Mount Lemmon Control Road

Oracle, Arizona (Pima County)

Last Updated: 06/16/2020
4.5 / 5 ( 4 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Temporary Closure
Typically Open: 05/15 - 11/15
Length: 30.7 miles
Highest Elevation: 7652 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: South
Nearest Town: Oracle
Nearest Town w/ Services: Oracle
Official Road Name: 38
Management Agency: US Forest Service
District: Coronado National Forest/Catalina district
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Highlights

Highlight: Mount Lemmon Control Road
This is the trail that many choose to test their 4x4 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 Rd, 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 1920's, 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. Today it's hardly a road needing any kind of '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 finally 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. I prefer to run this trail from bottom to top but it is just as much fun driving the other way from Catalina Highway down. 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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Mount Lemmon Control Road

Route Information

Technical Rating:
(EASY )

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Waypoints

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 7 miles of pavement before you get to dirt.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 32.619483, -110.795335

Starting Point: Circle K in Oracle AZ

From the West - Head onto AZ 77 from AZ 89/79 intersection. (Oracle Junction) Turn off (R) 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. The last 3 times (Over the last year) that I have started out here, the Circle K has had diesel fuel only. (Now has unleaded gas as of 6/18). There is another Circle K with Fuel at 02 Waypoint.

Camping

Dispersed
Improved
Designated

Land Use Issues

This trail is currently open and was not directly impacted by the Burro Fire. Map of the Fire Area As for permits, the requirement is "Usually None", this is a Pima County Maintained (somewhat) road open to the public. Road closes approximately Nov 15 - April 15 (Closed when snowed upon). For details about the road status, call the Pima County Sheriff's Department road closure hotline at 520-547-7510 You can also check the alerts from the US Forest Service

Trail Reviews (14)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
The Forest Manager, Kerwin Dewberry advised that the forest will be closed until November 2020.

OFFICIAL USFS Closure:
AREA CLOSURE Order Number: # 03-05-05-20-021

AREA CLOSURE MAP Order Number: # 03-05-05-20-021

AT THIS TIME FR 38 shows as "RESTRICTED". Consider this a closure.

The bighorn fire has closed the roads up Mount Lemmon. The town of Summerhaven is under a SET to prepare for an evacuation order. (as of 6/15/2020) This fire has grown about 1-2 thousand acres per day and the weather is not doing anything to slow this down. (Hot and windy).


Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This was the first trail in my new Jeep and it was the perfect beginner trail. Nothing too crazy but a lot of rough road and some very rocky points as well. There was monsoon activity but no wash outs or anything causing the trail to be difficult. We stopped along the way and took photos then had drinks and dinner in Summerhaven which is a great spot after the long dusty trail up the mountain. The info given for this trail was spot on and very helpful.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Definitely the road less traveled up to Mt Lemmon. The trail was more or less a "rougher" dirt road, with some small areas that would behoove the driver to think about a more comfortable line (nothing too crazy). This can definitely be done with a stock SUV. Last few miles up top may not be the most comfortable, but they are doable for a stock SUV.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail was excellent as always. I've lost count of how many times i've done this trail. They have been doing some maintenance on the upper parts of the trail by putting down dirt to make it a little smoother.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Road is open. The top few miles are rough, with lots of washed out rocky spots.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Excellent roads but the last 6 miles to the top of Mt. Lemmon was closed. We did see some snow at the top. Good up and back trip.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran down this on Labor day pulling my trailer with some other Toyota buddies, also pulling trailers. Only went as far as the Very top (Catalina HWY at the fire station) to FR#4450 (Which we mapped). The road gets progressively rockier each time I head down it. Definitely, do not take your passenger or low clearance vehicle up or down this last section. (Basically, uphill, past the turnoff to FR#4450, the road turns to 'moderate' conditions in parts. *There are many more of these parts now. The caution is to NOT get bounced toward the edge. Once you get up in the pines, it gets a little better but there are several switchbacks with very exposed rock and steps to climb. This video gives you an idea but does not do the shelves justice.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A lot of fun. Really great views. Good elevation climb. No shortage of locations for camping. The soul reason of the trip was to get to Willow Canyon to escape the high temps in Phoenix.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
When the temp reaches 100+ this is a great day trip from the phoenix area. Ate lunch at the sawmill and the temp was 78. Write up is spot on.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Drove down during tropical storm bud. Winter has not been/has been kind (depending if your rig is a Prius or Wrangler respectively). Several new Rocky sections have appeared which pretty much make this road a passenger car unfriendly but much more 4x4 respectable. You will have little trouble in a high clearance vehicle. The low clouds made this a while new experience for me. We will see how much more this changes after the Monsoons

Author:
Status: Closed
Offroaded on:
The trail is fantastic, the peppersauce caves are a must visit! bring three different flashlights however. It definitely has great vistas and it is smooth and easy to navigate. unfortunately it was closed this time. right after the mine turn off 22.2 miles in. There is currently no snow. it was not a waste however, I hit the peppersauce caves for a quick peek, and then traversed a bit of the rice peak trail which was nice, a bit tight with lots of steep inclines and declines. manageable with high clearance and 4WD.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great 3 hrs. Took a lunch and had a great day. Ran it in a Subaru Forester and passed a GMC 4x4 on one of the rock sections. 1st time out with this vehicle and I was impressed. Only had to retry 2 sections, never bottomed her out and ran it with tires aired up. I know it is not a rock crawler, but it will get me out and up some trails.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is open, its dry and passable. My stock 4Runner handled it perfectly. A few bigger chunks of rock in some spots to watch for but thats about it.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Simple and fun. Great practice. Pretty much a dirt road until after the snow gate.

Questions & Answers (0)

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. I have been an active member of AZFJ.org 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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