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Backway to Mount Lemmon

1 Review
Location Tucson, AZ
Rating Easy,
Length 28.2mi
Time 3hrs

Vehicle Types


Lesser-used backroad that climbs to top of ski area.

A lesser-used backway to the top of Mount Lemmon. It’s a gradual climb until the last 6 miles, where the road twists and climbs up the steeper part of the mountain. It’s a long, beautiful drive returning down the front side of the mountain on paved Catalina Highway. The backway is closed in winter from Dec. 15 to Mar. 1. If you are looking for more challenge, consider adding a side trip up steeper Rice Peak, trail 69. Camp at Peppersauce F.S. Campground. Street-legal vehicles only allowed on this route.


Trail Ratings Defined

Most of the road is smooth gravel. The upper part gets a little rougher, but any 4-wheel-drive SUV can do it. Very dusty when dry.






High Point


Best Time To Go


Current Conditions

(520) 749-8700Coronado N.F., Santa Catalina Ranger District

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Trail Updates

Submitted by Barbara
Came down today in a 4runner. The first half was very slow going. The road is very rocky and narrow. An ATV would have been better.

Submitted by unknown
Trail is open after fire damage. A significant portion of the region has fire damage. Very dusty, especially at the top. Village at the top is open and makes it worth the drive from the north side.

Submitted by John
We decided to take this ride up the back way to Mt. Lemmon to get out of the heat and the road is closed still do to the fire that was present a few weeks back. However, the paved road from the south side of the mountain is open. Doesn’t even make sense but considering the few National forests that we’ve visited since Covid nothing really does.

Coronado National Forest temporary closure. Due to the Bighorn fire, this area has restrictions. Read forest order here. For updates go to N.F. website for alerts and notices.

Submitted by Richard
This is a very scenic road. Starting in Tucson, it is quite a worthwhile trip even if you don’t get on the trail. Once on the trail, it is really pretty tame. We saw a van do it, but there are a few spots he was probably thinking it was a bad idea. There is a fun run up a steep hill a bit before the Rice Peak cutoff. It is not marked as anyone’s private property and is clearly used. It is shaped like a needle where you go up the right side and loop down the left. Quite a fun side trail maybe 100 yards long. We did it with 37’s and 4″ lift, using rear lockers.


Rate this trail on a scale of 1 to 5.


Justin says

Took my 2023 Hyundai Accent up this trail. Very enjoyable, wonderful views, and it was a great time. Would not recommend anyone trying this in a Hyundai Accent ever.
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