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2. Mount Lemmon

Climbers atop Hitchcock Pinnacle, one of the most recognizable rocks on Mt. Lemmon.
Windy Point West is one of the most iconic climbing areas of Mount Lemmon, and Steve’s Arete (5.11a) on Hunchback Pinnacle (Hitchcock Pinnacle shown here) was actually one of the reasons I came here for the first time. The views of the Tucson valley can’t be beat. Photo courtesy of Jayci Ferrimani

Choose your adventure: Altitude and style for everyone

Just outside Tuscon in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mt. Lemmon is one of the most popular climbing spots in Arizona. It boasts thousands of climbs—from bouldering at Mystic and Linda Vista to 10-pitch sport climbs—and because the average highs are in the 70s in February, it makes a terrific winter destination. The majority of routes are accessible via the Catalina Highway (recently designated as the Sky Island Parkway) so you can have a full day of climbing and easily return to town for dinner.

On Mt. Lemmon, you can decide what elevation and rock type they want to climb. Ranging from gneiss and year-round warmer temps at 2,000 feet to alpine granite at the summit, nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, the mountain provides plenty of options depending on your interest and weather that day. In fact, driving through the pass will bring you up and down more than 5,300 feet and through five of North America’s distinct ecological zones.

Something for everyone

Historically, Mt. Lemmon was home to old-school trad. While those are still available, modern development has expanded the style primarily towards sport climbing and routes suitable for beginners.

This wide variety is part of what makes Mt. Lemmon special; at Windy Point, for example, a group including someone climbing for the first time and a 5.14 crusher could head up and spend the day cragging within walking distance of each other.

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