Pima County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: August 21, 2004
Author: Bill Jacobs

The road to the top of Mount Lemmon is undergoing substantial road construction so consult here for delays prior to venturing up the mountain. The mileages detailed below are all approximate as my odometer rarely matches up with other distances found on trip reports.

From Exit 257, Interstate 10, head east on Speedway Boulevard for 7.5 miles. Turn left (north) for 4.5 miles onto North Wilmot Road, which becomes East Tanque. Turn left onto East Catalina, which becomes the Mount Lemmon Highway. There are signs at major intersections pointing the way to Mount Lemmon.

Near the top is an intersection with the main highway leading downhill to the burned-out hamlet of Summerhaven. Although there was no signage indicating such, the road heading up to the ski resort is also the access to the top of Mount Lemmon. Continue uphill past the ski areas. Where the road makes a sharp 180-degree turn, next to a ski run upper terminus, is the first gate, fortunately, usually open. The next gate, abeam a recreational parking lot, was closed but is only a third of mile from the top.

Continuing on foot up the road I found the main gate, a six-foot fence, to the observatory grounds closed and signed barring entrance to unauthorized personnel. From this vantage point one can observe the fence heading downhill to the right abeam a creek ravine. It comes to an end about 100 feet downhill then a barbed-wire fence heads 90-degrees north where one can observe some breaks in the fence-line. From there one could scramble uphill to the helo-pad and continue onto to the observatory buildings, if one were so inclined.

Summerhaven recently had a tragic fire devastate the entire community. A few months ago I attended a fire safety meeting and heard a Summerhaven businessman describe the day the town burned down. The forest fire was so fast and intense that when the alert went out, they had only time to flee and left all their belongings behind. The community appears not to have given up and is rebuilding.