The drive up Catalina Highway offers impressive views of the valley of Tucson, the surrounding mountains and the rock formations known as hoodoos. There are many vista points along the way that offer good stops to take photos.
I have travelled all over the USA and visited most of the major National Parks, and I believe that there is no more dramatic drive than the 30 mile trip to the top of Mr Lemmon. There are pull-offs, trailheads and scenic overlooks all the way along the highway. I took an amazing number of beautiful photos – one breathtaking view after another. Because you climb nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, you go through several different and unique ecosystems.
Going through this drive is like going from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada in one hour. You start going through the residential areas of Tucson, then go through the desert passing large saguaros. Slowly, as the elevation increases you’ll notice some trees. By the end of the drive you’ll be surrounded by dark green trees more reminicent of the Rockies and if it’s winter you’ll see snow. The road up Mt. Lemmon is long (about 25 miles) but well worth the drive. Along the way there are dozens of stops, each giving you a unique view at various elevations. The mountain itself is over 9000 ft. Near the top is the town of Summerhaven, which doesn’t really have too much, but is a nice break. If you want to hike to the top of the mountain (or ski – yes you could ski near Tuscon), turn right off the road near Summerhaven. Unless you’re visiting Summerhaven, you’ll need to pay a $5 entrance fee.
The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvellous and accessible.
“The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it.”
~Robert Edison Fulton, Jr.
“A desert is a place without expectation.”
– Nadine Gordimer
“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.”
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“Arizona looks like a battle on Mars.”
“In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen.” ~Mehmet Murat ildan
“Once, it was so damned dry, the bushes followed the dogs around.”