Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway

Tucson Area, Arizona

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Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway

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  • Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway offers spectacular views all along its route.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • The road quickly begins climbing and offering views of the valley below.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • As the road winds up the mountain, views of the road ahead appear. - Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Hoodoos dot the landscape.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • The Windy Point overlook is like a large playground of boulders and views.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Windy Point offers vistas from the parking lot for those who don't want to boulder hop.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Informative signs and maps help identify distant mountains and local plants and animals.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • The Mount Lemmon Road can be done on bicycles, too!- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Near the top of the mountain, the vegetation looks more like Canada than Arizona.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Get back to Windy Point early to stake out a place to watch the sunset.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • The sunset lights up the canyon below Windy Point.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Solitude can be found if you look for it.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Windy Point sunsets are romantic.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
  • Just before reaching the valley floor, the city lights of Tucson encourage another stop.- Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Outstanding views. Excellent road. Numerous trailheads and campgrounds. Cookies at the top.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Tucson Area, AZ
Congestion: 
High
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Points of Interest:
Viewpoint, Geologically significant, Other
Other point of interest: 
Cookies
Dogs allowed: 
Yes
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Rain throughout the day.
94°F
74°

Fri

Rain throughout the day.
93°F
73°

Sat

Light rain in the morning and overnight.
97°F
77°

Sun

Light rain starting in the evening.
96°F
77°

Mon

Light rain in the morning and evening.
92°F
73°

Tue

Overcast throughout the day.
93°F
74°

Wed

Drizzle in the morning.
94°F
75°
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, also called the Catalina Highway or the Sky Islands Scenic Byway, originates at the northeast edge of Tucson and climbs 27 miles to the heights of the 9,157-foot Mount Lemmon. From bottom to top, more than 6,000 feet of ascent makes traveling this highway the equivalent of traveling from the Sonoran desert up to the Canadian conifer forest and passing through several different ecosystems along the way. Most of the road passes through the Coronado National Forest, and there are numerous campgrounds and trailheads along the way that provide the opportunity to create additional adventures in your choice of climate niche. Near the top of the drive is Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, southernmost ski area in the country, and the little town of Summerhaven, home of the Cookie Cabin and the not-to-be-missed dinner-plate sized cookie!

Starting at the beginning of the Catalina Highway at Tanque Verde Road in Tucson, the road quickly starts climbing through high Sonoran desert and increasingly numerous "hoodoos" (tall, thin spires of weathered rock). Every turn reveals an increasingly majestic view and colorful rock formations. About halfway up, the vista area of Windy Point is a highlight of the trip. With a large parking area, restrooms, a vast playground of trails, boulders and gnarled trees, and the 180-degree views of valleys and mountains below, this is the Taj Mahal of all vista points. Expect crowds at Windy Point, but with an unlimited selection of vantage points, solitude and photo opportunities are always available. Continuing up the highway, the vegetation continues to change, eventually becoming a mixed conifer forest more typical of the Pacific Northwest than Arizona. There is a Forest Service ranger station where great recommendations for trails and camping can be obtained from the friendly ranger. The road eventually ends in the shadow of Mount Lemmon at the Marshall Gulch picnic area, also a trailhead for some great hiking.

It is suggested that the trip down the mountain be timed to catch the sunset at Windy Point and the city lights of Tucson at the last few turnouts before settling back at the valley floor. Overall, this is an adventure for all tastes and interests, from geology to photography to mountain biking or hiking.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(4 within a 30 mile radius)

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