Mount Lemmon | Ultimate Guide to Tucson's Favorite Mountain!

Mount Lemmon sunset Tucson

Approximately an hour and a half drive from Tucson's city center, Mount Lemmon is a favorite day trip and camping spot for Tucsonans. It's a beautiful outdoor escape - ideal for hiking, biking, rock-climbing, picnicking, sunset-watching, and sledding/skiing. Fun for the whole family!

Mt. Lemmon is usually 20-30 degrees cooler than Tucson, so you can find cooler temperatures there in the summer and a beautiful layer of snow in the winter, along with vibrantly colored leaves in autumn.

With a summit of 9,159 feet, Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The mountain was named for botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain by horse and foot in 1881.


Where is Mt. Lemmon located?

Mt. Lemmon is a peak in the Catalina mountain range within the Coronado National Forest.

To reach Mt. Lemmon from Tucson, turn off of Tanque Verde Road onto Catalina Highway. Take Catalina Highway as far up the mountain as you desire to go!

On your way up the mountain, you may want to stop at Windy Point Vista (Mile Marker 14). This popular lookout point has bathrooms and is a terrific spot for photos.

Note that the road up the mountain is curvy with very few straight sections. If you or anyone in your car is prone to motion sickness, plan ahead by bringing bags, mints, cold water, snacks, or stomach-settling medications. It also helps to not drive on an empty stomach.

Does Mt. Lemmon have hours?

Nope! You are always welcome to go up the mountain!

That being said, you will want to keep the Road Condition Hotline handy during the winter to check on road conditions. For updates, call 520-547-7510.

Is there a fee?

There is no entry fee for Mt. Lemmon, but there are fees for some of the different activities and venues. For example, you can reserve a campsite or rent a cabin with varying fees based on the duration of your stay.

In the summer, you may also want to experience the Sky Ride. The hours for the Sky Ride are Mon, Thurs, and Fri between 10:30am-4:00pm and Sat/Sun between 9:00am-4:00pm (weather permitting). The Sky Ride is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Cost is $15 for adults or $12 for military, youth, and seniors. Children, ages 4-12, ride for $10. Little ones, 3 and under, are free.

Will I need a permit to access any areas on the mountain?

Most of Mt. Lemmon is available for general use, but you will need to pay a day use fee or purchase a permit to use one of these 11 day use sites:

  • Molino Basin Picnic Area
  • Cypress Picnic Area
  • Middle Bear Picnic Area
  • Chihuahua Pine Picnic Area
  • Box Elder
  • Inspiration Rock
  • Alder Picnic Areas
  • Loma Linda Picnic Area
  • Marshal Gulch Picnic Area
  • Lemmon Recreation Site
  • Palisades Interpretive Visitor Center

These beautiful areas accept the Coronado Recreational Pass (the same pass you would use at Sabino Canyon), an Annual Pass/America the Beautiful Pass (*Get one free if you have a 4th grader!), or any of the other passes accepted across the United States. Passes can be obtained at any of the Forest Service district offices, online, or at the Palisades Ranger Station (on Catalina Highway at Milepost 19.6; open from 9:00am – 2:00pm, daily March 1 – December 1, and 10:00am – 4:00pm Friday – Sunday during the winter).

What is the parking situation?

Nearly every site on Mt. Lemmon has a small nearby parking lot somewhere along Catalina Highway. The more popular sites tend to fill up quickly so try to arrive early.

Are bathrooms available?

Public bathrooms are available in Summerhaven, at the major campgrounds, and at most trailheads, but there are some areas of Mt. Lemmon where you’ll have to answer nature’s call in nature. Please practice the leave no trace principles.

What should I bring with me?

While you should dress according to the weather, it’s always a good idea to have these essentials:

  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • A Hat
  • Snacks
  • Cash/Credit Card
  • A Camera (or Your Phone)

Why would I visit Mt. Lemmon?

There are so many reasons, but here are a few:

  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Relaxing in a cabin
  • Skiing and sledding (in the winter)
  • Cycling
  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing (*valid fishing license required)
  • Enjoying the scenery
  • Visiting the SkyCenter

What kinds of plants and animals might I see?

  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Jays
  • Woodpeckers
  • Swallows
  • Bobcats
  • Ringtails
  • Mountain Kingsnakes
  • Treefrogs
  • Pine Trees
  • Fir Trees
  • Maple Trees
  • Marigolds
  • And so much more!

What is the best season for visiting?

Honestly, there isn’t one. Mt. Lemmon is always a good idea! In the spring and summer, you can escape the heat in a tent or cabin or have a picnic. You can bask in the gorgeous fall colors in the autumn and you can enjoy the snow in the winter!


What are some popular hikes?

There are four popular hikes near Mt. Lemmon:

  • Aspen Trail and Marshall Gulch Loop Trail – a 3.7 mile moderate loop trail with an elevation gain of 879 feet that you can access through the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area. This is a great hike for families!
  • Meadow Trail – a 1.8 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 347 feet. Take Catalina Highway to the top of the mountain and turn at Ski Valley. This is a great hike for families with smaller children!
  • Butterfly Trail via Crystal Spring Trail – a 10.5 mile moderate out and back trail with an elevation gain of 4603 feet. Take Catalina Highway up Mt. Lemmon until you see a sign marking the turn into the Butterfly Trailhead.
  • Butterfly Peak Trail – a 9.8 mile difficult out and back trail with an elevation gain of 4235 feet. The trailhead begins at the north end of the parking lot across the road from the Palisade Ranger Station and Visitor Information Center at Milepost 19.6 on Catalina Highway.

You can bring your dog on all four of these hikes, as long as you have a leash!


downhill bike rider rides down the mount Lemmon

Can I bike on Mt. Lemmon?

Absolutely! Many cyclists choose to take on Mt. Lemmon, which is acknowledged as one of the top 100 most difficult rides in the nation. They cycle up the mountain along Catalina Highway with an elevation gain of 7080 feet.

You can also find mountain biking trails on Mt. Lemmon! A few of the most popular are the Canada del Oro, the Aspen Draw, and Kellog/Incinerator Ridge.


How many campgrounds are there on Mount Lemmon?

There are 5 general use campgrounds on Mt. Lemmon, plus 2 group sites.

The 5 campgrounds for individuals, couples, and/or families are:

  1. General Hitchcock: 12 camp sites. First-come, first-served. $20 per day/night. Not recommended for trailers or RVs. Limit 2 vehicles and 10 persons per site. 14 day stay limit.
  2. Gordon Hirabayashi: 11 camp sites. First-come, first-served. $20 per single site. $50 (plus $10 per vehicle for group sites). Open April through October. RVs must be 22 feet or less (no hook-ups).
  3. Molino Basin: 37 camp sites - some are reservable in advance. Open October through April. RVs must be 22 feet or less (no hook-ups). 14-day stay limit per year.
  4. Rose Canyon: 72 campsites, half of which are reservable. Spacious, single-family campsites with 2 picnic shelters, bathrooms, and campfire rings with grills. Situated near the 6-acre Rose Canyon Lake at an elevation of 7000 feet, the Rose Canyon Campground offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and viewing wildlife. The Rose Canyon Campground is open from April to October. Camping fees range from $24-$145 per night. If you want to bring your RV, there are three RV-only loops (no hook-ups) for recreational vehicles that are 22 feet or less. Bathrooms and drinking water are available. Note that swimming is not permitted in Rose Canyon Lake. Call the Santa Catalina Ranger District with any questions at 520-749-8700.
  5. Spencer Canyon: 52 camp sites. First-come, first-served. Open April through October, weather-dependent. $22/night for single sites; $36/night for group sites. Fees for extra vehicles. RVs must be less than 22 feet (no hook-ups).

The 2 group sites are:

  1. Showers Point Campground – Three 25-person campsites with picnic shelters, water faucets, and toilets. Seated in one of the most scenic outlooks in the Catalina Mountains, the Showers Point Campground is a great venue for hiking, viewing the local wildlife, and fishing at the nearby Rose Canyon Lake. Open April to October, depending on the weather. Trailers are not permitted.
  2. Whitetail Campground – Five group campsites with large picnic shelters, water faucets, electricity, trash collection, and toilets. From the Whitetail Campground, people can enjoy hiking, scenic views, fishing at nearby Rose Canyon Lake, and easy access to the small mountain town of Summerhaven. Open April to October depending on the weather. RVs are permitted if they are 22 feet or less.

See all camping and day use fees here.

Are there bathrooms/showers at the campgrounds?

There are restrooms at the campgrounds. No showers are available on Mount Lemmon.

Is camping permitted year round or is it seasonal?

Seasonal. The high elevation campgrounds (Rose, Spencer, General Hitchcock, Showers Point and Whitetail) are open in the summer. The low elevation campgrounds (Gordon Hirabayashi, Molino Basin) are open in the winter.

Are campfires allowed?

Campfires are allowed in the designated fire rings at campsites. However, in the event of an especially dry season, the Santa Catalina Ranger District may enact some restrictions.

For the current campfire situation, call the Santa Catalina Ranger District Office at (520) 749-8700.

Is there anywhere to swim/fish on Mt. Lemmon?

Fishing is permitted at Rose Canyon Lake, but a valid fishing license is required.

There is nowhere to swim on Mount Lemmon.

How can I reserve a campsite?

Some sites can be reserved on, but many are first come-first served.

If you are hoping to camp on Mount Lemmon in the summer, book as far in advance as you can because high-elevation sites tend to fill up quickly.


There are currently two hotel options on Mount Lemmon - Mt. Lemmon Hotel (which opened in 2021) and Mount Lemmon Lodge (which opened in 2023).

Mt. Lemmon Hotel

Mt. Lemmon Hotel consists of 15 cabins with private entrances. Both pet-friendly and family-friendly options are available. Twelve of the cabins accommodate 4 guests each with a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper. Three of the cabins can accommodate 5 people with a bunk bed in lieu of a sofa sleeper. Each cozy cabin has a full kitchen, flat-screen TV with DirectTV, Wi-Fi, an electric fireplace, and games. Charcoal grills are also available for guests to use.

Where exactly is Mt. Lemmon Hotel located?

Mt. Lemmon Hotel is located in the heart of Summerhaven, across from the General Store and within walking distance to Sawmill Run Restaurant and most places in town.

What is the average price per night at Mt. Lemmon Hotel?

The average fee is $145-149/night, plus a one-time cleaning fee per visit and taxes. Weekends are a two night minimum for Friday and Saturday nights.


If you have additional questions about Mt. Lemmon Hotel, please text 520-277-2478.


Can I go skiing?

Mount Lemmon receives approximately 200 inches of snow annually. The skiing season typically runs from late December to late March. All-day lift tickets are priced as follows - $73/adult (ages 13+), $43/child (ages 12 and under), $63/military or senior (ages 60-69), and free for ages 70+. Half-day tickets are $63/adult, $39/child, $59/military or senior. Ski gear rentals are also available (skis, boots, poles, snow boards, etc).

Is there a Ski School on Mount Lemmon?

New to skiing? The Brian Ashby Ski School provides group, private, and semi-private lessons. The 1st Timer Ski Package ($114 for an adult, $84 for a child) includes a lift ticket, rental skis, boots, poles, and a 90-minute lesson. Children must be 7 years or older to take ski lessons.

Can I rent ski gear & equipment on Mount Lemmon?

Yes! If you will need rental equipment, please call 520-576-1321 to speak to a rental attendant. An adult can rent skis, boots, and poles for the day for $45. The rate for a child is $40/day. You can also rent snowboards and helmets.


Is Mount Lemmon currently open for snow play?

There are no designated snow play areas on Mount Lemmon. Parking is available at trailheads, pull outs, or designated parking areas. Call the Snow Information Hotline at 520-576-1400 for current conditions.


Tell me more about Summerhaven!

Summerhaven is the largest privately-owned subdivision on Mt. Lemmon and is an essential stop for anyone visiting Mt. Lemmon. There you can find The Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop, The Cookie Cabin, The Living Rainbow gift shop, a US Post Office, and the office for Mt. Lemmon Realty.

The General Store offers everything from groceries to camping gear and The Cookie Cabin is a favorite of anyone who has ever visited Mt. Lemmon. If you forgot something at the bottom of the mountain or you’re hankering for something tasty, Summerhaven is the stop for you!


Can I buy a home in Summerhaven or elsewhere on Mount Lemmon?

Yes! Cabins and homes are available for purchase on Mt. Lemmon as vacation homes or primary residences. Contact Realtor Tim Sheaffer to find out which homes are currently for-sale.


What is the SkyCenter?

The UA Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter is an amazing, world-class observatory brought to you by the University of Arizona and located at the Steward Observatory’s observing site on the top of Mt. Lemmon. It’s best to visit the SkyCenter at night, when you and a group of friends can use the 32-inch Schulman telescope to explore our universe. Throughout the year, the SkyCenter offers workshops, nighttime observation programs, and overnight experiences, so there are lots of choices for budding astronomers!


Are there restaurants on Mt. Lemmon?

There are several dining options on Mt. Lemmon.

Cookie Cabin & Pizzeria

The Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin & Pizzeria creates handmade giant cookies and pizzas in a warm, comforting environment. Open 7 days a week between 11:00am and 5:00pm (the pizza oven shuts down at 4:30pm), the Cookie Cabin offers cheese or pepperoni pizza slices ($5-$9) as well as whole 16-inch cheese or pepperoni pizzas ($35). The pizza crust and sauce is made from scratch! For dessert, you can order The Cookie Cabin’s famous giant homemade cookies ($8-$9+)! Choose from several different flavors and add ice cream if you wish. Toppings are free! Need a steaming cup to warm you up? You can order hot chocolate with whipped cream ($6), cider ($6), coffee ($5), or tea ($5). Note that gluten-free pizza and cookies are not available. For more information, check out the Cookie Cabin's Facebook and Instagram. Note that the Cookie Cabin is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and some snow days.

Iron Door Restaurant

The Iron Door Restaurant serves a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, and homemade soups. You can sit indoors in front of the floor to ceiling stone fireplace or outdoors on the patio. Breakfast is served on Saturdays & Sundays only, from 9:00am-11:00am. Most lunch entrees range in price from $12.50-$14.50. The address is 10300 East Ski Run Road, Mt Lemmon if you want to GPS it.

Mt. Lemmon Coffee and Tea Co.

New to the scene on Mt. Lemmon, Mt Lemmon Coffee and Tea Co is proud to be serving coffee, cookies, and pastries. Open Wednesday-Friday, 9:00am-3:00pm and Saturday-Sunday, 8:00am-4:00pm.

Sawmill Run Restaurant

Sawmill Run Restaurant's menu includes burgers ($13.00-$16.50), soups & salads ($6-$11), and a number of beverages (beer, wine, cocktails, espresso). Hours are Wednesday-Thursday (10:30-4:00pm), Friday-Sunday (10:30am-5:00pm), Monday-Tuesday (closed). Located at 12976 Sabino Canyon Parkway, Mt Lemmon.

Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop

The Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop specializes in homemade fudge. With flavors as traditional as Peanut Butter Chocolate and as fun as Caramel Apple Pie, there’s a fudge for everyone! Available for $18.99/pound. Hours are 10:00am-6:00pm, 7 days/week.

Can I bring outside food onto Mt. Lemmon?

Absolutely! In fact, we would highly encourage it since you will probably get hungry during your mountain trek.


What ages would be best suited for a visit to Mt. Lemmon?

Mt. Lemmon is wonderful for all ages. Some of the longer hikes would probably be better suited for older children, teens, and adults, but everyone loves to escape the heat. Wintertime is a perfect time to bring the entire family up the mountain to enjoy the beautiful snowfall!

Should I bring a stroller?

Because of the rocky mountain terrain, we would advise not bringing a stroller. A wrap or backpack carrier would work better!

What about my dog, cat, etc?

Animals are welcome, but must be kept on a leash at all times.


Can I have my wedding, rehearsal dinner, or birthday party on Mt. Lemmon?

Of course! You will probably want to book the picnic site that you are planning on using in advance to make sure that no one claims it before you get up the mountain.

Alternatively, you can reserve space on the Iron Door Restaurant deck. For more information or to inquire about rates, call Operations Manager Nick Aldinger at 520-576-1321.


Is Mt. Lemmon active on social media?

Mount Lemmon has no official social media accounts, but you can keep tabs on the mountain happenings by following the below accounts.

What else do I need to know before I go to Mt. Lemmon?

That’s just about it! Enjoy your time on the mountain!

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