Best trees for swings

You may think that you can hang a swing in any tree that looks good. While you may be able to tie a rope around many different branches on many different trees, not all trees are good for tree swings.

To determine if a tree is the best for hanging a swing, you have to look at several factors. These factors include:

  • Tree species
  • Tree structure
  • Tree age
  • Tree health
  • Tree location
  • Branch thickness
  • Branch health
  • Branch placement
  • Area around tree and ground cover

Tree Species

The tree species you choose to hang your swing on is important. In general terms, someone might say to hang your swing on a hardwood species. This generalization, though, is misleading and wrong.

You do want to hang your swing on a hardwood tree. You don't want to hang it on any hardwood tree. Some hardwood trees can support swinging, while others can't.

According to interNachi, the best trees to hang your swing on are oak, maple, sycamore, and beech. Cedar, ash, and cherry will also work if the tree is strong enough.

You should stay away from any tree you are not sure about, using the list above as your guide.

In particular, you should not hang your swing on pine, silver birch, poplar, willow, or spruce trees.

Tree Structure

Look for a tree that has a solid trunk and is fairly situated straight up and down. Also, the tree should have a good root system deep into the ground.

If a tree has a small trunk or doesn't have a good root system, the entire tree may fail to hold a rider on a swing. The tree could break at the trunk. It also could uproot from the ground if it doesn't have a good footing.

Tree age

There isn't a specific age range for trees to fall into for them to be a good fit to hang your swing on. The tree does need to be mature enough to support a rider swinging on a rope from its limbs.

Age and size generally go hand-in-hand when it comes to tree growth. So, if a tree is big enough it may be old enough to work for your swing. Just make sure it is not too young. A young tree will not have the strength of an older tree and may break.

Tree health

A tree may look good from the outside, but there could be underlying health issues that make it a poor choice to hang your swing on. Sometimes decay is visible, but other times it takes some investigation to find out if your tree is unhealthy.

Look for dry, dead branches. This can be an indicator of a tree that is weak and dying.

One way to check a tree to see if it is rotting on the inside, is to tap it with a hammer. If there is a hollow noise inside, then there is a good possibility the tree has rot in the middle.

Look for signs of bug infestation. Certain bugs, like ants and termites, will burrow into a tree. They destroy it from the inside out.

Fungal growth can also be an indication of poor health. Many fungus are an outgrowth of something growing further inside the tree. These growths happen because decay is present. They are there to break the decay down.

Tree location

The tree you choose should be a good distance from other trees and structures. You have to think about the range your swing will go out from its center point. You don't want your riders running into something while they are swinging.

You also need to leave extra room beyond your swings maximum swing. This extra space is for safety. If a rider falls off, you don't want them flying into things. I cover this further in the section about area safety.

Your tree shouldn't be on a slope. Trees on a slope may not be strong, but there is another reason you don't want to use a tree on a slope. If a rider falls off a swing on a slope, the rider will fly further and have the potential to roll down the slope.

Look for power lines close to your tree. You don't want to hang your swing on a tree close to power lines.

Branch thickness

You may have seen movies or videos with people swinging from a branch that is small and bends all over the place. This can seem fun and entertaining, but it can be dangerous.

The branch you choose to hang your swing on should be strong and healthy. As a general rule, it should be 8” in diameter. Even meeting these guidelines, you still need to test the branch with the weight equal to the maximum any riders would place on it.

Branch health

Just like the tree, your branch has to be healthy. It can be hard to tell if a branch is healthy when looking from the ground. If it looks bad from the ground, then it probable is bad.

If possible, you should try and get an up close view of the branch to check its health. Looking from the bottom doesn't tell the full story of the branch's health. You need to take a look from the top to get a good understanding of how good the branch is for your swing.

If you can't physically get up to the branch, a good alternative is to use a drone with a camera. If you are not experienced, you can hire someone to fly a drone up to the branch and take a look at it.

Of course, the final test, even if the branch appears health, is going to be to place a rope around the branch and put a load on it. You have to test it with a maximum load actually swinging on the branch.

Branch placement

A branch can be strong enough and healthy enough to support your swing, but if it is not in the right place, it may not work for your swing.

The branch needs to be on a side of the tree that allows your swing to have good clearance for reaching its maximum swing plus a safety distance.

It also can't be entangled with a bunch of other branches. If there are multiple branches below it or on side of it, they may impede your rope from swinging correctly. This could cause a dangerous situation. If you do have branches in the way of your branch, you may need to cut them off so you have a clear path for your rope to swing.

Your branch should not be over a fence or other structure. Swinging over a fence or other structure is very dangerous.

Your branch should also be long enough to place your swing far enough away from the tree so the rider doesn't run into the tree when swinging.

Area around the tree

You should have a clear area around the tree you are going to hang your swing from. You should remove any bushes or small trees. Check to make sure there is no garbage or debris lying on the ground where a ride might dismount or fall onto if they fall off of the swing. Look for roots in the area. They can also cause harm if a rider lands on them.

Natural grass is a good ground cover for your riders to land on. It will absorb a good bit of impact. If the ground in compacted below and around your swing, you should loosen it. If there is not grass around your swing, you should put some other type of safe ground cover to protect your riders dismounting or falling from the swing.

Find the best tree

If your property has a number of trees on it, you should be able to locate the best tree to put your swing up. It should be of a species that can support a swing. Check the tree thoroughly to be confident that it is the right size and in good health.

If you can't find a good tree to support your swing, you can try a different method to hang your swing. You can use an artificial branch or an A-frame.