From our boondocking spot we can see the top of Mt Hopkins and today we rode up to the gate at the top where the Smithsonian Fred Whipple Observatory is. Our recording messed up with the GPS signal in a couple spaces, but the ride was around 21 miles with 3500′ of climbing. We topped out at 8564′!!!
For the first couple miles we were on paved road that leads past the lower observatory. Shortly after that, the road curves around and turns to gravel. It’s a steady climb the entire way but never oppressively so. The narrow rode twists and turns endlessly along Montosa Canyon. Mesquite, ocotillo, and cacti give way to cottonwoods, sycamore, juniper and even pine trees. The gravel is down right smooth in places and a little rough in some corners but overall quite pleasant. This ride is all about the dramatic views atop the Santa Rita Mountains. You can see forever!!!!!
The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory is the largest field installation of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) outside Cambridge, MA. The Observatory’s main equipment is a 6.5-m diameter optical telescope. Fred Lawrence Whipple was a noted planetary expert, space science pioneer, and director emeritus of SAO.
We were back at our trailer before we knew it. It’s basically ALL downhill from the turnaround point at the top and you can really get flying. I would caution everyone to know their skill level and check their speed because there is little room for error.