Aspen Meadow & Aspen Draw – Mt. Lemmon
A wonderful, cool ride, and fun descent, but not incredibly long. Seven miles WITH the steep asphalt uphill should you choose to hit the pavement first. Aspen Draw is singletrack for almost all of the return downhill but because it’s so short, this is a loop you will probably want to do twice. Ride it, eat in Summerhaven, and ride it again. It is 30 degrees cooler than the Tucson basin and feels all of it. 8,000 to 9,000 ft. elevation so the air is a lot thinner and you will most definitely take notice of this. The uphill on the little used road to the Observatory is fairly tough and the singletrack has some technical challenges (logs, roots, tree stumps, switchbacks, etc.) and it is multi-use so you WILL see hikers. Because this trail has many blind corners and invites lots of speed, please be very alert and cautious of other potential trail users, and yield to anyone coming up the hill.
Directions: Take the Mt. Lemmon Highway to the top (Summerhaven) and park in the paved area as you enter the village. If you’re riding up the road, get on your bike and ride up Bowie Street/Turkey Run Road, which is due West of the parking lot. It will become a dirt road, then dirt double-track, and will split at the END of Aspen Draw on your left. Swing right and you’ll find a singletrack that climbs up alongside Ski Valley Road, which will dump you out right at the Ski Valley parking lot. From here, take the paved road to the Observatory on the top of the mountain.
If you’re shuttling, leave a car at the parking lot, and backtrack a bit to Ski Run Road, then drive to the large dirt pullout near the top.
Aspen Draw Trailhead: From the dirt pullout, take the dirt Jeep road due East, toward the radio towers. Once you pass the chairlift, Aspen Draw trail will be on your left. Point your bike down, and have a blast!
Aspen Meadow Trailhead: If you’d like to tack on a bit more of a ride with some climbing, and a great detour to the Mt. Lemmon Fire Station, you can ride Aspen Meadow trail before Aspen Draw. From the dirt pullout, continue to ride up the paved road a few hundred yards, and you’ll see a parking lot on your left, with restrooms, etc. On the southeast corner of the fenced electrical area, you’ll find Aspen Meadow Trail. It will meander through a gorgeous meadow (hence the name), down some technical singletrack, and end at a “T” intersection/old jeep road overlooking Tucson far below you. Take a left on the road and enjoy the vista. Eventually, you will come to a Y with the left fork heading uphill back where you began. Down the right fork of the “Y” is the Mt. Lemmon fire station lookout. It is one of the oldest still standing, and is perched on an outcropping of rock with an amazing view. You will have to leave your bike at the “Y” as it is Wilderness Area past this point, but it is a short walk to the lookout. From the “Y” start the grueling climb up the rocky jeep road, and eventually, when your lungs are about to explode, you should be at the top. From there, you can work your way back to the dirt pullout and head down Aspen Draw.
Shuttling Option: One of our great sponsors, Southwest Trekking, offers a shuttle service for those interested. You need to have at least six riders, and the cost is usually around $15/person. Contact John at SWTrekking and tell him you found this on the SDMB site. They can drop you off anywhere you want on the mountain, and can even pick you up to take you to other trails if needed. Shuttling, you can do Aspen Draw, Green Mountain, Bug Springs, Prison Camp, AZTrail-Molino Basin trail and La Milagrosa for a technical-lovers dream day-ride. Be aware this combo ride is brutal and not for the faint-of-heart.