A run up Catalina Highway (Mount Lemmon Highway)


Wednesday morning we felt pretty good about having most of our chores all caught up so we decided an outing would be a good plan. We had heard from a number of people that the drive up Mount Lemmon was very nice and we didn’t do that during our last visit so it seemed right to do it during this visit. So we packed a lunch and headed out.

On the way up Lemmon Drive

On the way up Lemmon Drive

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Mount Lemmon Highway is also known as the Catalina Highway and as the Hitchcock Highway (named after Frank Harris Hitchcock) and recently has been named Sky Island Parkway and is now part of the US National Scenic Byway system. It runs up the Santa Catalina Mountains from the east side of Tucson to a small town named Summerhaven at the top of Mt. Lemmon.

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Once you work your way through town and reach the actual start of Mount Lemmon Highway it’s a beautiful winding 25 mile road with numerous turnouts and viewing areas and a ton of trailheads for hiking.

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When you start the drive up you are at an elevation of about 2500ft and when you reach the ski lodge you are at 8350ft so it’s a pretty good climb that takes you through some great changes in vegetation.

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Once we reached the top and the small town of Summerhaven we drove around a bit and had lunch at the Sawmill Run restaurant which was pretty darn good. The restaurant is named in honor of two sawmills that once existed where it now stands.

Sawmill Run. It was actually pretty nice inside.

Sawmill Run. It was actually pretty nice in side

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The town also went through the Aspin fire back in 2003 that pretty much destroyed the town and there is still plenty of evidence as you drive around but a few small shops, restaurants and cabins have sprung up making.


You can see some of the town in the distance.

You can see some of the town in the distance.

After lunch we started back down with a number of stops at overlooks.

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Once we reached the bottom we just had to find the Tucson Tamale Company. We have heard just how great they were so we had to find out for ourselves.

Once we found it and went inside we noticed cameras set up and found out that the Travel Channel was shooting a film about the place because it was voted the best place in Tucson to get Tamale’s!! Well now, that’s another good sign LOL!!

One of the workers asked if we were eating in and if so we could be in the film but because we had just eaten at the top of the mountain not long before we just bought our Tamale’s frozen and to go. It was tempting to buy a couple and sit down just for the fun of it and looking back we probably should have, oh well. We will have to report later on what we thought of the Tamale’s but here is a link to them, they ship. https://tucsontamale.com/

Another great day, life is good.

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10 Responses to A run up Catalina Highway (Mount Lemmon Highway)

  1. Susan Abear says:

    We really enjoyed the desert museum in Tucson. Recommend it highly

  2. pam says:

    We did the Mount Lemmon drive with Steve and Dianne in 2014…beautiful ride!

  3. colibabas says:

    That’s our favourite drive in the Tucson area.
    Safe travels!

  4. Jim and Barb says:

    Wow, the views from the top were incredible! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Lar says:

    What happened to the lunch you packed for the trip??? Did it become dinner???

  6. Sent you an email earlier today. Now I know where you’re at. Or were. We stayed at Catalina S.P. for only one night…night of the big storm. That changed everything, including cancelling any plans to drive up to Summerhaven. Definitely next time.

  7. Sue says:

    good timing 🙂 If the weather holds, we want to do that drive next week 🙂

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