History Hike Atop Mount Lemmon

Hikers engaged in snowball combat (photo by Ruth Caldwell)

Ruth Caldwell

It was a beautiful, sunny day in mid-May on the top of Mount Lemmon! A SaddleBrooke Hiking Club (SBHC) group was looking forward to club guide Marc Humphrey’s wonderful hike along the Meadow Trail and the Mount Lemmon Trail, then the descent to the Aspen Draw Trail. All told, this would be a nice five-mile outing.

Little did they know they would get a history lesson from Fire Ranger Harold who just happened to be setting up and moving into the fire lookout for the season. Harold was kind enough to give the SBHC hikers a tour of the lookout.

Lemmon Rock Lookout was erected in 1928 and is the oldest lookout still in use in the forest. The tiny building contains a work area, a kitchen, a sleeping area, and a fire finder in the same room. Although the layout remains original, many modernizations have occurred: electricity, hot and cold running water, an outdoor shower, and a vault toilet. Today, 50 permanent lookout towers remain in the forests of Arizona. Most of them are used seasonally throughout the dry, windy spring and during the first rains of summer.

The Osborne Fire Finder found in the Lemmon Rock lookout has been there as long as the lookout, almost 100 years! This device, similar to an engineer’s transit, was developed in 1911. It is very precise, with accuracy to 1/60th of a degree.

This particular lookout tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Of course, what would a hike in May on Mount Lemmon be without the threat of a snowball fight? There was plenty of snow in the shady areas on our descent along the Aspen Draw Trail! Hikers, beware (especially if Jeff Love is on your hike)!