A Day on the Mountain
Living in Phoenix, we have access to a number of great scenic day drives. I’ve spent a lot of time up north in Sedona and Flagstaff, but haven’t really ventured south. I’ve always heard that Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon is gorgeous, so I decided to pack up the Fuji & check it out.
As scenic as trips north can be, the drive south starts out pretty lackluster. The stretch of I-10 between Phoenix & Picacho Peak is dreadfully boring. Aside from a few drab hills, there really isn’t anything to look at. Make sure you have good company and your playlist has some high-energy songs, or you may doze off…
Once you get to Picacho Peak, however, the terrain changes for the better. There are lots of beautiful mountains dotting the horizon, not to mention Picacho Peak itself and Newman Peak directly across the freeway. From here, you have a little more than an hour of driving left before you get to the base of Mt. Lemmon.
Once at the base of Mt. Lemmon, you are in for a treat. The wide, well-maintained road takes you on a winding feast for the eyes. It seems like every 1/4 mile there is another picturesque vista just waiting for you to behold. From the cactus-laden desert at the bottom to the dense pine forest at the top, you will see just about every type of geography that Arizona has to offer. The wonderful thing about this road is the numerous pullouts – the road designers intended for you to stop & stare. There are pullout points everywhere. There are also camp grounds, hiking trails, scenic stops, and everything in between on the way up. There is no possible way to see all of the beauty that this place has to offer in one trip.
Once at the top, you will find a small town and ski resort nestled in the dense pine forest. The scent of evergreens is thick, rich and inviting. The aspens that are sprinkled between create a lovely contrast. I feel like I could spend a week photographing the peak & not get bored. I am a bit of a nemophilist so I might be biased, but it feels like home.
The drive back down the mountain is no less wondrous. Even though it’s the same road you took to the top, the views on the way down seem even more enchanting. You get to see views that you didn’t notice on the way up. The temptation to stop at every pullout is strong, but there is only so much time in one day.
The only negative thing I can say about the whole trip is that I’ve waited so long to do it. Rest assured, this won’t be the last time I visit Mt. Lemmon.