Mount Lemmon Control Road

4.4/5 (27 reviews)
Oracle, Arizona (Pinal County)
Last Updated: 04/19/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

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.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Trail Reviews

4.4/5 (27 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 11/20/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Great trail and fantastic views. We ran the trail from Oracle up to the top. After waypoint 15 (The gate) it get's rocky and a bit more difficult. This the only section that I'd be concerned with if your in a car. I think this trail could be rated a 2.
Status: Open
Visited: 05/29/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Easy scenic route. This trail offers a wide variety of landscapes. From wide open plateaus to high pine country. The last portion after the mine can vary in difficulty. I think some of that could be rated a 1.5 to 2.
Trail Review: Mount Lemmon Control Road - Brandon Heyboer
Trail Review: Mount Lemmon Control Road - Brandon Heyboer
Jim Long
Official Crew
15500
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 04/19/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Confirmed with the Catalina Forest Ranger on a Teams Call today that this road is OPEN. He stated to be wary of interruptions around the Oracle Ridge Mine(What the USFS called it, it's actually the Geeseman Mine on the topo) (WP 14) area as they are closing up the mine. It was at the top of this Oracle Ridge hill that land slid and took out the road between WP 15 & 16 this summer during the Monsoons.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 03/05/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Took my JKU from the top down on this trail. Had a lot of fun. The road is a bit rough at the top of the mountain, but it’s nothing you couldn’t do in a high clearance vehicle. The scenery is pretty nice despite the sparse vegetation this time of year. Once you get to the lower elevations, the road is just a simple gravel road with no challenge whatsoever. We drove up the paved portion, which has some amazing vistas.
Trail Review: Mount Lemmon Control Road - RICHARD STACKON
Trail Review: Mount Lemmon Control Road - RICHARD STACKON
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Jim Long
Official Crew
15500
Status: Temporary Closure
Visited: 10/01/2021

Forest service has re-implemented the closure order until Dec 15th. (Which means until next spring since the road normally closes for the winter on that day). USFS Control Road #38 Closure Order "National Forest System Road #38 (Control Road) starting at the intersection of National Forest System Road #38 and National Forest System Road #833 (General Hitchcock Hwy), continuing approximately 5 miles to the gate located approximately 450 feet southwest of the intersection of National Forest System Road #38 and National Forest System Road #4401 (Dan’s Saddle)" PURPOSE The purpose of this Order is to protect public health and safety from potential hazards related to recent damage to, and boulders blocking Control Road. Control Rd #38 Closure Map

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