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Mount Lemmon
    Rock Climbing, hiking, camping & skiing in Tucson!
Tucson Things to Do!

         Recommended by: Karen McCarthy
Tucson Things to Do!

Arizona Main
Sierra Vista

Jacob's Review:
   A real forest all over in the mountains here, but I didn’t see any bears. You might not think it will be cold but it is - even when it’s hot.
   There is rock climbing up here, easy enough for kids or hard for really good climbing people. We had a picnic at the bottom and people took turn climbing.
   Oh yea, we went to the top of the mountain another time and rode on the ski lift - it was in the summer so there wasn't really snow - but you could see everything far away and there were people hikin and mountain biking.

Karen's Notes: 

What do Russian bombers, fire and ice, Spanish explorers and little red squirrels have in common?

Follow us on our next adventure and you’ll find out!

We’re driving along the dusty roads north of Tucson. Tumbleweeds roll and the wind burns your face as the car twists up a winding road towards Mt. Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest

One thousand feet, 2000 feet, 3000 feet….

Even the cacti dare not go this high. Weird rock formations look like giant bubbles that some enormous alien stacked up thousands of years ago. Tucson fades from sight and stretching ahead is 28 uphill miles to adventures and rattlesnakes and lions.

You still coming?

You’re about to follow in the footsteps of some legendary people. More than 500 years ago a Spanish explorer called Don Francisco de Coronado and his expedition came to southern Arizona from Mexico in search of Seven Golden Cities, which were rumored to exist around these parts. Unfortunately for him, he never found them, but the forest was named after him. Nearly 400 years later a botanist called Sarah Lemmon and her Native American guides trekked to the top of the mountain by mule. The mountain was named in her honor.

Back to the present and couple of thousand feet further up, there’s a thick lush forest with miles and miles of hiking trails. If you’re too little and your legs are too short to climb 7000 vertical feet, you can tell Mom or Dad to drive up Mt. Lemmon highway to shorten the hike. You can also camp almost anywhere. Your parents can call the Coronado National Forest at (520) 749 8700 for a ticket. Make sure you get a map before you take off.

Don’t forget about rattlesnakes and lions. Mountain lions live in some parts of the canyons and rattlesnakes might be basking in the sun, so don’t wander off alone and watch where you step. All this hiking making you hungry?

It’s time to climb a bit higher to the mountain top town of Summerhaven for some pizza and pie. Can you guess why all the trees are all black and the mountainside is scorched?

That’s right. Forest fires devastated Summerhaven in 2002 and 2003 consuming 32,000 acres and devouring more than 300 homes, cabin and shops. These days, shops and some homes have been rebuilt so we can go to the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin for pizza and treats. Don’t forget to go to the General Store if you want to get a gift for your best buddy back home.

Are you full of pizza and full of energy again? You’ve found the Spanish Explorer and the fire - are you ready to find the ice, Russian bombers and the red squirrels?

Time to get out your winter woolies, you’re in Arizona!

No we haven’t gone mad. At this altitude even Arizona gets cold enough for snow and snow means Ski Valley. If you’re there between December and April you have 16 runs to choose from, ranging from beginners to advanced. Don’t worry if you didn’t bring your skis. You can rent equipment (520-576-1321) and if you’re a novice, they’ll even have an instructor who’ll have you swishing down the slopes in no time.

If you visit in the summer, you can still get a lift ticket all day pass for $35 and soar above the mountains to see Tucson in the distance, the San Pedro Valley and even some of the mountains all the way off in Phoenix.

It’s getting dark. Where to you go on the top of an ice-mountain after dark?

The Observatory of course! This is where the U.S. Air Defense Command maintained an early warning radar to detect Russian bombers for decades during the Cold War. They scoured the skies for the enemy, but the enemy never came. By 1969 long-range bombers were replaced by intercontinental ballistic missiles as the chief threat and so the site was abandoned. Today the telescopes search for new objects – ones that could be hazardous to the whole Earth.

Can you think of some objects in space that could be a threat to our planet?

You can go into the observatory and ask the staff if they can think of some too. They’ll let you view space from their telescopes each evening from 5:30pm until 10:30pm. You can pretend to be a visiting astronomer and spot the stars until well after dark. Remind your parents call ahead for tickets at 520-626-6488.

It’s 10:30pm, the observatory is closing and it’s time to wind our way back down the narrow mountain road, through the charred forest, the crazy rock formations, the cacti, all the way back to the tumbleweeds and desert floor.

Wait! We forgot about the squirrels. There’s a rare population of American Red Squirrels on the mountain that are really hard to find. We didn’t spot them, but if you see them during your Mt. Lemmon adventure don’t forget to send us a photo.

Skiing: Lift Tix aprox $32, $14 for kids
Lifts Thu-Mo 9a-4p (Rentals open at 8:15)
Info 520-576-1400

Catalina State Park
5a-10p day use
Visitor center 8a-5p
Open year round

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Admission (subject to change):
$5 to drive up the mountain

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Tucson Things To Do
Jacob Tip:   It is like 20 degrees colder on top of the mountain - and could be raining or snowing when it is hot in Tucson - proly should bring a jacket!
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