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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Lemmon 9,157, AZ

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274 37 0
Guide 37 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
Rated
3.5
3.5 of 5 by 13
 
7
Statistics
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0.75 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,096 feet
Elevation Gain 61 feet
Accumulated Gain 165 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.58
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
5  2019-06-15
Mt Lemmon Figure 8
LindaAnn
6  2018-11-09 DixieFlyer
5  2018-08-03 survivordude
7  2017-08-26
Mount Lemmon Loop - Lemmon / WOR / Aspen
friendofThunderg
7  2017-06-04
Mt Lemmon Figure 8
LindaAnn
15  2017-06-04
Mt Lemmon Figure 8
trekkin_gecko
14  2017-03-04
AZT: I-10 to Summerhaven
The_N
2  2016-09-28 Tortoise_Hiker
Page 1,  2,  3
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → Any
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:27pm
Official Route
 
8 Alternative
 
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Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
squeeze a lemon on the Pima County highpoint
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
Overview
There is no official trail to the actual 9157 foot summit of Mount Lemmon, but it is relatively easy to reach via a short off trail hike described below. Although much of Mount Lemmon's top is fenced off due to the Steward Observatory, it is possible to reach the summit without having to trespass. The summit of Mount Lemmon makes a great side trip if you are hiking any of the trails that converge on the Mount Lemmon Trailhead/Radio Ridge area.


Hike
At the end of the Catalina Highway lies the signed Mount Lemmon Trailhead, located at the gated entrance to the Steward Observatory. Walk past the gate and continue up the paved observatory road. Within a quarter of a mile, you will pass a sign for Steward Observatory. Just past this sign (on the right) is a dirt parking area, located a short distance before the road reaches a chain-link fence gate guarding the observatory entrance. Leave the road at the dirt parking area (32.4409 N, -110.7877) and drop down into a little grassy meadow. A faint trail departs from the far end of the meadow, paralleling the observatory fence along a beautifully wooded hillside. Signs along the fence announce that the observatory grounds are off limits. No need to worry about that, though, as the route stays outside the fenced area.

Reaching the northeast corner of the observatory fence, the faint trail swings left, and climbs onto the flat mountain top near a cluster of small white observatory structures. Welcome to the summit of Mount Lemmon! Here you will find a metal survey cap set into a small platform of concrete. Up against the fence is a small pile of rocks guarding the summit register (32.44291 N, -110.78861). From the fairly open summit one has excellent views to the east of the Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountain ranges. To the north, the forested Catalinas give way to a series of distant desert mountains. One can also get a nice view of Samaniego Ridge and the Oro Valley area by walking a couple of hundred feet to the western side of the summit.

Enjoy Pima County's high point!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2011-05-29 PrestonSands
  • sub-region related
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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I took all three pups up to Mount Lemmon today for a nice 13-mile loop. We started at Marshall Gulch at 8:30am. There were a few other cars in the parking lot when we arrived, but we only saw three other people for the first 12 miles of the hike. The temps could not have been more perfect all day. It was ~35 degrees when we started and I don't think it ever hit 50. It was pretty windy and chilly on our ascent up Aspen trail to the top of the mountain, and when we got to the top we were literally hiking in a cloud for a few minutes. It finally warmed up a couple hours later as we descended into the Wilderness of Rocks area and had more direct sunlight. WOR had water flowing in every creek crossing, which the doggos all loved. We didn't take many breaks because the temps were so pleasant, and because Blanco and Cup are treat snobs and hated the new treats @friendofThundergod bought them for this weekend, so they weren't enjoying their snack breaks as much as they normally do. We finished in 5.5 hours on the dot to a much more crowded trail head parking lot. I'll admit, I was a tiny bit nervous about hiking alone with three dogs, but they were all on their best behavior and we had a lovely day together. :)
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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Met up with Lee and Carrie for a nice hike on Lemmon. Lee and I left Phoenix fairly early and made the drive down to Tucson where we picked up Carrie and headed up the Catalina Hwy. We made the drive up and parked in a very busy parking lot at the Marshall Gulch area. From there we geared up and made the hike in. We passed a variety of people and then headed up the Aspen Trail towards the summit. Once up top we soaked in the views and headed west and took a snack break before heading down the Lemmon Trail. We then turned into Wildnerness of Rocks and headed across. This section is one of my favorite hikes around. I love the formations and enjoy the creek flowing through. At one point we took a lunch and then continued hiking back to the vehicle. We finished up late in the afternoon and then started the return. We stopped in Tucson to get some food and then dropped Carrie off and headed back to Phoenix. It was a long day but was well worth it. Thanks Lee for driving!
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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@John9L put together a nice loop for my first time up on Lemmon and I came away with a great first impression of the area. We took a lot of breaks because in accordance with National Dog Day we were hiking with three dogs and it did get a little warm for stretches. Although, apparently not everyone was observing National Dog Day, as someone chose to mumble their opinion about dogs to us as we passed him early on. Luckily for him, we passed him on the trail two more times, but I am not sure we won him over on either of those encounters either.

All of the trails on the loop were in pretty good shape in my opinion. The initial climb was a tad warm, but its a pretty quick and easy climb, so none were too affected by it. It was a little busy on top and the high point is not much to write home about, but Lemmon Lookout was a worthy detour. The hike through Wilderness of Rocks was great and there was ample water for dogs and skinny dipping apparently, as another group was partaking in that. We bumped into @arizona_water in the WOR and chatted a bit, nice to finally meet him. We finished to a crowded traihead area and played a little musical car parking spots to get out and let others in. We finished up at the Tucson Hop Shop, had a couple of beers and ate curry from a food truck, when in Tucson I guess....

National Dog Day

Every day is National Dog Day in my house and I do realize its just a silly hashtag driven holiday. However, I could not help but get a little sentimental reflecting on how much my dogs mean to me. In particular, how much Cupcake means to me. She helped me get "normal" after a tough year in Iraq and then waited for me when I left her again to go to Afghanistan. She turns 13 in December, but is still one of the toughest dogs I know, she has been hit by a car and nearly drowned in the Blue Range, but she still persists and knocks out miles and eats chicken treats with the zeal of a five year old dog. She has been the most consistent entity in my life for most of my adult years and I really can't imagine life without her and Mr. Blanco...
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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Shauna and I decided to escape the hellish heatwave and enjoy the Lemmon high country for a hike around the summit. Climbing out of my truck at Ski Valley, I promptly hugged an aspen tree, thankful to be in the forest and not suffering under oppressive desert heat. A climb on the Aspen Draw Trail was up first. Growing thunderstorms moved east without unleashing any lightning, thankfully, as the Catalina forests looked very, very dry. Hazy views, blooming sneezeflowers and a mountainside of bracken ferns greeted us on Radio Ridge. Continuing on to the true summit of Mount Lemmon, we added our names to the previous HAZ lineup, and then did an out-and-back on the Meadow Trail. We descended to the Ski Valley parking lot along the summit road, where a corkbark fir was begging for a hug. A fiery orange and red sunset demanded a photo stop on the old Mount Lemmon road before driving home with half the population of Tucson. An afternoon well spent.
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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Mt Lemmon Figure 8
linda and whitney had planned to hike this figure 8 on mt. lemmon
got an invite from linda to tag along :)
i've done the marshall gulch - aspen loop before, but the rest of the trails would be new to me
not quite three hours from the pecos park & ride, putting some miles on the new tundra
got going around 8:00 up aspen trail
continued on aspen up to the mt. lemmon summit area, and followed preston's track to the top
interesting stuff up there, with the pima county high point as a bonus
continued on meadow trail, then backtracked a bit to lemmon rock lookout
this was a neat little spot, with great views and a fun approach to the building
should have talked whitney into coming with us, and taking a snack break there
dropped down the mount lemmon trail through forest, with good views to the west
started seeing some of the more bouldery terrain near the intersection with wilderness of rocks
loved this trail winding through the rocks :)
a steady climb back up to the saddle
found a little bit of running water, with columbines nearby, then some shady areas up higher
passed by primus wall, where i climbed with johnr1 a few years ago
easy stroll down marshall gulch to finish
not many people out by this point
scenic drive down the catalina highway, slow going across tucson, then back to the valley
i have really enjoyed the sky island terrain recently and this hike was a nice sampler of the available trails up high
highlights included wilderness of rocks trail, mt. lemmon summit, and lemmon rock lookout
nice to meet and hike with whitney and another good hike with linda
in fact, eight of my twelve new peaks so far this year have been with linda
thanks for including me on this one :)
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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All day grinder to the summit and back. Up RC#8 and ML#5 then a counter-clockwise loop around WOR#44, LR#12, summit and Meadow#5A, then back down ML#5 and RC#8. Especially enjoyed all the gorgeous granite formations in WOR.

Other than some downed trees, trails are in good condition. Moderate water flow in Romero Canyon, good pools and light creek flow at several places along WOR#44.
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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An afternoon atop the Lemmon:

Hiked from Radio Ridge toward the summit of Mount Lemmon, and almost made it before a threatening thunderstorm rolled in, causing us to retreat to the car. Waited out the storm, and then drove down to Summerhaven. Hiked up upper Sabino Canyon to Ski Valley before continuing up Aspen Draw Trail for awhile. Another storm was approaching from the east, and it looked particularly nasty. We headed down and made it back to the car before the dark wall of clouds released their fury. The monsoons have been generous to the top of the Catalinas so far. Sabino Creek is flowing and fresh, summer greenery abounds.
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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Shady Lemmon Loop
First, it's my generic hike, so I can name it whatever I want. It was shady for most of the hike, as I started late enough that mountain shadows cover much of the upper elevation burn areas. Trees did much of the rest, and I tolerated the sun crossing the Mint Springs burned area.

I headed up the mountain in cross town traffic (foothills) with out the A/C on becuase I don't really like it. That, the continued 90s for most of the Catalina HWY, and the altitude probably made me tired for a lot of the hike, but I opted to avoid the sun exposed slopes (done that, it's stupid) in the WOR, the Lemmon Rock Trail, and so on, and stuck with cooler, and shady trails. Actually, it wasn't that cool when I started at 2:30, but it was really nice after 6 PM on top and coming down. Up Marshall Gulch, over on the Mint, through the village, and to the Aspen Draw, which is very nice, with lots of big old doug-firs in the draw and on the slopes. Packs of the same thrill seeking MT Bikers were coming down, but they stopped when they could. I didn't care, since I could hear them and get off trail faster than they could, and I was going slow and stopping to look at the big trees. Sierra Nevada big.

Tagged Mount Lemmon for the first time since 2011 and hiked slowly down the Radio Ridge and Aspen trail back to Marshall Gulch. Heard a few, but not very many, whippoorwills in the gulch and arrived back at my car a little after 830. A woman was in the bed of a pickup with a dog asking about her male friend who went for a 15 mile run at 5 PM and had not returned when I pulled out at 845. Maybe we'll hear about that as another SARS operation? Good hike.
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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After working the weekend at my part time gig at Steward Observatory, my daughter & I used the early morning as an opportunity for a final high altitude hike prior to our Rim to Rim hike in 2 weeks. Starting at the dorm where we stay atop the summit we headed east to Radio Ridge and down the Aspen Trail. At the trail junction we turned onto the Marshall Gulch trail and made a loop back on the Aspen trail. Headed west on Wilderness of Rock and then back to the summit for the finish. A couple of training hikes next weekend back in Phoenix but I think we are ready for Rim to Rim.
Mount Lemmon 9,157
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Lemmon Summit Loop
So it's been 3 months since I did an overnight backpack trip, which is waaaaay overdue. 9L and I had talked about it recently, and somewhere on Thursday or Friday we settled on Mt. Lemmon. Apparently I'm an idiot, because I agreed to this.

The first few miles up Romero Canyon were great, but as the elevation increased, I started to drag. At Romero Pass, I told 9L just to go ahead and I would meet him whenever I got there. I was moving at a snail's pace uphill. Perhaps as tired as I have ever been on a hike. The saving grace was the cool temperature and the stationary cloud that hovered overhead most of the time with the looming threat of rain. Luckily all the precipitation remained just to the east in the Rincons.

Once the climb was over, I really enjoyed the couple of miles in the Wilderness of Rocks. There was water in just about every creek crossing which was a pleasant surprise. I eventually reached the area we had decided to camp, and was happy 9L had taken the time to scope pick a spot.

We gathered a lot of firewood (there's plenty to be found with very little effort) in preparation for the cold night ahead. Before the sun set, we explored a couple of view points and cool rock formations nearby before settling in for dinner and fire. The wind picked up through the evening, and by the time we went to bed, it was gusting through the trees at an impressive speed. We had both carefully scoped our tent spots staying well clear of dead branches or trees that might fall in the wind. I woke up several times with the sound of the wind howling through the trees wondering if we shouldn't have camped out on the exposed rocks instead. :scared:

Morning was chilly, probably in the upper 30s, and continued crazy windy. We took our time with breakfast and packing up camp before making the final 2000 foot grind to the summit. The wind wasn't too bad in the sheltered gully the trail follows, but at the Lemmon Rock lookout, it was borderline dangerous and viciously cold and unpleasant. Needless to say, we didn't stay long. A short trip from the lookout we reached the summit where I managed to find the benchmark (Catalina 2 Reset) at the high-point. This is actually outside of the fenced-in restricted area, though I'm not certain what route would be best taken to get there legally.

The cold and wind were unpleasant, so we quickly headed down the Meadow Trail and joined the Mt. Lemmon trail heading down through the burn area. We had considered following Lemmon back to Romero and retracing our route back to the car, but instead decided to make a loop and take Sutherland back. I hesitate calling it a trail. Let's just say there was once a trail named Sutherland. Years ago.

This is a steep and relentless descent, and the miles and elevation from the past 36 hours took their toll on me. Route-finding was challenging, especially in the 2 miles along the main ridge after the power line turns from the trail (about half a mile below the Samaniego junction -- or mostly everything between 6700 and 7700 feet). There are a lot of boulders, and the trail has been lost to new growth. There are numerous cairns and some ribbons, so when we got lost, it was just a matter of back-tracking a bit and searching for the cairns. They were always there, just not always visible at first glance.

From there, the trail descends steeply, about 3000 feet in 3 miles, before joining a miserable, rocky old road for two more miles. It was no longer cold and windy, but instead hot, sunny, and sweaty. The turn back into the state park and onto smooth singletrack was extremely welcomed. Tired and in pain, we managed to make pretty good time over the last 2.6 miles, with great views of Pusch Ridge and the rest of the Catalinas, along with a nice crop of wildflowers.

Back at the car, I enjoyed a single Dales before snoozing home. Thanks to 9L for driving, and for suggesting this ridiculous hike to begin with. Not sure I'll ever hike Sutherland again. The rest maybe, but not sure about the weight of an overnight pack. That's a lot of miles and elevation in two days. Likely the toughest overnight I've ever done. I think I'm in worse shape than when Joe, Bob and Denny dragged me on a 21 mile and 8100 ft dayhike to Cheops that time...

Wildflowers
Nice blooms along lower Sutherland inside the state park.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.

There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day use sites.

Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $10 extra.

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Follow the Catalina Highway past Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley to its very end at the signed Mount Lemmon Trailhead, located at the gated entrance to the Steward Observatory.

The Catalina Highway is paved and suitable for passenger cars. The road may be snow-covered in winter, causing chains or 4-wheel drive to be required. The road beyond Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is not maintained for public use during the winter. It is closed when snow-covered or icy.
page created by PrestonSands on May 29 2011 2:11 am
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