The Catalina Highway
Route: Foot of Mount Lemmon to the Peak
Length: 24 miles
Entering the Santa Catalina Mountains just 25 miles northeast of Tucson, you’ll find yourself accelerating at the foot of Mount Lemmon. Named for botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon, you’re going to have a lot more fun than she did in 1881 when she made the first ascent by horse and on foot. Climbing to over 9,000 feet, with a near 7,000-foot elevation change in a mere 24 miles, the Catalina Highway (also called the Mount Lemmon Highway) is a brilliant ascent with countless curves, numerous vistas and three major switchbacks. The best news is since there’s only one paved road up this mountain, when you reach the top, you’ll have no choice but to turn around and let gravity assist in your descent. A little over halfway down, at the apex of the biggest switchback, do yourself a favor and pull off at Windy Point Vista. There’s a scenic overlook that gives a great view of the descending road. Take it in. Post it to Instagram. And be the envy of your driving-enthusiast friends.