A huge Saguaro cactus, gilded with morning light, seems to be pointing the way to the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson. The Santa Catalinas, crowned by 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon, rise in ragged ridges from the north edge of Tucson to cool forests atop the higher slopes. A paved road, the Catalina Highway/Sky Island Scenic Byway, winds high into the mountains past many vistas and recreation areas. Down below, a tram ride or easy walk takes you into Sabino Canyon, an oasis of greenery beneath rock walls dotted with saguaro cactus.

Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson

Meet People From Tucson, Arizona

The Santa Catalina Mountains are located north of Tucson, Arizona, United States. Commonly referred to as the Catalinas, the mountain range is the most prominent in the Tucson area, with the highest average elevation.

Satellite image of Santa Catalina Mountains

In 1697, the tireless Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino visited a Tohono O’odham village near what’s now Tucson. He may have been the first to name it, and the high ranges to the north and east, Santa Catarina. Mount Lemmon honors botanist Sara Lemmon, who, with her husband John, discovered many species of plants on an 1881 expedition to the summit.

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Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona

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