inicio mail me! sindicaci;ón

Catalina Highway to Mt Lemmon

Just north of Tucson are the Santa Catalina Mountains, and up into those mountains is a road called the Catalina Highway. If you follow that road about 29 miles you will find yourself a lofty 8,000 feet above sea level. It’s an incredible thing, to depart the warmth of Tucson and arrive at a ski area — the southernmost ski area in North America — in less than an hour, with snow and pine trees and log cabin chalets everywhere.

The Catalinas are an example of “sky islands” which dot southern Arizona. By sticking up abruptly in the desert they create ecosystems that contain all the things you’d find a thousand miles north of here. I’ve wanted to go up to the highest point in the Catalinas, called Mt Lemmon, ever since we decided to settle in the area, and today I finally got a chance.


The road itself is a marvel. It twists and climbs through 5,000 feet in just a few miles, providing spectacular views from overlooks along the way. Half a dozen campgrounds are available too, although only one can accommodate RVs over 22 feet long. Several are for tents only. They look terrific for a hot summer day, located above 4,000 feet where the saguaros no longer can grow but where pine trees thrive.

mt-lemmon-hwy.jpgAlthough the first half of the route looks dry (and is, much of the year), there are numerous perennial waterfalls. Hiking trails are everywhere, or you can just drive from pullout to pullout and take in the views.

Above 8,000 feet there are numerous “cabins” on leased land in the National Forest. A lot of these cabins have been expanded to ridiculous size and made into (apparently) year-round homes. They form a small town called Summerhaven, which consists of one short main street, a few retail shops (general store, pizza parlor, gift shop, real estate office), and lots of residences either newly built or under construction. In 2003 there was a devastating forest fire up there, and so half the residences are being rebuilt, and it seems that money is no hindrance in many cases.

Near the center is a short spur road that leads to Mt Lemmon’s summit, the ski area and the ski area’s restaurant. The ski area is closed Tuesday and Wednesday even this time of year. It’s not a large place but it’s all we’ve got down here in southern Arizona. We’re lucky to have a ski area at all.

Being up there, I felt like I was back in Vermont or perhaps somewhere in Colorado. The clouds were blowing through and the temperature was in the upper 20s or low 30s at best. Crusty snow was everywhere. I had to remind myself that only 29 miles down the hill we’d be back in Tucson, AZ.


tucson-fortune.jpgThis evening we went out for Vietnamese food, which was great, but they’ve started supplying fortune cookies like Chinese restaurants. When fortune cookies are handed out, I always seem to get the lamest fortune. This was no exception.

What does this strange little slip of paper mean to tell me? Is this good fortune or a prediction of a long and difficult life? Does this have anything to do with the fact that Eleanor doesn’t tow the trailer? And what do I win at the end?

One other thing: a couple of weeks ago we launched the Airstream Life Media Community.   It’s a free service which allows you to share Airstream-related photos and videos with other people.   There are already about 70 photos uploaded and several videos, and I’d like to encourage more.   Check it out and upload your favorite Airstream pictures or even short videos!   The more, the merrier!

391 Responses to “Catalina Highway to Mt Lemmon”

  1. sadira Says:

    Gosh Rich, I think it means you have great patience and strength, and not to worry or struggle, because in the end…it’s all going to be OK. Then again, aren’t these the kind of people that are usually shot when it’s all said and done?

    Isn’t Arizona just amazing? I love that you guys get snow down there anywhere! It’s snowing here today, but that’s to be expected. That fire was horrible!! I think it’s the same year we had our big one too…it was so horrible to sit and watch Arizona burn…I’m glad that they are rebuilding…I’m sorry about the McMansion factor, but that seems to be catching on all over…