The Summerhaven subdivision of Mount Lemmon, Arizona is a community approximately 29 miles north of Tucson in the center of the Santa Catalina Mountains at an elevation of 8000’. The whole Santa Catalina mountain range is mistakenly called Mount Lemmon. The peak of Mt. Lemmon (9,157’) is actually more of a knoll, located adjacent to the University of Arizona Stewart Observatories. The average temperature on Mount Lemmon is approximately 30 degrees cooler than that of Tucson which makes Mount Lemmon quite popular during the summer months. Additionally, the top of the mountain is 9,157’ and is the location of the southernmost ski area in the United States. Mount Lemmon Ski Valley normally provides skiing and snowboarding from late December into March or April. The El Nino of 1997-98 brought 30 plus feet of snow to the mountain, one of the best years for skiing and snowboarding in recent memory. Ski Valley is also the home of the Iron Door Restaurant. In addition, there are a number of recreational amenities offered on the mountain, including hiking, camping, fishing, birding, sledding, snowshoeing and rock climbing, making the area an attractive recreation and getaway location less than one hour from Tucson.
There are approximately 450 acres of privately owned land on Mount Lemmon, completely surrounded by the Coronado National Forest. Summerhaven, the largest subdivision, was subdivided in the 1920s. The lots in this subdivision are small, typically averaging between 5,000 and 6,500 square feet. The subdivision of Loma Sabino Pines was created by a land swap with the US Forest Service back in the 1980s. The lots in this subdivision average 16,000 square feet, giving the area a more open feeling.
The majority of the 450 acres of privately owned land is utilized for second homes and private residences. There are also approximately 130 cabins on land leased from the US Forest Service under 20-year permits.
Commercial development is limited to the lots along Sabino Canyon Parkway. Currently, Summerhaven has The Sawmill Run, a new restaurant opened April 1, 2012. The Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop, provides anything a tourist, cabin owner, cabin renter or Arizona Trail biker or hiker may need or want. In addition, the General Store & Gift Shop offers a large selection of gifts, to groceries to camping gear. The Living Rainbow, a gift shop, is located down the street and the Pizza and Cookie Cabin, serving pizza, giant cookies and homemade chili operates in Summerhaven. A US Post Office and a real estate office, Mt. Lemmon Realty also resides in Summerhaven. Karen’s Sky Mountain Realty operates out of Summerhaven but does not currently have an office here. Overnight lodging facilities are currently non-existent in Summerhaven and on Mt. Lemmon. Families wanting to stay on the mountain must rent a cabin from private individuals or Mt. Lemmon Realty in the summer months. All businesses here rely heavily on summer business. Mt. Lemmon, because of the limited overnight facilities and the close proximity to Tucson, is largely a day use area. However, in the summer months, there is a large population in private homes. After all, the subdivision was named Summerhaven for a reason back in the 1920s.
The Mount Lemmon Highway, which carries traffic from metropolitan Tucson to Summerhaven, has undergone a Federal Highway Improvement. This project was started in 1986 and completed in 2003. It is joked that it was a planned 10 year project that lasted 17 years. The project was implemented and was been accomplished in 3 to 5 mile segments, every other year. Traffic has increased as the work was completed.
The Santa Catalina’s are now heavily visited with an average use exceeding a million visitors per year. Mt. Lemmon and Sabino Canyon are Tucson’s second most popular tourist attraction. Weekend days with fresh snow on the ground are always a challenge. At times the Mt. Lemmon Highway is closed to traffic due to too many cars on the highway and lack of facilities to accommodate these large numbers of people and cars.