We saved the hardest day for last. Many people who haven’t had the chance to visit Tucson probably picture the area as flat desert. Although Tucson itself it pretty flat, it is surrounded by some impressive mountains. Mt Lemmon is the tallest mountain in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Tucson at 9,159′ tall. The best part of Mt Lemmon for cyclists it that there is a road that goes most of the way to the top. There is even a ski area at the top that opens for a few months each winter. The Mt Lemmon road climb is about 27 miles long and 6500′ of climbing one way to the village at the top. Many professional cyclists come to Tucson just to train on Mt Lemmon when most of the other good climbing spots are still too cold or snow covered. Not wanting to miss out on a popular road ride, we waited until we got some warm weather to give it a go. It is usually about 20 degrees cooler at the top then in Tucson. So on Wednesday when it was going to be 88 in Tucson we gave it a go.
The ride up was super scenic and in spite of the amount of climbing, it never really seemed too steep. There was a decent shoulder most of the time, and cars were usually giving us decent space. Along the way up there are many view points with pull outs that we stopped at to check out the views. Since most cyclists didn’t stop and were on a mission to get to the top we got quite a few questions from drivers that were stopped at each of the view points. They wanted to know how hard it was. How long does it take to get to the top? How fast do you go on the way down? We had to explain it was our first time up so we didn’t really know, but we seemed to be pretty popular. We even had a few people want to take our pictures for some reason.
Once we got to around 7,000 or 8,000 feet we entered a pine forest which reminded us like being back home in Central Oregon. We stopped off at Rose Lake on the way up to check it out. There was a few people fishing there but otherwise it was a nice quiet lake surrounded by pine trees that you would never figure was just outside Tucson. After turning around and heading back down the mountain it was time to make all that climbing pay off. It was a really fun descent. Most of the way we were able to go about the same speed as many of the cars so we didn’t have to worry about being passed too much. After a fraction of the time it took us to climb up we were back at the bottom to finish our last ride in Tucson.
We have spent the last month in Tucson. I didn’t expect to end up liking Tucson as much as I did. But it has been a really fun month here. Tucson itself is a big city with traffic and all the stuff that goes with big cities, but there is a lot to do here. Just outside the city there is amazing wilderness areas with some great and beautiful hikes. There are a lot of well built bike trails around the area. We ate in some really good restaurants, and found some really good beer. It is time to move on because the road calls, but we will definitely be back to Tucson.