I was coming to Tucson for a business conference and I decided to add on a one night backpack trip. I Googled "hiking Tucson" and came across hikearizona.com. What a great website! The weather forecast for Tucson was mid to high 90's so I figured I go should for high elevation to avoid the heat. I used the awesome TrailDEX database to look for loops at high elevation and found fricknaley's excellent description of the Mount Lemmon/Lemmon Rock Loop trail (http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=785
). This hike seemed like a perfect fit.
When I got to Tucson I stopped at the Summit Hut on Speedway for some trail grub and fuel. Joshua (nice kid) confirmed that I had made a good choice with Mt. Lemmon and showed me some maps of the area. He suggested I make camp near Lemmon Creek on the Wilderness of Rocks Trail.
I wanted this to be a leisurely hike with plenty of time for pictures and side hikes to explore points of interest. (Also, I'm not in the best shape of my life and I live in St. Louis where "bagging a peak" means you could be as high as 1700 feet ASL. I knew my lungs were going to be hurting for O2.)
The following morning I drove up to Mount Lemmon and was on the Mount Lemmon trail (FS #5) by 10 AM. At the start I chose the Meadow trail (FS #5A) option per fricknaley's and Joshua's suggestion and it didn't disappoint. Around noon I ate lunch in the shade of giant monolith off the right side of the trail. By about 1 PM I was at the Mt. Lemmon/Wilderness of Rocks Trail junction. The Wilderness of Rocks trail (FS #44) was fantastic. You really get a sense for the timelessness of this place as you walk among the hoodoos, massive boulders and raw cliff faces.
Within a mile or so I came across the first water I had seen in the form of some standing pools. About a half mile further I came to the first Lemmon Creek crossing. This was a beautiful spot with firs and aspens in full color, forming a shady glade over the creek. The creek had good flow and I refilled my water supply. Between here and the second Lemmon Creek crossing there is a beautiful stand of large fir trees on the east side of the trail with a nice camp site. In another half mile I came to the second Lemmon Creek crossing. Perhaps a hundred feet further the Lemmon Rock Look Out trail (FS #12) begins its steep climb out of the Wilderness of rocks on the left. On the right, just across from the junction of the Wilderness of Rocks and Lemmon Rock Look Out trails was a small camp site that I decided would be my home for the night.
In the morning I began the 2 mile, 1900 vertical foot climb back to the top of Mount Lemmon. The views get better and better with each foot of elevation gained, with the ultimate reward coming when you reach the Lemmon Rock Fire Lookout with a spectacular 270 degree panorama. Despite the extra pounds I'm carrying and my low altitude lungs, the climb was not bad at all. I made it to the Lemmon Rock lookout in 1:45. From here it's a short walk back to the trailhead parking. See my photoset for pictures of the entire hike.