Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon

Panoramic view of Santa Catalina Mountains on the way to Mount Lemmon Summit, Coronado National Forest, Arizona | KishoreJ

Mount Lemmon, located in the picturesque Coronado National Forest in Tucson, Arizona, is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Standing at an elevation of 9,159 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains and offers a wide range of recreational activities year-round. From hiking and camping to skiing and stargazing, Mount Lemmon provides visitors with a refreshing escape from the city and an opportunity to explore the unique beauty of the American Southwest.

The journey to Mount Lemmon begins with a scenic drive along the winding Catalina Highway, which gradually ascends from the arid desert landscape of Tucson to the lush greenery of Coronado National Forest. As visitors make their way through the forest, they are treated to stunning views of valleys, rock formations, and diverse flora and fauna. The Sky Island Scenic Byway, as it is commonly known, is considered one of the most remarkable drives in the United States.

The moon lights up the observatory containing the Schulman telescope on Mount Lemmon during their Skycenter public outreach program. The city of Tucson, Arizona glows in the distance.

Upon reaching the summit of Mount Lemmon, visitors can enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities. During the summer months, hikers can traverse numerous trails that offer varying levels of difficulty and showcase the region’s breathtaking vistas. The Mount Lemmon Observatory is another popular destination for those interested in astronomy and astrophotography. The clear skies and high elevation make it an ideal location for stargazing and observing celestial events.

In winter, Mount Lemmon transforms into a snowy wonderland, attracting skiers and snowboarders to its slopes. The Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is Southern Arizona’s only ski resort and offers a family-friendly atmosphere with a variety of runs for all skill levels. For those who prefer a more leisurely experience, there are several cozy lodges and restaurants to unwind in after a day spent exploring the mountain.

Fast Facts

Drive up Catalina Highway on Mount Lemmon into the Coronado National Forest and Santa Catalina Mountain Range is scenic with beautiful vistas. | Florence-Joseph McGinn

Country: United States

State/Province: Arizona

Mountain Range: Santa Catalina Mountains

Parents: Santa Catalina Mountains

Elevation: 9,171 feet / 2,795 meters

Elevation: 2,707 feet / 825 meters

Prominence: 5,157 feet / 1,572 meters

Isolation: 51.48 miles / 82.85 kilometers

Nearest Higher Neighbor (NHN): Merrill Peak

Flora and Fauna

Mount Lemmon is a picturesque landscape that boasts a rich biodiversity, which includes an amazing array of flora and fauna. Home to the southernmost ski resort in the United States, this 9,159-foot mountain is not only a recreational haven for adventure enthusiasts but also a treasure trove for nature lovers wishing to explore the unique plants and animals that find refuge in this diverse ecosystem.

A patch of poppies brightens the Sonoran Desert in Spring. At Catalina State Park in southern Arizona. | Dennis Swena

As one ascends Mount Lemmon, the changes in elevation give way to varied plant communities that range from desert scrub at the base to mixed conifer forests at the peak. This transition in vegetation provides a perfect habitat for a wide variety of flora, including several endemic species like the Lemmon’s rock daisy and Mount Lemmon marigold. The lower slopes are dominated by saguaro cactus and ocotillo, while the higher elevations host an impressive mix of ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and quaking aspens. Amidst this rich flora, numerous wildflowers such as Mexican poppies, lupines, and penstemons add vibrant splashes of color.

Blooming Sonoran Desert catching day’s last rays. | LHBLLC

The fauna of Mount Lemmon is equally diverse and fascinating. The mountain’s varied habitats support a wide range of animals, from mammals like coyotes, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, desert cottontails, and white-tailed deer to reptiles such as Arizona coral snakes and Gila monsters. Bird watchers can delight in spotting over 200 species of birds that inhabit the area, including the endemic Arizona woodpecker and the elusive elegant trogon. In addition, Mount Lemmon serves as a vital corridor for many migratory species passing through Tucson.

Coyotes in Sonoran Desert in Arizona | Martin Froyda

Mount Lemmon is a true gem of biodiversity that showcases the incredible variety of plant and animal life native to Arizona. A visit to this mountain not only offers breathtaking views but also provides an opportunity to appreciate and learn about the intricate balance within these unique ecosystems. The enchanting flora and fauna of Mount Lemmon are a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature, ensuring that it remains a cherished destination for generations to come.


With its towering peaks and diverse ecosystem, the mountain offers a multitude of trails catering to hikers, mountain bikers, and nature lovers of all skill levels. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or a casual day-tripper, the trails at Mount Lemmon provide an unparalleled opportunity to explore the unique beauty of Arizona’s landscape.

Along the Romero Canyon Trail, Santa Catalina Range, Arizona | Paul A Smith

The Mount Lemmon trails are renowned for their scenic vistas, soaring cliffs, and lush vegetation. A variety of trails are available, ranging from easy to challenging, ensuring that everyone can find a path suited to their abilities and interests. One of the most popular trails is the Butterfly Trail, which meanders through dense pine forests and colorful wildflower meadows before culminating in a breathtaking panoramic view of Tucson and the surrounding desert. For those seeking a more rigorous hike, the Romero Canyon Trail challenges visitors with its steep inclines and rugged terrain.

Mount Lemmon’s diverse ecosystem is a haven for wildlife, making it an ideal destination for birdwatching, photography, and nature observation. The mountain is home to numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects that can often be spotted along the trails. In addition to its rich biodiversity, Mount Lemmon boasts a variety of geological formations and unique plant life that reflect the region’s complex geological history.

The Mount Lemmon trails are easily accessible from Tucson and offer a welcome respite from the city’s bustling urban environment. With its cool temperatures and fresh mountain air, Mount Lemmon is an ideal destination for those seeking to escape the heat of the Arizona desert. The mountain’s well-maintained trails offer a safe and enjoyable way to explore the region’s natural beauty while experiencing the thrill of outdoor adventure.

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