The temps in Tucson were forecast to be around 114, so I headed to the top of Mt. Lemmon, which rises to over 9000 feet above sea level. There are a number of trails at the top of the mountain and two of the better ones start at the Marshall Gulch picnic area at the end of the Catalina highway (which turns into the Sabino Canyon Pkwy) after it runs through the village of Summerhaven.
I took the Marshall Gulch trail which then connects with several other trails at a very popular saddle and then continued up the mountain on the Aspen trail. Many of the trees at the higher elevations of this trail were lost to a fire several years ago so it is a bit bleak, but ferns and wildflowers are growing in abundance making it beautiful nonetheless (check out my video below).
I’ve long heard about the different ecological zones one goes through as you go up the “sky island” mountains in southern Arizona, but until you actually hike through these zones, it’s difficult to fully grasp how much of a change there really can be. Hiking out of the forest and into the higher elevations of Mt. Lemmon was like walking into the Alps. It was actually chilly early Saturday morning, and the views are so different from what you see in Tucson that it’s like you’ve been teleported to another place on the planet.
Here’s the Google Earth video of my 8 mile hike which climbed 1660 feet above the trailhead and totaled about 2200 feet of climbing (full GPX file is available here):
And here is the Google Earth elevation profile of the hike:
And this is the map displayed at the trail head:
And here’s my iPhone video of the hike:
And here’s the panoramic photos I took using my iPhone (the first two are of the Marshall Gulch part of the hike):
This is very near where all the trails come together at the saddle:
And here are the wildflowers:
And the ferns:
This is the view from the top:
There are a lot of things at the top of Mt. Lemmon, including the ski lift, which happens to be the southern most place in the continental United States where you can ski:
The University of Arizona has its astronomical Sky Center up there as well: