With average temps that are normally twenty to thirty degrees cooler, Mount Lemmon is Tucson’s coolest refuge from the June 21 heat. This 9,157-foot peak is the highest point within the Santa Catalina Mountains, that hug Tucson’s north and east sides. It’s a brief drive from central Tucson and takes you thru many different ecosystems as well as grasslands, woodlands and at last lush forest.

The small community of Summerhaven close to the top of the mountain has many restaurants and businesses as well as a cookie cabin and a preferred lunch joint referred to as the Sawmill Run, where you’ll enjoy a ½ pound burger and local Dragoon IPA on the breezy terrace. After eating your lunch you can take a stroll through the close Marshall flume hiking path, a 4.4 mile loop that takes you thru tall poplar tree forests and past a touch creek.

Further up the mountain you’ll notice the southernmost ski area in the country, the Mount Lemmon Ski valley, that operates its ski lift even in the summer. It’s fun to take the 30 minute ride up and down the mountain through groves of enormously tall ponderosa trees, leading up to an out of this world view of the city of Tucson below.

Further up the mountain at the summit, the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, operated by the Steward Observatory, runs the a number of the biggest telescopes in the country offered for public viewing. the center hosts regular Sky Nights where you’ll explore constellations and find out about our universe.