While many people hear the word "Arizona" and think "desert," "dry," "hot," and my all time favorite, "Why would I want to live there?", this state has so many hidden gems, many of which are located in the Southern part of the state.
Below I have shared some images of one of my favorite locations near Tucson, AZ. I hope you share yours as well!
I love this image because it is such a great example of how Southern Arizona holds so much more than a hot, dry, desolate landscape. Mount Lemmon is located in the Coronado National Forest, just North of Tucson, Arizona. It gets its name from the botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the mountain's peak in 1881. The Catalina Highway is a 25-mile paved road that allows visitors and residents to drive from Tucson to the summit. This mountain is such an interesting example of ecology, as it contains 5 different biomes that represent the plants and animals found as far South as the U.S.-Mexico border, and as far north as the U.S.-Canada border. Because of its varying climates, Mt. Lemmon offers a wide range of outdoor activities year-round (the Lower Mountain in Fall/Winter, and the Upper Mountain in Spring/Summer). People can sight-see, camp, hike, backpack, rock climb, mountainbike, and more, during all 4 seasons. There's even a place to ski during the winter!
In the winter, Mt. Lemmon often gets snow, and that snow melts in the spring, creating beautiful rivers, streams, and waterfalls throughout the mountain.
In terms of rock climbing, one of my biggest outdoor passions, Mt. Lemmon is a great choice. It has thousands of routes, including single-pitch & multi-pitch sport, single- and multi-pitch trad, and aid. Many of these routes can be found right off the highway, which is nice for those desiring a short approach. For those not drawn to crowds, there are many options off the beaten path. Mt. Lemmon routes are also known to have some of the most scenic (in my opinion) and unique views, such as that of Steve's Arete (5.11-):
Do you have a favorite place in Southern Arizona? I'd love to hear about it!
If yu are in southern Arizona, and you enjoy rock climbing, surely you must be acquainted with Baboquivari Peak, southwest of Tucson. To the Tohono O'otam (sp?) Babo is the center of the universe and I am inclined to agree with them. All routes to the summit are technical and its majestic east face is the location of the first (perhaps only) grade six routes in Arizona.
I was introduced to technical climbing as a college sophomore many moons ago and learned a lot on its slopes.
To me Babo is just th first of many fabulous locales in southern Arizona. There's Mt Wrightson (Baldy), Rincon Peak, Sabino Canyon West Fork, the Chiricahuas, just to get started. Don't forget Picacho Peak....
@hikermor Yes! Baboquivari Peak is such a mystical and inspiring place! All of the places you have mentioned are amazing, and great places to explore the outdoors. Cochise Stronghold is also a great place for hiking, camping, and backpacking.
I spent the night on top of Baboquivari with the University of Arizona Ramblers hiking club years ago. We had a fire from remains of the ancient lookout cabin of the 1920s. The next morning a group of us had to go all the way to the end of Lions Ledge.
Slightly more iconic for me was climbing Weaver's Needle and spending the the night on the top there. We climbed up the final couple pitches with flashlights in our mouths. This was long ago. I did have a headlamp but it was Giant and bulky and I only typically used it for caving. I recall my buddy saying - don't move more than two feet to your right because it is a sheer cliff. There was no moonlight. The next morning I stood on that same spot with a whole lot more trepidation because I could see the exposure.
Love this post & that waterfall! It's so true - there is so much more to Arizona than dirt and desert. One of my favorite more recent trips is these hot springs: https://lovelyandlimitless.com/2021/03/17/colorado-river-canoe-trip/
Glad this thread is revived....We should also mention the Rincon Range, Mica Mountain and Rincon Peak, especially - contained within Saguaro NP and displaying the same life zones as the Santa Catalinas - except no road - you gotta hike....
Of especial significance to me, because I first worked for the NPS there as a fire guard during the summer of 1957, spending many a day looking for fire in the 100 foot high watch tower (since removed) atop Mica Mountain and bunking at Manning Camp.
Tucson and Southern Arizona are exceptional for varied outdoor activities of all types during all seasons -caves, cliffs, and scenery galore
Secret Revealed! My favorite Sky Island range. No easy way up - there has never been a road, not even close. National Park level of resource management means closest to natural habitat. Limited campsites means limited visitation. All ways to the top are long and hard.
My fave: Arizona Trail Southbound to Mica Mountain from Redington Pass. With correct timing and planning it's possible to do this walk without camping within the Park Service boundary, which means no permit and go whenever you want.
Those falls are Seven Cataracts, visible from the highway. Tough, steep, loose scramble from the road. These falls are the exit of Willow Canyon, one of the "easier" technical canyoneering descents of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Less precise locals tend to call the entire range "Mount Lemmon" - the massive summit is only one region of a largish range.
Bryn asks for secrets, but I treasure solitude, which still is easily found right next to the 30th biggest metropolitan area in the USA.
Okay, I'll share another Sky Island secret. Ski from the summit of Mt Lemmon Ski Valley to Summerhaven.
Years ago I had taught skiing at the Lemmon while stumbling and Rambling at the U. I had skied to Summerhaven in those days of snow twice via the ridge - once in moonlight - and once down the canyon - moonlight didn't help much.
I returned to S AZ on Groundhog Day 2010 and was teaching within a couple of weeks after injuries opened up a spot. There was more snow on Mt Lemmon that year than my prior home hill, Sierra at Tahoe. There hadn't been that much snow in Southern Arizona in about 10 years, and there hasn't been a big year since.
I mentioned that I knew the route how to ski to Summerhaven and one of the other instructors shamed me into showing him the way. The two of us were most likely the last people to ever be able to do this, unless there's some version of huge change in the climate again.
In my nearly 20 years at Lake Tahoe we saw witness to potential other last descents. So sad. There are areas as far north as the Rockies in Canada that are seeing their last descents as well. I haven't been able to ski in about 5 years and still that makes me very, very sad.