Mount Lemmon

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Mount Lemmon
Unpaved road on the north or "backside" of Mount Lemmon
Highest point
Elevation 9,171 ft (2,795 m)  NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 5,157 ft (1,572 m) [2]
Coordinates 32°26′35″N 110°47′19″W / 32.442961983°N 110.788478444°W / 32.442961983; -110.788478444Coordinates: 32°26′35″N 110°47′19″W / 32.442961983°N 110.788478444°W / 32.442961983; -110.788478444[1]
Mount Lemmon is located in Arizona
Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon
Location Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, U.S.
Parent range Santa Catalina Mountains
Topo map USGS Mount Lemmon
Easiest route Catalina Highway

Mount Lemmon (O'odham: Babad Doʼag), with a summit elevation of 9,159 feet (2,792 m),[1] is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona, United States. Mount Lemmon was named for botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain with her husband and E. O. Stratton, a local rancher, by horse and foot in 1881.[3][4] It is reported that Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, on the mountain's northeastern side, receives 200 inches (508 cm) of snow annually.[5]


Summerhaven is a small town near the top of the mountain. It is a summer residence for many but there are some year round residents. There are many small cabins most of which were rebuilt after the Aspen Fire of July 2003.[6]

Mount Lemmon Station Observatory[edit]

At the peak is the Mount Lemmon Observatory, which was formerly the site of a USAF radar base of the Air Defense Command,[7] and the building that formerly housed a military emergency radar tracking station for landing the Space Shuttle at White Sands Missile Range. Although the United States military had a presence on the mountain for several decades all their facilities have been abandoned and were given to the United States Forest Service. The area and buildings that makes up the Mount Lemmon Station Observatory are leased from the Forest Service by the University of Arizona. The telescopes on the mountain are still used for astronomical research today by organizations such as the Catalina Sky Survey, and The Mount Lemmon Sky Center,[8] The University of Arizona Astronomy Camp program,[9] the University of Arizona, and the University of Minnesota. The educational resources at the top of the mountain make it a unique research and teaching destination.

Catalina Highway[edit]

The Catalina Highway, also called the Mount Lemmon Highway, as well as the Hitchcock Highway (after Frank Harris Hitchcock) runs up the Santa Catalina Mountains from the east side of Tucson up to Summerhaven, at the top of Mt. Lemmon. The beautiful, curving road is a favorite drive for tourists, for locals escaping summer's heat and cyclists, and has been recently designated as the Sky Island Parkway, part of the US National Scenic Byway system.[10]

2010 saw the inaugural running of the Mount Lemmon Marathon.[11]


The summit of the mountain is approximately twenty degrees cooler than the base. Therefore, large amounts of snow falls during the winter months, making it a cool escape and popular tourist attraction for Tucson and Phoenix habitants.

Fees and Permits[edit]

Catalina Highway charges tolls for parking, camping, and hiking. However, the tolls are only officially charged for people who are camping. Tolls for other events, such as hiking, parking, or grilling, are a part of the honor system. Park rangers will not check for toll payments unless someone is using the park campgrounds. Anyone wishing to sightsee or travel to Summerhaven are not subjected to paying tolls.

Back side[edit]

An unpaved road to the summit on the north side of Mount Lemmon starts in Oracle, which is on Arizona Route 77 north of Tucson. It offers a secondary route to the top. This route is popular with off-road 4x4 drivers and with off-road or dual-purpose motorcyclists. This road ends at the Catalina Highway near Loma Linda. Before the Catalina Highway was built it was the only route up the mountain.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Catalina 2 Reset". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2016-08-18. 
  2. ^ "Mount Lemmon, Arizona". Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  3. ^ "California Beat Hero: Sara Plummer Lemmon". May 27, 2009. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  4. ^ Lemmon, J.G. (1881). "A botanical wedding trip" (PDF). Californian vol. 5. no. 24. pp. 517–525. 
  5. ^ "Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley". Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  6. ^ Faherty, John. "Town of Summerhaven back after devastating fire". AZ Central. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  7. ^ "Air Defense Radar Stations". Radomes Inc. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  8. ^ "SkyCenter". University of Arizona. Retrieved 2016-08-18. 
  9. ^ "Astronomy Camp". University of Arizona SkyCenter. Retrieved 2016-08-18. 
  10. ^ "Name change to Sky Island Parkway". Arizona Dept. of Transportation. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  11. ^ Lacey, Marc (October 17, 2010). "A Finish Line With a Real High: 8,000 Feet". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  12. ^ "Backway to Mount Lemmon". Retrieved 2012-08-28. 

External links[edit]