- About 15 miles northeast of Tucson in the Catalina Mountains
- Suitable Vehicle:
- Any Vehicle
- 28 miles oneway
- 1 to 2 hours
- Drivable year round, but winter storms cause restrictions
DescriptionMt Lemmon Scenic Byway is the only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of Mt. Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range. It is one of the most scenic drives in southeast Arizona. It provides access to a fascinating land of great vistas, outlandish rockscapes, cool mountain forests and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts. Because the road starts in the Lower Sonoran vegetative life zone and climbs to the high forests of the Canadian zone, it offers the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada in a short stretch of 27 miles. Here you'll find plants and animals and geology that exhibit some of the most wide-ranging natural diversity to be found in any area of comparable size in the continental United States.
As you drive up the mountain, every turn seems to reveal something new. In some places that may be a community of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers different from the one just around the previous curve. In others, it may be a new gallery of natural rock sculptures even more impossibly perched than the last, or a broader panorama that stretches in an entirely different direction than the one that caused you to stop and snap a photo just a few moments before.
For your convenience, there are turnouts at scenic overlooks and several campgrounds and picnic areas. Dozens of hiking trails offer access to the mountain's backcountry canyons and ridges..Though virtually everyone calls this road the Catalina Highway or the Mount Lemmon Highway, it is officially designated the General Hitchcock Highway in honor of Postmaster General Frank Harris Hitchcock. The highway, which is traveled by over 1 million visitors each year, was designated a Scenic Byway on April 28, 1995.
Paved and suitable for most vehicles. Very large motor homes, trailers over 22' and buses may have trouble negotiating steep grades and sharp turns. Places to turn around are few.
Take Tanque Verde Road east from Tucson to the Catalina Highway. At the Forest Service boundary it becomes Hitchcock Highway and climbs to the top of Mt. Lemmon.