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Mount Lemmon

Epic backpacking route from base to summit.

Hiking Severe

65 km
3.1 km
3.1 km
1 day +
Low Point
816 m
High Point
2.8 km
Mount Lemmon Map

Mount Lemmon is the pinnacle of the Catalina Mountain Range. The 9,157-foot summit soars above the city of Tucson, lying in a desert valley far, far below.


Mount Lemmon is a "sky island," which means that the top of the mountain is home to a verdant landscape filled with aspen trees, alpine meadows, and towering pines. But when you begin your hike on the lower flanks of the mountain, you'll be hiking through the land of cacti, rattlesnakes, and desert sand. Eventually you'll reach the cooler altitudes as you ascend the mountain. "While Lemmon’s heights have much of the same vegetation and wildlife as other high mountains in southern Arizona, these areas are isolated from each other by the desert in between – hence the term," explains Andinstaloco on SummitPost.org.

There are several different ways to reach the summit of Mount Lemmon, including driving up a highway. There's also an expansive trail system lacing the flanks of the mountain, with multiple hike options that could bring you to the peak. But if you're looking for a truly epic endeavor, consider backpacking from the base of the mountain to the summit and back down on this 41-mile round-trip hike.

Over the course of this route, you'll climb (and descend) a staggering 10,269 feet of elevation. While many potential routes to the summit exist, the one shown here traverses some of the more well-used trails and begins from the popular Sabino Canyon hiking area. This is an ambitious route that's intended for backpackers and peak climbers who are in search of a real challenge.



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between May and November


  • Alpine
  • Summit Hike

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area