High on the Catalina Highway, just a few miles from Summerhaven, sits Mount Bigelow, namesake feature of the USGS Mount Bigelow quad. Its summit studded by communications towers, its slopes heavily wooded, many motorists cruise right over the southern slopes of this peak without a second glance. From the south, the peak looks mellow, heavily wooded in dense evergreens and unassuming, but from roadside overlooks higher up the road, the step northwestern slopes are more dramatic, and this peak beckons to be climbed.
Views are limited from the USGS benchmark immediately under the large communications towers at the summit, but nice views to the east, south and west can be enjoyed from clearings just below the summit. The summit, in fact, is a bit of a mess, with winds howling through the towers and structures. Yet the summit of Mount Bigelow would be a nice place to avoid the heat of summer or even stomp through some light winter snow gracing the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Rank: 161st highest peak in Arizona
Prominence: 800 feet
USGS Quad: Mount Bigelow
Rank & Prominence: Lists of John
This peak can be accessed by trail or service road from at least four different directions, though most visitors would be content to gain the summit from the General Hitchcock Highway, also known as the Catalina Highway or the Mount Lemmon Highway. The Palisade Visitor Center (milepost 19.5), a great jumping off spot to reach the summit of Mount Bigelow, can be reached within an hour of downtown Tucson. Take Tanque Verde (often pronounced “TANKy VURdy" by the locals) diagonally across the northeast edge of town to East Catalina Highway. Follow East Catalina Highway North for about 4.5 miles to the Forest Service boundary. Here the road becomes the General Hitchcock Highway…or the Catalina Highway…or the Mount Lemmon Highway.
Note that the highway is paved, but longer vehicles (22 feet or greater) or those towing a trailer may have difficulty negotiating tight curves.
Use of the Mount Lemmon area, including the Catalina Highway, is subject to a $5 vehicle / use fee.
Visit this National Forest webpage for detailed regulations governing use of this area.
The Santa Catalina Ranger District operates several campgrounds along the Santa Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon. These are (in distance up the highway from the valley):
• Molino Campground
• General Hitchcock Campground
• Rose Canyon Lake