Expansive views, lots of connecting trails and access to the western portion of the Wilderness of Rock with its immense boulders and picturesque formations characterize this high country trail. The Mt. Lemmon Trail starts out near the summit of the 9,157 foot peak for which it is named, at a parking area about a mile past Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley near the end of Observatory Road. After following an access road along a buried powerline, it strikes off on a more backcountry course down one of the most prominent ridges that fan out from the mountaintop. Views are big here, encompassing the Wilderness of Rock to the southeast, Romero Canyon to the west and north, and most dramatic of all, Pusch Ridge to the west, stairstepping its sawtooth course toward Tucson. The route the Mt. Lemmon Trail follows through this rugged, mountainous country, is steep and rocky in a number of places. Most notable of those difficult stretches are the series of switchbacks where the trail drops off the high ridge of the Catalinas toward the Wilderness of Rock, and the section between the Wilderness of Rock Trail #44 and West Fork Trail #24 junctions where trail gradients are as steep as they get in the Santa Catalinas. The Mt. Lemmon Trail provides access to a number of other trails in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, including Sutherland #6, Lemmon Rock Lookout #12, Wilderness of Rock #44, Romero #8 and West Fork #24 trails. Many who hike this trail leave a second vehicle at one of these other trailheads and use the Mt. Lemmon Trail as part of a long day trip or a segment of a multi-day backpack. Whatever option you choose, chances are good that you’ll be back to try one of the others.
At a Glance
Motorized and mechanical vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness. See the Wilderness section of this guide for more wilderness rules and ethics.
Purification of water is recommended prior to use.
Santa Catalina Ranger District
Directions: Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 28 miles, past Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, to the power substation on Radio Ridge. Hike west on the trail to a dirt road. Hike down the road to the trail junction. The Catalina Highway is paved and suitable for passenger cars. Observatory Road is an all-weather gravelled road. Both roads may be snow-covered in winter, when chains or 4-wheel drive may be required. Observatory Road beyond Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is not maintained for public use during the winter. It is closed when snow-covered or icy.
Fabulous views of Pusch Ridge. Overlooks of Wilderness of Rock. Access to Sabino Basin. Mountaintop to desert diversity. Arizona Trail segment. 4.3 miles of this trail are in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. USGS Map(s): Mt. Lemmon