6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
"Cycling up the [Mount Lemmon Highway] in Tucson, Arizona is an epic ride and will rival some of the best climbs across the country," writes [ArizonaBikeRides.com](https://www.arizonabikerides.com/rides/220/mt-lemmon-bike-ride-tucson-arizona/).
That's no exaggeration.
While you can, of course, pedal a shorter version of this route, the out-and-back mapped here climbs almost 9,000 vertical feet in just over 30 miles.
This version of the route begins at the Safeway at the junction of Tanque Verde and Catalina Highway, runs through the outskirts of Tucson for a few miles, and then begins climbing the scenic byway in earnest.
The ride begins in the low Sonoran Desert at just 2,557 feet, but as you climb up the canyon, you'll quickly see the ecosystem change around you.
Soon the cacti will grow sparse and be replaced by small pine trees.
The higher you climb, the bigger the trees will get, and the deeper and darker the forest becomes.
At the top of Mount Lemmon, you'll pedal through deep pine forests and beautiful groves of aspens. Mount Lemmon is tall enough to receive a respectable amount of snowfall (for Southern Arizona) during the winter and is even home to a small ski area.
If you're riding in the fall, winter, and early spring months, be sure to prepare for colder temperatures and the possibility of inclement weather higher up. The views along this ride are truly spectacular.
From rocky canyons to lofty overlooks on top of cliffs, the scenery is guaranteed to keep you engaged even as you're suffering.
At the right time of year, you can even spot several waterfalls and cascades from the road.
Be sure to look up from your front wheel and savor this incredible region of the country!