Visitors to this biodiverse Sky Island are delighted by the hiking, skiing and rock climbing — just an hour from Tucson, Arizona.
Mount Lemmon offers an escape from the city for metropolitan Tucsonans. An average of 30 degrees cooler and just an hour away, this special place is a haven in the summer and an outdoor playground in the winter.
On the Way to the Top of Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon’s peak, at 9,171 feet, is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains and is one of the Sky Islands in Coronado National Forest. Sky Islands offer drastically different environments as the elevation changes rapidly. The Sky Island Scenic Byway is the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada in a stretch of only 26 miles! Listen to the award-winning Mt. Lemmon Science Tour app to enhance your journey. The app narrates interesting observations and facts, timed perfectly for the drive to the top of Mount Lemmon.
Watch for cyclists as you navigate the sharp turns. The climb up Mount Lemmon is a destination for pro cycling teams and ambitious local riders alike, who have said it’s one of the best bike rides in North America.
Skiing in the Desert
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is the Southernmost ski resort in the continental United States. When it snows here, which is more often than you might think, 22 trails range from green circle to black diamond. The ski lift continues to run when the snow has melted. In summer, the Sky Ride experience offers 30 minutes of views from the top. Play eye-spy above the now-green Ski Valley and look farther upon horizon views of the Santa Catalina mountains and valleys in the distant north.
Into the Woods
Whether by foot or atop a mountain bike, Mount Lemmon’s hiking and biking trails range from novice to expert. At the mountain’s base, desert trails let you explore a Sonoran Desert landscape that’s surrounded by impressive saguaros. As you climb, the scenery gets greener, and you can immerse yourself among the pine trees. Speaking of climbing, there are more than 2,000 rock climbing routes including traditional and bolted sport climbs.
Want to stay and play a while? There are six campgrounds for Mount Lemmon camping, scattered from its sunny base to cooler peak. Rose Canyon is one of the most popular campsites, which surrounds the intimate Rose Canyon Lake, a six-acre lake with trout fishing. Check out cabin rentals in the area for a cushier overnight.
Is Dessert a Meal?
Post-ski run or 26-mile cycling climb, check out Mount Lemmon restaurants in Summerhaven and Ski Valley. Massive cookies at the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin and creative fudge flavors at Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop satisfy any sweet tooth, while the Iron Door Restaurant and Sawmill Run offer meals ranging from kid-friendly to seasonal specialties.