Mount Lemmon Control Road

Oracle, Arizona (Pinal County)

Last Updated: 04/19/2022
4.4 / 5 ( 7 reviews )
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Highlight: Mount Lemmon Control Road
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.


Route Information

Technical Rating

( EASY )

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1. Staging/Meetup Circle K #1 (0 mi)
LEFT TURN off of American Way The Circle K starting point. Good for snacks, ice, etc. but not gasoline. You could air down here, but you have about 8.5 miles of pavement before getting to the dirt. Head east from here on American Way.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Oracle, Arizona

From the West - Head onto AZ 77 from AZ 89/79 intersection. (Oracle Junction). Turn right onto American Way toward Oracle. About 1 mile east of this intersection, there is a Circle K on the right on the corner of American Wy and Rockliffe Blvd. To the NE of this intersection is a large dirt lot appropriate for meeting people/staging.



Trail Reviews (26)

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Writer Information

Jim Long

Mapping Crew - Arizona

I moved to Arizona in 1984 and bought my first offroad vehicle the next year. I had lots of adventures, seeking out the Old West on paper topo maps in my Toyota FJ40 and can say, fortunately, that I never had to walk home. In 2005 I saw the prototype for the FJ Cruiser, and in the middle of my FJ40 resto project, someone came into my garage with cash and bought it out from under me. (Some regrets) In 2008, I flew out to LA to pick up my FJ Cruiser, special ordered with the Offroad Package (Locker) and MT6. My area of operations has been Southern Arizona, from the New Mexico to California borders. Unfortunately, the FJ Cruiser burned in a fire in August 2020. Now I'm building up from the ashes, literally, salvaged parts from the FJ are going on my Lexus GX470. SO, that's what's coming out next. I have been an active member of where I'm the top post contributor, and have many trail reviews posted there that I plan on enhancing, revisiting and documenting for this authoritative source. I have a login to Ih8Mud and fjcruiserforums but don't lurk there very much. in my career, I've had the pleasure of traveling in Canada, the Caribbean, and Australia but never had the opportunity to wheel there. (bucket list). But, I hope my 30 years of Southern Arizona discovery, teaching and leading people into the backcountry will finally benefit a wider audience here on Trailsoffroad. There's nothing I enjoy more than finding a historic site, a little-used trail that had significance or the opportunity to take that one photo that defines what we do. (I stink but I'm willing to learn). Oh..Added benefit...I'm the GIS analyst for a fire dept and as such have some skills in ArcGIS.
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