Location & History

Mount Lemmon is located in the Coronado National Park, approximately 45 miles north of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. [2] It is a part of the Santa Catalina Mountains, boasting the highest point in elevation at 9,159 feet. Similar to other Catalina peaks Mount Lemmon is considered a “sky island”. [4] While most Western United States high mountains have forests at the base, Mt. Lemmon differs in that it starts in the desert, ascends into forests on route to the summit, and ends at the top of the mountain covered in pines. This mountain was named after its discoverer and botanist, Sara Plummer Lemmon, who climbed to the peak with her husband, E.O. Stratton, by horse and foot in 1881. 

Mount Lemmon



Mount Lemmon is also sanctuary to Summerhaven, a small town near the summit. The town is a short drive up the beautiful, curving Catalina Highway (also known as Mount Lemmon Highway and Hitchcock Highway). On the way up this highway, there are some great rock climbing areas such as Windy Point and Prison Camp. 4 Although it proves as mostly a summer residence and getaway of the summer heat, there are year-round residents who enjoy the beautiful scenery. Also found at the peak of the mountain is the Mount Lemmon Observatory.

On June 17th, 2003, what was named the Aspen Fire, burned for about a month on Mount Lemmon. This tragic fire burned about 84,750 acres (132.4 sq mi) of land. It, unfortunately, also destroyed 340 homes and businesses within Summerhaven, the town located on top of Mount Lemmon. Because of this, many of the homes and business that were burnt down had to be rebuilt and are now little cabins. Many of the cabins are businesses but there are approximately 40 permanent residents living up there.

If you are interested in visiting Mount Lemmon or Summerhaven you can visit the website that will have all the information you would need. 


Cookie Cabin

After graduating from the University of Arizona with an MBA in Marketing, in 1990, Vic Zimmerman bought the "Pine Cone Suites". He also served in the US Air Force and taught at Pima Community College. With his new venture, "Cabins and Cookies", he was excited and it quickly became a loved attraction at the top of Mount Lemmon. Warm, rustic atmosphere and homemade cookies - made by Deborah Lee Beal, Vic's good friend - what could be better? 

After the Aspen fire of 2003, the Cookie Cabin along with many other homes and cabins burned to the ground and lost everything. Vic, being one to not sit idly, pushed through the tough times and started to rebuild his business right away. Years later, Cookie Cabin on Mount Lemmon rose from the ashes (literally) and it now remains as one of the mountain's main attractions. Attracting people and families of all shapes and sizes.

The Cookie Cabin has a wide array of food and treats you can eat if you visit. The Cabin is located at 12781 N Sabino Canyon Park, Mt Lemmon, AZ 85619. 

If you'd like to view the menu or learn more about it you can visit the Cookie Cabin Website. 

Cookie Cabin

Mount Lemmon Ski Valley

Location of Mt. Lemmon

Along with the beautiful greenery and natural habitat, the mountain is also home to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, residing on the northeastern side. Here, the mountain receives approximately 150-200 inches of snow annually. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley has three different lifts that take you to the 21 trails it offers for skiers and snowboarders.[4] Hours for skiing/snowboarding are Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 10:30 am – 4:00 pm. It is also open on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley suspends skiing if there is not enough snow so to check if they are open you can visit the official Web Site of Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley here: [1]



Mount Lemmon Ski Valley

When there is not enough snow for skiing the lift is still open for sky rides to the summit, which takes about 30 minutes to reach an elevation of 9150 feet.[3] From there you can look for some of the over 200 species of birds that have been identified by residents and visitors. [1] If you’re a little more adventurous you can look out for other wildlife that has been spotted here including Coati Munde, Mountain Lions, Rattlesnakes, White Tailed Deer, and Bobcats. After exploration of the mountain's wildlife, you can enjoy lunch at The Irondoor Restaurant, which is open on the mountain even when there is not enough snow for skiing.[1]

Off-Road Activities

For those who are not skiers or snowboarders, the backside of the mountain has more activities for people to explore. On the other side of the mountain, there is an unpaved road to the summit. This alternative route on the north side of Mount Lemmon offers adventurous terrain mostly used by off-road 4x4 drivers and motorcyclists.

View Point

View from Mount Lemmon


Mount Lemmon Observatory 

This observatory was formerly a site of the USAF radar base, part of the Air Defense Command. A twenty-acre site that played a historic role in the defense of our country and now in the development of astronomy after it had been converted into an observatory for infrared astronomy in October of 1970. The summit area is considered Federal land and is currently maintained by the University for astronomical research and science education. All of this is run through the terms of a permit with the United States Forest Service. [2]


Mount Lemmon Sky Center Observatory 


Getting There

At the mountain, there are ample opportunities for hikes, camping, and exploring nature. When planning your trip to Mount Lemmon keep in mind what activities you want to engage in because this will determine the route you will take to get there. Since there is no single trail that runs directly from the base to the summit of the mountain, all of the routes require taking multiple trails and for this, you should map out your route.[4] Visitors who want to hike should get a map from the Palisade Ranger Station to choose from the several different routes available. Here is a list of some of the common routes for hikers of Mount Lemmon:

View as you are driving to the top of Mount LemmonFrom the South: Sabino Canyon, Esperero Canyon, Ventana Canyon and Finger Rock Canyon Mt. Kimball Trails. [4]

From the west: The Pima Canyon, Romero Canyon, and Sutherland trails. [4]

From the north: The Samaniego Ridge, Canada del Oro, Red Ridge, and Arizona trails. [4]


It is highly recommended to climb the Summit of Mount Lemmon during spring or fall. Since the summit is generally 20 degrees cooler than Tucson the longer hikes are generally best during those to seasons. Although during the summer the top of the mountain is much cooler than temperatures in Tucson, the hike through the lower elevations can be excruciatingly hot and not recommended for hiking to the peak.


Catalina HighwayView from hiking point

None of these hikes require any fees, however, if you do plan on driving up to Mt. Lemmon Highway instead of hiking it this does require a fee of $5 or $20 for an annual pass. If you decide to stay the night and camp out on Mt. Lemmon this also has a fee ranging from $10-$20 per night.

[4] Whatever adventure you decide to embark on Mount Lemmon is a great escape from the indoor and even better escape from Tucson’s unbearable heat throughout the summer.  It has so much to offer for anyone who enjoys exploring nature or outdoor excursions.

The sights and views that you will see while driving to the top are unbelievable. If you are visiting Tucson, or even a Tucson local the views of the mountains, (and on a clear day) the beautiful blue skies can be quite breathtaking. 

If you are into photography this is also a really great please to explore new locations for your photos. Bring some friends and have a fun time pulling over to the viewpoints and taking pictures of and with them.  



Every October Mt. Lemmon participates in the well-known German festival known as Oktoberfest. This festival is located at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, 10300 Ski Run Road. The festival is open 11:30am- 5:00pm every Saturday and Sunday through October 13th.  There is no cost to enter Oktoberfest, but there is a $5 parking fee and you are able to purchase food and drink tickets once you are at the venue. Meal tickets range from $10-$12 and beer tickets are between $4 and $5. At the festival, you are able to get a little taste of what it would be like to be at Oktoberfest in Germany. There is beer, food, a live band, and dancing. The food at this event is a great replication of the German food that is served at the real Oktoberfest. Things like bratwurst, German bread, German potato salad, and red cabbage are served warm [5]. Mt. Lemmon is nearly 30 degrees colder than other parts of Tucson, so when you go make sure you dress really warm. If you are traveling to Mt. Lemmon Oktoberfest from the University of Arizona you should expect it to take around an hour to get there. Although this may seem like a really long drive to some people, it is definitely worth it.

Oktoberfest Invitatio

Trees shifting colors for the fall


One of the major events that they have going on at Oktoberfest on Mt. Lemmon is riding the ski lift up to the top of one of the peaks. It is $10 for a lift ticket, which takes you to the top and you can spend as much time up there as you want. It is about a 15-minute lift ride to the top and 15-minute ride down, so you must plan accordingly. If you don’t want to get off at the top that is fine also because just riding up and down the lift you get an incredible view. This is definitely something that would be recommended to do if you go to Oktoberfest. When you get to the peak of Mt. Lemmon at the Oktoberfest venue the view is absolutely amazing. During this time of the year, all of the leaves are changing colors so you get to see yellow, red, and orange leaves; this is something you wouldn’t see in normal parts of Tucson.


View from Riding the Ski Lift

Along with the food, beer, dancing, and ski lift ride, there is also a gift shop that has a whole bunch of stuff from clothing, to key chains, to hats, and many more souvenirs. If you happen to forget a jacket and it was extremely cold you are able to purchase one at the gift shop, which is so convenient.

If you are in Tucson during the dates of Oktoberfest you should definitely go check it out. The event would be great for a family outing, a date, or just a different adventure with your friends. It is such a cheap and reasonable price for every aspect of the fest, which is another convincing argument on why you should attend.


View from the top of Mt. Lemmon

Dressing to the theme is something else that a lot of kids and adults love to do. When you go up there you can expect to see people dressed in full-blown German gear from head to toe. This is what makes this event so much more real and makes you feel like you are actually in Germany.



Side Note- Unfortunately there are no pets allowed at this festival, so leave your dogs at home for the day. With this being said, pets are more than welcome on Mt. Lemmon at any other time just not during the time of Oktoberfest [5].





[1] http://www.skithelemmon.com/


[3] http://www.skitown.com/resortguide/stats.cfm/az02/Mt.Lemmon

[4] http://www.summitpost.org/page/151231

[5] http://www.emol.org/calendar/event/mt-lemmon-oktoberfest/