- Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing Type
- 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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Regarded as one of the most scenic drives in southeast Arizona, the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway takes travelers to the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range. Aside from the arresting canyon and mountain views, the nearly 60-mile round-trip byway offers visitors the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada (the road begins in the lower Sonoran vegetative life zone and ascends to the high forests in the Canadian zone).
Recent visitors highly recommended making the drive, which many described as "spectacular" and a "must-do" when in Tucson. Along with the stunning vantage point, the ride up also provides a reprieve from the desert heat; travelers said the temperature drops as you climb higher along the byway. Take advantage of the scenic overlooks and rest areas by bringing along a picnic – another recommendation from past visitors.
The road is drivable year-round, but winter weather may cause restrictions. To reach the byway, take Tanque Verde Road east from Tucson to the Catalina Highway, which becomes Hitchcock Highway at the Forest Service boundary. From there, the highway leads to the top of Mount Lemmon. If you'd like to hike any part of your journey, you can find several trail options on the U.S. Forest Service website. You'll have to pay $5 per vehicle. Mount Lemmon is situated about 40 miles northeast of downtown Tucson and makes for a great daytrip, according to visitors.