The elevation at the summit of Mount Lemmon is 9,159′ – a completely different world from Tucson and a beautiful escape in the summer!
- Best Time of Year: Late Spring, Summer, Early Fall. Late Spring when the temperatures are still cool (before the summer stores have started and after the snow has melted) and early fall (once the summers storms are gone and temperatures have cooled off again) are pure magic at the top of the mountain. Summer is more complicated – summer stores can bring lightning, hail and flash floods – and even at 9,000′ a day with unrelenting full sun will be hot – but it will be cooler here than anywhere else on the mountain, most trails offer sections in the trees that can provide a welcome relief from the hot sun and storms rarely last all day (check the weather and use good judgement). Access to some trailheads closes in the Winter and even in poor snows years all of the trails here will spend some time covered in snow – easier to explore lower on the mountain during the winter.
- Top Pick: Red Ridge Trail – This is a tough, steep trail – but it is my favorite! There is no doubt that the Marshall Gulch Trail and Aspen Trail combination get many more recommendations for ‘Best’ trail in the area – and certainly those are great trails… But for me there is something about the Red Ridge Trail that captures the spirit and character of the Santa Catalina Mountains in a way those other trails do not – a trip down Red Ridge all of the way to the CDO is simply magical (of course some days I can not face the steep climb up Red Ridge – thankfully there is really not a bad trail in this section of the mountain!)
- Best Workout Run: Loops from the top! From the Summit Trailhead there are three trails that connect directly to the Wilderness of Rock trail – Mount Lemmon, Lemmon Rock Trail and the Aspen Trail – using a combination of these you can put together a number of loops all of which will have a nice (challenging maybe…) amount of climbing and descending…
A great hike from the popular Marshall Gulch Trailhead that provides interesting views of Sabino Canyon, Aspens and – if you climb to the top – great views from Radio Ridge.
An interesting climb up to Radio Ridge from Summerhaven thru a beautiful section of forest un-touched by the Aspen and Bullock fires that has changed the landscape of almost every trail in the area.
A steep descent from the highest trailhead on the mountain down to a junction with the Wilderness of Rocks Trail with views of the Lemmon Rock Overlook and impressive rock formations known to climbers as the ‘Summit Crags’.
One of the most popular trails on the mountain with good reason – the water (most of the year…) in Marshall Gulch and trees along the first part of the trail combine with the cooler temperatures at the top of the mountain to make an incredibly appealing destination when it is hot in Tucson.
Perhaps the most mellow hike on the top of the mountain – a hike thru trees and small meadows with great views.
A short trail past a lovely spring that gives you access to a number of other trails in the area.
The Red Ridge trail makes a steep descent down an impressive ridge on the north side of the mountain – passes under the ridge that forms the Reef of Rock and eventually reaches a junction with the CDO.
A short trail with nice views of Sabino Canyon and sections of forest not burned by Aspen Fire make this an enjoyable short trail. Because this trail is fairly short and ends at the popular (often crowded…) Marshall Gulch Trailhead it is an interesting alternative start to the Top of the Mountain Hikes or [ling slug=”marshall-gulch-trail”].
- Mount Lemmon Trail
- Wilderness of Rock Trail
- Oracle Ridge Trail