This is the trail that many choose to test their rig on for the first time. That being said, it's not a difficult trail at all; in fact, hearty passenger car drivers with little regard for their undercarriage tackle this trail all the time. But don't be fooled, there are still steep climbs, switchbacks, and several spots that get washed out, Designated by many names, the Mount Lemmon Control Road, Oracle Control Road, the Old Mt. Lemmon Road, or USFS 38, this was once the only way to the top of Mount Lemmon. In the 1920s, it was a popular escape from Tucson but was woefully inadequate for the amount of traffic attempting to use it. Steep inclines, narrow switchbacks, and occasional rock slides were all real problems for those early travelers. In those early days, the road was so narrow that traffic was only allowed in one direction of travel for an hour and a half at a time. This is where the 'Control' part of the name came from.
Today it's hardly a road needing any 'Control'; however, there is much trepidation about driving on the "Backside of Mount Lemmon." The steepness is still there, the switchbacks are still there (But much wider), and certainly, the same views and towering pines delight those who complete the journey. You can experience multiple biological zones from desert scrub to juniper grasslands and ponderosa pine forest on this wonderful 30-mile trek. There are caves, a quaint town, zip line adventures, mines, and much cooler weather as you climb. In evidence, as you ascend, is damage from multiple major forest fires that have devastated much of the timber but have opened a wider view of the valley floor below.
Most prefer to run this trail from bottom to top, but it is just as much fun driving the other way from Catalina Highway down towards Oracle. A wonderful little village, Summerhaven, awaits you as a reward if you make that your destination. Don't forget to acquire some fudge at the Mount Lemmon General Store.