Mount Lemmon: The land of six geographical climates

Ever find yourself surrounded by the desert and tons of incredible saguaros and then, an hour later, find yourself in the middle of an alpine forest, with snow!? If this sounds like a dream of yours, head on over to Tuscon’s Mount Lemmon and take the Sky Island Scenic Byway. In just 27 miles and 6,000 feet of elevation gain, you’ll see six different biological communities ranging from the desert grassland to the spruce fir forest next to the ski lodge.

mount lemmon
Snow! In Tucson!

To introduce ourselves to the area, Colin and I drove the Scenic Byway on day one. Little did we realize how often we would again be on that very same road. Amidst Mount Lemmon’s diversity, you can find ample opportunities for mountain biking, climbing, hiking and camping. Right up our alley. 

Mountain Biking

Wasting no time, Colin decided to ride the Lemmon Drop mountain biking trail on December 8. 20 miles, 2,200 feet of elevation gain and a lot of hiking-the-bike up steep sections of trail. It was the hardest ride he had ever done to date. No thank you to that, I chose a mini lookout hike instead (and decorated the van with lights for Christmastime :)). 

Mount Lemmon mountain biking

camper van life
All beautifully decorated and ready for Christmas.
Climbing

Offering both single and multi-pitch options, Colin and I climbed 25 pitches over five days. You climb right next to the road so the approaches are generally short and it’s fun to have some drive-by cheerleaders on your side. We also met up with Colin’s cousin Andy and his girlfriend, T, and enjoyed some climbing and camping with them on the mountain. And there was that time I got a poop shovel to the face after feeling like a badass climber… win some, lose some.

mount lemmon climbing

mount lemmon climbing

Hiking

All right, so the two of us really only hiked once in Mount Lemmon, but the one we did sure was pretty. 🙂 

camping

While most of our time was spent overnighting on free land (or at the local Walmart), we did enjoy a few nights at the campground on Mount Lemmon. Quick access to climbing and they had fire pits, hard to argue with that. 

campfire mount lemmon
The look of a happy man.

Long story short, if you’re going to Tucson, visiting Mount Lemmon is very worth your while. 

Author: Lisa

Over one year in van life and loving it. Hiker, rock climber, novice mountain biker, and professional napper. Official “documenter” of our time with Vaniel. Favorite podcast: Stuff You Should Know.

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