Why on Earth would anyone drive an hour for a day trip with these gas prices? To get out of Southern Arizona’s 100-plus degree weather, of course.
This time of year, visitors to Mount Lemmon can ride the Ski Valley chairlift without bundling up, see thousands of ladybugs and witness the year’s second round of wildflowers blooming, all from the comfort of 9,000 feet in elevation.
Mount Lemmon, which sits within the Coronado National Forest, is Tucson’s cool haven from the city’s boiling temperatures during summer months.
Waiting at the top is the luscious scent of pine trees floating in the brisk cool air, which may compel visitors to grab a long-sleeve shirt or maybe even a light jacket.
Ski Valley’s chair lift is open Thursday through Monday. For $9, a relaxing 45-minute roundtrip ride to the top of the ski mountain offers a bird’s-eye view of everchanging Summerhaven, bright green fields of grass, and other sights that only skiers and snowboarders get to see during the winter months.
If the cost of lift tickets for the family is not in your budget, try driving past Ski Valley. Keep in mind that for visits to places other than Summerhaven, cabins and Ski Valley, visitors must obtain a vehicle pass at a rate of $5 for the day or $25 for the year.
Awaiting visitors atop the mountain are breathtaking views of the city through burnt pine tree skeletons and relative solitude. Though the mountain is pretty well covered with people throughout the summer months, few seem to venture all the way to the top. Even fewer travel up the mountain on the weekdays.
The trails are lined with fields of ferns, tall grass and the occasional wild flower. As Heidi Schewel, the media officer for the Coronado National Forest said, some wildflowers on Mount Lemmon bloom near the start of spring, while other flowers start blooming around the monsoon, offering splashes of color across the mountainside.
This time of year, people aren’t the only ones who escape to higher altitudes for cooler weather. Within the tall grasses lining the trails, visitors can spot thousands of lady bugs crawling on every blade of grass.
Pay close attention to the growth along the pathways to spot tiny orange and black insects feeding on the surrounding greenery.
An alternative to bringing a packed lunch is to venture into Summerhaven for pizza, pie or a good-sized cookie.