Written By: Keith Schreiber of The Studebaker Group
I was born in Arizona, and I’ve moved 20 times in my life. I’ve seen beautiful places in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. And now I’m back in Arizona. As much as I love Real Estate, I love to get in the car and drive. Road trips to me are incredibly fun. Having grown up in the 70s, my parents would throw my sister and me in the car and we travel all over the states!
Now that I’m back in Arizona for the third time, I’m taking road trips that I never had a chance to take. One of my favorites is the Catalina Highway. The beginning of the drive is about 2 1/2 hours from Phoenix, depending on where you live. It starts in the desert of Tucson and climbs the mountains on the most scenic and amazing road I’ve ever seen. That’s in comparison to Roads in the Alps and in Colorado which have their own unique beauty.
Catalina Highway, also known as General Hitchcock Highway, is located in Pima county. It is a paved road that goes from the low desert and climbs to Alpine forest, 6000 feet to the ski resort near the summit of Mount Lemmon. Along the way, you pass through a beautiful little town called Summerhaven. You can stop there to grab a coffee, ice cream, or a burger. It’s a great little town. Further up at the end of your journey, there is a fantastic restaurant at the base of the ski resort. They serve soups, salads, and sandwiches!
Construction was started in 1933 and completed in 1950. It was a very treacherous road and was considered one of the most dangerous in Pima county. In 1988 a construction project began that was completed in 2007 to the tune of $15 million.
The beauty of the ascent all the way up is breathtaking. Sometimes it looks like you’re going to fall right off the edge, but the road is fantastic and safe. There are portions of the road that are built up along the Ridgeline. It’s stunning. If you go in the winter-time, and it’s open, there’s snow along the way. Make sure you have a four-wheel-drive as 2 Wheel Drive vehicles are not permitted to drive up during this time.
Along the way, there are places to camp and actual campgrounds. Throwing snowballs in the desert while it’s hot in the valley is a real joy.
Note: This stretch of highway is currently (June 2020) closed due to the BigHorn fire. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management has listed Summerhaven and Catalina to be the top two communities of Pima county for wildfires. Living in the desert, we know that wildfires are happening more and more frequently. As many as 90% of wildfires are caused by humans according to the Insurance Information Institute. Arizona’s hot, dry climate makes wildfire a significant concern year-round. The Arizona Emergency Information Network has a few tips for reducing the effects of wildfire for your home, business, and family. Please visit this link for the Pima County Wildfire Protection Plan.