwest route to a clearing 500 feet later at the end of a service road off the Barfoot Park Road (FR 357). Piles of dirt and sand are present in this clearing, likely for road maintenance purposes. Sweeney Road becomes obscured through here, so just head roughly west for approximately 200 feet to reach the Barfoot Park Road. The eastern terminus of the Crest Trail is a very short distance south of here along FR 357 and can be used as an alternate route to Barfoot Park if you wish to climb even higher. To continue along the Sweeney Road route, turn right on FR 357 and head roughly northwest.

Walking along FR 357

There are traces of a road below the modern road and they may be part of Sweeney Road, but they are faint and descend steeply, so following the Barfoot Park Road makes for an easier hike following almost exactly the same route. After 0.39 miles, just beyond a small cement bridge/drainpipe crossing, a small dispersed campsite road leaves to the north and comes to a fork at the campsite. A separate logging road continues to the right, while Sweeney Road is beyond the left fork, through the campsite. The route Sweeney Road takes here is 150 feet shorter than the modern road, but doesn't differ significantly from its position, so you can continue down FR 357 from here to reach Barfoot Park if you wish.

FR 357 to Upper Terminus

Roughly mirroring the position of the Barfoot Park Road for the first 400 feet, Sweeney Road then continues its southwestern course while the modern road swings south for a bit. The final 750 foot stretch is a nearly straight line and connects back with FR 357 0.13 miles above the Barfoot Park parking area and plaque, from which the trailheads of the Barfoot Park Trail, Harper Trail and Ida Peak Trail are all relatively close by.


  1. Alden Hayes, A Portal to Paradise, 1999, p. 217

Last updated November 18, 2013.