Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The trip up Mount Lemmon thi previous week has reignited my passion for the Catalina Mountains. This week I was seeking a hike underneath Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine to cool off and get some shade from the sun. These hikes on Mount Lemmon are surprisingly difficult to find because the Bullock and Aspen fires burned large swaths of the upper Catalina Mountains. From previous trips I remembered seeing nice old growth trees near the Mt Lemmon Ski Valley so I returned to the dirt parking lot above the ski area. I hiked a road along the ridge above the Ski Valley runs and near some transmission towers looking for a trail to its base. Soon I was rewarded with a gem. The Aspen Draw trail is 1.6 miles one way (3.2 miles roundtrip) with about 1000 feet of vertical drop. It winds its way among impressive old-growth Douglas fir trees with many shady spots to eat lunch- a rarity in the Sonora Desert . There are a few areas where the trail is near a ski run. Please follow the signs and stay off the runs. At the bottom the trail ends near the Iron Door Restaurant which people have told me has good food.
I finished the Aspen Draw trail early in the afternoon and had time to hike Lizard Rock. Lizard Rock was made popular by rock climbers since then hikers have been climbing it as well. There is no forest service trail to the top and no sign for the hike. If you are adventurous the pulloff to park your car is on your right (if you are going down the mountain) just passed Mile marker 8. The hike is 0.5 miles long with what I would say is approximately 700 to 800 feet of vertical. There are multiple unimproved trails to the top that hikers have created. I didn't follow one route per say but multiple routes based off of my off-trail hiking knowledge. In sections the trails have loose granite and it is easy to slip. Because of liability I will not be giving my exact route on this blog. The top is truly spectacular and visitors are rewarded with a 360 degree view.