An epic road to Mount Lemmon in Arizona

Mount Lemmon is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 2.792m (9,159ft) above sea level, located in Pima County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. This favorite of Arizona cyclists is known for its hill climb. It's one of the highest roads in Arizona.

Mount Lemmon

Where is Mount Lemmon?

The peak is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains, in the Coronado National Forest, approximately 45 miles north of Tucson. The summit hosts an astronomical observatory, which was formerly the site of a USAF radar base of the Air Defense Command.

Why is it called Mount Lemmon?

The peak was named after botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon.

When was the road to Mount Lemmon in Arizona built?

Construction of the road began in 1933 and was completed 17 years later, in 1950.

Can you drive up Mount Lemmon?

The road to the summit is totally paved and suitable for most vehicles. It’s called Mt Lemmon Highway, also known as Catalina Highway Scenic Drive and General Hitchcock Highway.

How long is the drive up Mt Lemmon?

The drive is 52.30km (32.5 miles) long, starting at Tucson. The road is very steep, hitting a 10% maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 2.234 meters. The average gradient is 4.27%. It’s a hors categorie climb that provides a rare combination of sustained climbing, excellent road surface, spectacular vistas, and importantly, an escape from the 100+ summer temps in Tucson.

How hard is Mt Lemmon?

Tucked away in the southcentral region of the state of Arizona, the road is not easy: it is curvy with very few straight sections. Very large motorhomes, trailers over 22', and buses may have trouble negotiating steep grades and sharp turns. There are a few places to turn around.

Is Mount Lemmon worth visiting?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 1 and 1.5 hours. The drive offers sweeping views, with many pull-offs for city views. It’s regarded as one of the most scenic drives in Arizona, with breathtaking vistas and outlandish rockscapes.

Is the road to Mount Lemmon in Arizona open?

Access to the pass is typically open all year round, but winter weather may cause restrictions and closures due to dangerous weather conditions. The peak receives 200 inches (508 cm) of snow annually. The summit of the mountain is approximately twenty degrees cooler than the base. Therefore, large amounts of snow fall during the winter months, making it a cool escape and popular tourist attraction for Tucson and Phoenix inhabitants.