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This rough, winding road that snakes up the northeastern slopes of the Santa Catalinas was the first major access route built to the upper reaches of the Santa Catalina Mountains. While some residents refer to the road as the Old Mt. Lemmon Highway, the name "Control Road" is as old as the route itself. When this was the only road up the mountain, it was so narrow in some places that, if two cars met going in opposite directions, they would be unable to pass. The only way to avoid total gridlock was to "control" the road by making its narrow upper segment a one-way road on which the direction of travel was switched at regular intervals.

Though the Control Road has been replaced by the paved Catalina Highway as the major access route to the mountain top, it still serves as a popular sight-seeing route for those willing to brave a little rough driving. (It's been made a little wider, too.)

In addition to the fact it is not paved, the Control Road differs from the Catalina Highway in another significant way. The highway, and most of the trails that scale the Santa Catalinas, are concentrated on the range's southwestern slopes. The Control Road winds down Mt. Lemmon's northeastern shoulder, offering a different perspective on the mountain and its surroundings.

If you approach the old road via the Catalina Highway, it drops off a high ridge just north of the Loma Linda Picnic Area. As it winds its way down the mountain, through an area of old mines and ranches, the road provides broad overlooks of the grassy, oak-covered foothills to the east. In the distance, the San Pedro Valley stretches to the Galiuro Range. Farther in the distance, the upper slopes of the Pinaleño Mountains and their northern neighbors, the Santa Teresas, are visible through low passes in the Galiuros. The stacks and tailings ponds of the copper smelter at San Manuel complete the panorama.

Road Conditions: This gravel road is suitable for high clearance vehicles. It may be closed during winter storms or require 4-wheel drive or chains.

Elevation: 4,600 Feet

Ending elevation: 8,000 Feet

Elevation Gain: 3,400 Feet

Distance: 25+ Miles

Directions: From Tucson, From Tucson, follow the Catalina Highway to milepost 24.5, just beyond the Loma Linda Picnic Area, and turn right (northeast) onto FR 38. Follow FR 38 (the Control Road) straight past the Mt. Lemmon Fire Station and a road that forks to the right and continue down the mountain.

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Ccoronado National Forest

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: (520) 388-8300
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.