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The Daily Wildcat

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What to expect on a trip up Mount Lemmon

Aged+sign+posted+along+the+main+road+through+Summerhaven+directing+guests+to+different+attractions%2C+taken+on+Saturday+March+24%2C+2024.
Jaidyn Martinez
Aged sign posted along the main road through Summerhaven directing guests to different attractions, taken on Saturday March 24, 2024.

As the temperatures begin to rise in Tucson, many residents are looking to escape the heat with a drive up to Mount Lemmon. Here is what you can expect on your drive up the mountain:

The drive up the mountain from the base to the village of Summerhaven may take about 45 minutes if you decide to go all the way without stopping. This may vary with traffic and weather conditions. However, there are many spots where you can pull over and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. 

One thing to look out for on your drive up and down the mountain are cyclists. The mountain ride is a very popular ride among cyclists so you can expect to share the road with them. 

On the way up you will pass many different campsites, hiking trails and pull-outs. The pull-outs are great opportunities for pictures of the mountains as well as a view of the city. You will also get a chance to stop by the Rose Canyon Lake which is off the main road to the left. There are picnic benches, campsites and of course room for fishing. 

As you make your way up you will come across a side road on the right that will lead you to Ski Valley. There will be a big sign so don’t worry about missing it. After about 5 minutes you will get to Ski Valley. 

As soon as the weather starts to get warmer, the ski season will end and you can ride the ski lift for a trip up and down the slopes. It will cost about $15 per person for one round trip that lasts 30 minutes. They have a two person limit and they charge based on the number of people regardless of age or size. 

Right next to the gift shop and ticket office you will find The Miner’s Sweet Tooth. They have sweets like fudge and ice cream as well as drinks. 

One of the workers at the shop is Jeanne Hartmann. She has lived in Summerhaven since 1995 and enjoys hiking the many different trails. “Even on the weekend if you go in and hike the more difficult trails then you’d be able to get away from people,” Hartmann said. 

Right across the street from Ski Valley will be the Iron Door Restaurant. You can get a view of the ski lift and of course a great view of the mountain. 

If you make your way back on the main road and continue up another couple of miles you will reach Summerhaven and its many small businesses. 

One business you will come across is the Mount Lemmon Lodge, a hotel with fun games for guests. They also have a gift shop and a Beyond Bread. “Everything here, at least in Summerhaven itself, is within walking distance, a couple of blocks [in] either direction. In addition to our cafe, there are another three restaurants up here, several little gift shops and of course access to tons and tons of trails and nature areas. The ski slopes and the observatory would be the only two places that you would want a vehicle,” said Jeremy Gassen, the general manager of the Mount Lemmon Lodge. The Mount Lemmon Lodge opened up this past July.

As you walk up the road you will find several different shops, including The Living Rainbow Gift Shop, which is a small gift shop with different kinds of art pieces.

You will also run into the Cookie Cabin. This is a very popular place to visit in Summerhaven. They sell cookies, pizza and merchandise like hoodies, shirts and stickers. 

The Cookie Cabin used to be a small 10  by 10 foot cookie shop in the middle of a set of cabins. It ran for many years up until 2003 when the Aspen Fire burned everything down. The owners, Vic Zimmerman and Debbie Lee Beal, rebuilt the restaurant and opened it in 2005. It “[…] went from being Cabins & Cookies to the Cookie Cabin,” said Samantha Beal, manager of the Cookie Cabin.

  They were able to make it through COVID-19 by taking their expansive menu and simplifying it to cookies and pizzas. They realized how cost effective and popular that was and it ended up sticking. 

Amongst the many gift shops there is the Mount Lemmon General Store. There you can find toys of all kinds, Mount Lemmon merchandise, small travel necessities if you’re camping and forget something and their homemade fudge.

“If you love fudge, homemade fudge, hit the Mount Lemmon General Store before you leave,” Beal said. 

If you are planning on making a trip up when the weather gets warmer, Hartmann and Beal both warn against heavy traffic on the weekends. “As soon as it’s 100 degrees or more in Tucson we get extremely busy all summer,” Beal said. If you do come on a weekend, be prepared for a long wait at the Cookie Cabin and other businesses.

“It’ll be 20 degrees cooler here. We always tell people to bring layers. Plan for every event of weather. You could start out in the morning bundled up, by noon you’re in your bikini but by the sunset you’re back layering,” Beal said. 


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