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Your guide to Mount Lemmon
Welcome to Mount Lemmon
Lofted more than 9,000 feet above the Sonoran Desert on the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains and nestled in the Coronado National Forest, Mount Lemmon has earned the nickname “Sky City.” People flock here during the scorching Arizona summers, as its elevation means milder temperatures, and in the winter, snow transforms the small community into a paradise for winter recreation.
To reach the mountain retreat (which is home to a mostly seasonal community called, fittingly, Summerhaven) visitors navigate the winding Catalina Highway, which affords jaw-dropping views of the seemingly endless desert and sky. Once in town, you’ll be greeted by mountain charm, including a log cabin-style general store famous for selling many flavors of homemade fudge. You’ll find no shortage of outdoor activities here, including hiking, skiing, and off-roading, as well as high-powered star-gazing at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, a world-renowned observatory operated by the University of Arizona.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon is significantly cooler than desert Arizona during typically hot months, making it a favorite spring and summer destination for visitors looking to escape the heat and enjoy outdoor activities. During these seasons you may also witness a remarkable sight: the seasonal hatching of ladybugs, who cling to trees and rocks in massive clumps. If you book one of the area’s cabins for the fall, prepare for the temperatures to dip — this is also when the Coronado National Forest puts on a show, as aspen and maple trees turn gold and red. Winters are chilly, and it snows here. If enough inches of powder build up, the local ski resort opens and snow bunnies whoosh down the slopes.
Top things to do in Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon SkyCenter
This observatory is home to two of the largest telescopes available for public use in the United States. The center offers five-hour SkyNight packages that include a lecture, dinner, and the chance to ogle glittering stars, neighboring planets, galaxies, and even asteroids and nebulae — the spectacular clouds of debris caused by star birth and death. You can level up your experience and pay a higher fee to spend the evening with a dedicated astronomer and up to three additional guests.
This ski resort opens only when there’s enough snow on the ground, but once it does, there are more than 200 acres and 21 runs available to skiers and snowboarders. You can hop on the ski lift year-round for a 30-minute Sky Ride to the top of the mountain and fantastic views.
Coronado National Forest
Thanks to the extreme variation in elevations, the Coronado National Forest is home to a multitude of landscapes, from deserts populated by soaring rock formations and saguaro cactus to mountain lakes and canyons. The slate of recreational options is just as varied and includes hiking, rock climbing, snow sports, and scenic picnics.