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Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop, AZ

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Guide 54 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.4 of 5 by 22
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 8.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,093 feet
Elevation Gain -2,120 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,383 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.52
Interest Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-08-24 DixieFlyer
18  2019-07-28 jamminaz
18  2019-06-26 Yoder
28  2018-08-11 DixieFlyer
12  2017-08-26 arizona_water
33  2017-07-15 OdinWiski
5  2016-11-26 MasterBeyotch
17  2016-09-04 DarthStiller
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Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,743 map ( 18,146 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:27pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
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Complex dazzling view syndrome
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
Locals here in Tucson are likely familiar with this exceptional loop, but visitors may not be. It combines everything the Catalina high country has to offer: pine forested ridges, temperature escaping altitudes, the Wilderness of Rocks, and a nice tough climb. Sounds good huh? Some burn areas are encountered here and there along the way, but it does nothing to take away from this hike in my opinion.

Start this hike on the Mt. Lemmon trailhead at the very top of the Catalina highway, at the generators. The trail takes off through some brush, then becomes broad. An immediate choice presents itself to you: stay on the main path or take a short 0.8 mile excursion on the meadow trail to your right (my choice). This trail leads you through some very nice forest with some grassy meadows that are rare sights for those of us in Tucson...very nice. As this trail dips around it ultimately descends and intersects back at the main Mt. Lemmon trail. Here you will hang a right and begin to follow the rather gradual descent of the Mt. Lemmon trail along a prominent ridgeline for about 0.75 miles to the saddle/intersection with the Sutherland Trail. Along the way massive ridge views will open up to either side, which probably weren't visible before the fire. Make sure to pay attention along the way, soon after joining up again with the Mt. Lemmon trail, for a faint trail that breaks off to your left towards a very prominent rock formation that you will surely notice. Follow this little path to the formation, scramble up it and experience some of the most amazing views I have ever seen in the Catalinas...fantastic.

Back on the main trail, you soon descend to the Sutherland trailhead, which is marked. Continue on your way on the Mt. Lemmon trail, which now wraps around the ridge and offers views in a new direction, before starting a more earnest switchbacked descent towards the far southwest reaches of the Wilderness of Rocks. This may have been my favorite part of the hike as you scramble up and down, all around the edge of the Wilderness often looking way out over the whole area. Pictures galore out here.

In due time you come to the signed intersection with the far end of the Wildernss of Rocks trail on your left (about 2.3 miles from the Sutherland intersection). Take it and follow the trail back towards Mt. Lemmon. I refer you here to the excellent description of this fantastic trail by Lizard.

After about 2.4 miles on the Wilderness trail you come to the signed intersection for the Lemmon Rock trail on your left. Take this and stretch those legs out because it's time to gain back most of that elevation we've lost on the way out. It's really not that bad, just persistently up via switchbacks for 2 miles. The views become nicer and nicer and you climb back up into some exceptional pine forest as well. The upper reaches of this stretch are really fantastic, with some unique rock formations near the top as well. Before you know it you meet a signed spur on your right to the functioning Lemmon Rock Lookout. Make sure to go check this out, as this lookout is placed in perhaps the most amazing spot in the Catalinas with dazzling views in literally every direction. After taking that in, head back the way you came, past the point where you joined the spur and within minutes you are back on the signed junction with the Mt. Lemmon trail to complete the loop. Hang a right and follow back for just a couple minutes to the trailhead.

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2005-07-17 fricknaley
  • 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 23 deeper Triplog Reviews
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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I was looking for a cooler place to hike than the VOS, and decided that Mount Lemmon was a good choice.

We did this loop CCW, and the climb back up to Mount Lemmon on the Lemmon Rock LO Trail was a butt-kicker.

On the way down from Mount Lemmon, while on Mount Lemmon Trail #5 we went past the WOR Trail for about .2 mile to a really cool view point -- it is well worth checking out. On the way to the view point we came across a green mohave rattlerblack-tailed rattlesnake alongside the trail. This snake was not very happy to see us.

We made a side trip to Lemmon Pool -- the water was clear but it was down 10-12 inches from being full, and the waterfall was not running.
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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This was my first time on Mount Lemmon. And for the first time, I learned how to spell "Lemmon." :lol:

We descended the Lemmon Rock Trail, which was mostly overgrown. Portions of this trail felt like bushwhacking and the trail itself required a little route finding at times, but it wasn't a big deal. Wilderness of Rocks Trail was the highlight, with lots of water coming down from the higher springs. The upper section of Lemmon Canyon Creek was impressive. I was surprised by how much flow there was this time of year, regardless of recent precipitation.
We found a really cool swimming hole and waterfall just off the WOR and Lemmon Rock intersection: [ photo ].

A couple miles later, I saw a white dog in the distance and my HAZ senses started tingling. Could it be @friendofthundergod ? It was great to finally meet @john9l and Lee!

We climbed back up the ridgeline to the Lemmon summit via the AZT. This is a fun loop, with lots of great views reminiscent of Canyonlands (Big Spring Canyon, specifically) and the Chiricahuas.
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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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 / Lemmon Rock Loop
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My second day on the mountain and "I'm felling much better now" ;) . I had a great recovery nap last night, and had no plan as of 08:00, so I grabbed the laptop, headed to Ski Valley and used my phone to pipe in a track. I knew I was limited in several ways, but picked the best route for my general needs. Great Choice! I'm not gonna go into detail here, but this trek was the conception of a "Peak of Summer", Mega-Loop, in the the upper-front range of the Cat's. The high elevation diversity along this route cannot be matched. I plan to refine this into a Description, where I'll be much more specific in the transitions (soon to come)...
Incredible day in the high of the low country. :y:
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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With one of my daughters housesitting at the base of the Santa Catalinas we took advantage of the opportunity to hike on Mt Lemmon. After the monsoon rains of Friday night I was a little concerned that the trail(s) would be a sloppy, muddy mess but that turned out not to be the case at all. It was certainly wet and a lot of running water in the drainages, but the trail was in great hiking condition.

I work part time at Steward Observatory so we parked there and started the hike from the summit of Mt Lemmon right at sunrise with the outside temperature at a crisp 50º. We got off trail pretty quickly on Lemmon Trail #12 and ended up backtracking a bit and starting over. After that, it was perfect hiking weather and conditions. Hiked all the way down to Wilderness of Rocks trail without seeing another soul, just sunshine lighting up the rocks and enjoying some casual conversation with my daughter.

Wilderness of Rocks trail was awesome. Thankfully the spots where the trail gets faint are well marked with cairns and we had not trouble navigating. We took a break at the intersection with the Mt Lemmon trail and ate some breakfast. The backpackers that we had previously passed caught up to us and we chatted them up for a bit. Then it was time for the grinding climb back to the summit. I set a steady, even pace back to the top and we made it with less difficulty than I had anticipated. Ending temperature was 68º - a perfect day of hiking.

Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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Great loop - plenty of water along the Wilderness of Rock trail and the Lemmon Rock Lookout trail (and all the trails really) were largely free of downed trees/obstacles (thank you to the folks doing trail work!).

Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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We hiked this route in reverse of the way described here. You can go either way, but to us it's easier this way since you climb back up over a longer route on the Mt Lemmon Trail instead of up the very steep Lemmon Rock Trail. We stopped by the Lemmon Rock Fire Lookout to say hi to Ranger Dave and his dog Gus before heading down the Lemmon Rock Trail which we found to be in very poor condition. There were numerous downed trees across the trail that required climbing over or going around on rough bypasses. Only a few were high enough to go under. One of our hikers wound up with two tears in her hiking shorts and plenty of soot. There was water in the crossings and nice shade along parts of the trail. Although it was 68 degrees when we started, it rapidly got quite warm in the sun. I took an umbrella and tried hiking with one for the first time. It worked great, and I felt a lot cooler in the sun that I did without it. So overall it was a nice day, but still hot in the sun. We hadn't hiked in a few weeks, and this trail kicked our tails. As an aside, my GPS showed the route at 9.3 instead of the 8.6 miles--not sure why. See my photoset of this lovely area.
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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I don't know why every hike I do, my GPS says a longer distance and in this case also a larger elevation gain than any of the published distances/elevations?? Hmmm, happens on every hike. Either my gps is incorrect or apparently I make lots of detours that I don't recall lol. ANYWAY, I took the Lemmon Lookout down to Wilderness of Rocks, then took Lemmon Trl up to Meadow trail, back to the parking lot at the top. It was a lovely day and I was sad that I forgot my camera so had to make do w/ cell phone pics which did not do justice. I did find myself gasping for air (more oxygen please!!)for nearly the entire leg/climb of the Lemmon trl. I went on a Wed, so only saw one other party of hikers and that was brief. I love the solitude of being alone in the woods (:

This was the first time I had taken Wilderness of Rocks in that direction (have always explored towards the marshal saddle direction) and was a little bummed that so much of it was exposed and not deep in the pines but still was beautiful in its own way. I will say that the lemmon trail and ESPECIALLY the meadow trail, were really beautiful and gave my soul what it was looking for that day. I could have lingered in the meadow trail area, maybe come back and find a little hidden backpacking spot pretty!

All the little creeks had water, though not much more than a trickling stream. There was a scan wildflower showing, mostly the occasional penstemon and indian paintbrush. No wildlife sightings other than some chipmunks and one baby horny toad (:
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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I figured I would make the most of my weekend and headed up the mountain for some cooler weather. I decided to backpack to Lemmon Pools, but used the wilderness of Rocks Loop to extend the mileage a bit.

On Friday I hit the trail at about 2:30 and worked my way down Lemmon Trail at a leisurely pace. There were no clouds in the sky, but the temperature was perfect in the mid 70s. Before I knew it I was turning onto the Wilderness of Rocks and walking through one of my favorite locations on the mountain. I took my time enjoying the landscape of rocks and wandered off trail a couple times to check out the most interesting formations.

I had never been to Lemmon Pools before and almost missed the turnoff- but fortunately I had loaded GPS coordinates that helped me find where to go. There was already one group of men at the site above the main pools, so I backtracked a bit and found a site that I thought was far enough away from them to enjoy solitude (it wasn't). I set up camp, started a fire & ate dinner while I watched the sunset and the moonrise. As I ate, two more men arrived to join the group of 3 that were camped above the main pool.

Unfortunately, the group above the main falls (which consisted of men who all appeared to be in their 40s) decided not to enjoy the solitude and spent almost the entire night yelling & making noise. I have never encountered loud backpackers before- I always figured anyone who hiked into the wilderness with a pack on was there for solitude. I should have realized when I first came across the group above the pools and heard one exclaim "Who wants some whiskey!?!". I tried to sleep, but was woken up at 10pm, midnight, and even 2am by the group yelling stuff like "LEMMON POOLS!!!!"

I didn't get much sleep, and by 4:30am I was wide awake. I lit a fire, ate breakfast, and slowly cleaned up camp as I waited for the sun to rise. At 6:30 exactly I was back on the trail and headed out, and by 8:10 I was back at the trailhead and headed down the mountain.
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
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Tax season is over and I needed to hike. I looked at the TrailDex and chose a hike that would challenge me without killing me. I am always amazed by the search parameters Joe has built into the Traildex. I sure hope the "won't kill me" parameter works. I am posting this triplog so you can benefit from my experience.

Drove down Friday to Mount Lemmon. I took the "long way" on the backroads through Florence and Oro Valley. Got stuck in a motorcade of vintage Thunderbirds. Watched a "Military Exercise" north of Florence with Blackhawk helos and military vehicles. Got to Ski Valley at noon and ate lunch at the Iron Door Restaurant. Good sandwich, looks like great pies but I felt too guilty and did not eat any. Left the TH at 1300. Pleasant hike down the Mount Lemmon #5 trail. Carrying my typical daypack but with my little camera and my big camera. Note to self, do not carry big dSLR until you know what shape you are in. A few down trees, but it was downhill and lulled me into a feeling of competence. That false sense of competences is so thrilling. I was surprised that the Wilderness of Rocks trail kept going down. I normally hate ribbons on trails, but the ribbons were gratefully accepted today. Good thing the Lemmon Rock (Mount Lemmon #12) was well marked. It was blocked by a huge down tree. Climbed over it and faced another large downed tree - but I could see the trail. By now I had hiked about 6 miles downhill and faced a brutal uphill section. I Jumped up on a rock, jumped up on the tree and jumped down. If you can believe that I jumped, I have lakefront property in Summerhaven to sell you. This stretch is a little over 2 miles and 2.300 AEG. In anticipation I ate a Mojo Bar and some Grunt Candy. Lots of downed trees. At one point I had to crawl on hands and knees under a tree. I thought to myself "Tell me again why I do this." I took the little side trip to the Lemmon Lookout but it was locked. I met some backpackers going in to camp at the stream in Wilderness of Rocks. I did not want to dissuade them by telling them about the downed trees.

The Spencer Canyon and WhiteTail campgrounds were still closed so I went to the Rose Canyon Campground. I paid my $18 and talked with Angie. Good tent campgrounds in the 9F loop but many were full. Campground 54 looks primo, big with a nice retaining wall for sitting. I went to Campground 57. Easy access, good privacy, fairly close to the restrooms. Got set up just as it was getting dark. My foldup chair is good, but I need one of those REI Lazy Boys if I'm going to stay up as a car camper and watch the fire. The cot my daughter bought me from REI is great but has no thermal value. My Big Agnes Yampa 40 is a great lightweight sleeping bag, but cuts weight by having no thermal value on the bottom. Not a good combination. Got down to the upper 40's so in the middle of the night I adapted & improvised. Put on my REI hoodie, long pants and socks and slept like a baby.

Got up at 0530, broke camp and headed to Rose Canyon Lake. My JetBoil ran out of fuel so I had crunchy scrambled eggs. Ate some Excedrin and Grunt Candy and headed to the Lake. I was surprised by how many people were already fishing by the time I got there. I did the south trail to warm up. Headed to Summerhaven. I met a pilgrim - Loon (Mike Fried) - trying to connect with his hiking partner - Trekker - who is through-hiking every trail he can find. A few little partial hikes today and lots of photography.

Went to Marshall Gulch and hiked a little. Dropped Loon at the PostMistress's house and headed back to the Lemmon Lookout. I talked with some bicyclists (3 hours to the top today) some climbers and met the Director of the Emergency Services Department at UofA, The Lookout was still closed. Took the Ski Lift up to the top and the Aspen Draw trail down.
I stopped at the Windy Point Lookout for photos and drove home on the backroad through Florence and Apache Junction.

So 8.74 and 2,340AEG on the Mount Lemmon/Lemmon Rock Loop and maybe 5 miles 1,000AEG on various trails today, but I'm only adding the big hike and not all of this other mishugahs. But I might add the Rose Canyon Lake hike to pad my hike description Stats.

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)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Go all way up, turning right towards Ski Valley and continuing past it to the end of the line at the power substation on Radio Ridge.

2015-11-24 paulscircle writes: Be prepared to park and hike more than expected if the road gates are closed due to ice and snow. We went in the middle of November 2015 and the 1st of 2 road gates were closed causing us to park at the Ski lodge and hike up the road 1.5 miles to the Unmarked Trailhead. Just look for the Lookout parking area with bathroom and just up the road to the left you will see a dirt road, hike that in and there will be a sign marking the trail. We got lucky and an employee shuttle just happened to offer us a ride to the trailhead.
1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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