‘Searching for Fall’ was the name of the game recently as my friends and I went in search of a quick getaway with cooler weather. While Arizona is known for its beautiful weather and longer summers, autumn brings the desire of the smell of brisk air and and color of leaves changing in the trees. Taking a one-day jaunt to Mt. Lemmon satisfied that craving.
Mt. Lemmon sits just north of Tucson, in the Coronado National Forest, in the Santa Catalina mountain range. On the scenic, curving roads up the mountain, rocks and boulders, gigantic in size, surrounded us for 28 miles, the length of the drive. At the highest point, over 9,000 feet above sea level, it is easy to forget that one is still in the Arizona desert because of the pine trees and a forest-like feel.
Along the drive up, Mt. Lemmon has many “pull offs” so viewers may stop and take pictures. While parked at one of them, my friends and I were able to watch a man scaling the side of the mountain below us.
The main stop, known as ‘Windy Point,’ led us to walk out on the boulders and appreciate the view at a breathtaking advantage. We took note of the picnic tables and planned lunch on a blanket on the rocks for a future visit.
Summerhaven, a small town with a population of 40 and located at the top of the mountain, is a retreat for visitors during the summer months with newly built cabins, shops, a general store and restaurants such as Sawmill Run, where we stopped to stretch our legs and enjoy the picturesque view of the tranquil town and it’s holiday-like aura. Much of Summerhaven was destroyed in a wildfire in 2003, and the town is still recovering.
As the sun lowered, the temperature dropped and we had our fill of the “fall” that we were pursuing so we headed back down the mountain. We chased the sun as it set, and watched it settle into the horizon as we reached the end of our journey. Finishing up the day with a warm dinner amongst friends, we reminisced on the day’s memories, planning our next trip back.
To get to Mt. Lemmon, take exit 275 off Interstate 10 and go north on Houghton Road for 14 miles. Turn right onto East Catalina Highway. This marks the beginning of the 28-mile drive. Driving time from I-10 to the base of Mt. Lemmon was approximately 25 minutes.
Currently, there is no fee to experience the beauty of Mt. Lemmon. For more information, go to http://www.go-arizona.com/Mt-Lemmon-Scenic-Byway/.