Instruments & Operations



MGIO maintains an orientation package that should also be reviewed prior to traveling to the LBT. In this package are detailed directions from the basecamp to the observatory.

Plan to drive yourself to the summit?

The drive from Tucson to Mt. Graham takes approximately three hours.  Approximately two hours are on standard highways until you reach the Mt. Graham International Observatory Base Camp.  The last hour is on winding mountain roads with the final six miles unpaved. Though the road is well maintained, you should be aware that conditions can change markedly on the mountain at short notice.  A 4-wheel drive vehicle is always recommended and, for about half the year, you will also need chains. You should therefore ensure that the vehicle you will be using to make the trip is adequate for such a journey.

There is a possibility to arrange a ride from the basecamp to the LBT and back with observatory personnel. The times are limited primarily to early mornings (up) and afternoons (down) with the daytime crew on weekdays, and with shift changes for the science support personnal. Please indicate an interest in riding with LBTO personnel on the Visitor Reservations Form.

Tucson area to MGIO Basecamp (120 miles)

When you exit the airport, turn RIGHT onto E. Valencia Rd. Merge onto I-10 east. About 85 miles from Tucson and just a few miles past Wilcox, take US-191 (Exit 352) north (left) towards Safford. After 28 miles (7 miles before you get to Safford), turn left onto AZ-366. The MGIO Basecamp is on the right side about 1 mile up AZ-366, across the street from the state prison. MGIO provides this local map.

Phoenix area to MGIO Basecamp (170 miles)

From Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, go east on E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Take the AZ-202-LOOP E ramp towardas Tempe. Take the AZ-101-LOOP S to US-60 east towards Globe. US-60 becomes US-70. It is about 160 miles to Safford. In Safford, turn RIGHT onto S 1ST AVE/US-191. In 7.3 miles, turn RIGHT onto AZ-366. The MGIO Basecamp is on the right side about 1 mile up AZ-366, across the street from the state prison. MGIO provides this local map.

At the MGIO Basecamp

To ensure your safety during your LBTO visit, all personnel must check in at the Base Camp to:

It is best to arrange your travels to take you through the base camp during normal operating hours (M-F 6:00-16:30 MST) if at all possible. If not, please contact us in advance to make the necessary arrangements.

How do I get the permit/radio/keys?

Road Conditions

When you are going down after dark in the winter (or even in the summer) with poor driving conditions, we strongly recommend you do the following:

  1. If staff are working at the LBT, make sure they know when you are leaving and have them monitor the radio until you notify them that you are safely down.

  2. If there is a UofA police officer on the site, please let him/her know that you are leaving the site and that you will notify him/her when you are safely off the mountain.

  3. If there is no UAPD or LBTO on-site staff but there are observers at the Vatican or SMT, please call one of them and ask that they monitor the radio until you are safely down. You should call them to let them know when you are safely off the mountain.

  4. If you are the only folks on the mountain and you are planning to leave the LBT at a reasonable time (before 9pm), call the mountain operations manager or someone else in Safford and let them know you will be coming down. They can monitor the radio for your safety until you are down. Remember, they are on the road early so that any later than 9pm is cutting into their sleep.

The purpose of this policy letter is to ensure everyone's safety. The mountain is hazardous in the winter and even in the summer when driving in the dark. Should there be an emergency, we do not want anyone to be on the mountain driving without someone designated to monitor their progress.