The Santa Catalina Mountains, commonly referred to as the Catalina Mountains or the Catalinas, on the north and northeast of Tucson, Arizona. The mountain range is the most prominent in the Tucson area, with the highest average elevation. The highest point in the Catalinas is Mount Lemmon at an elevation of 9,157 feet (2,791 m) above sea level and receives 180 inches (460 cm) of snow annually. Due to the surrounding climate and the large elevation difference between the highest and lowest points, the mountain range also boasts several different “biome” types–or ecosystems dominated by certain groups of vegetation, from saguaro cactus to fir- and pine-dominated forests–allowing for a multitude of year-round recreational opportunities.

Originally known by the Tohono O’odham Nation as Babad Do’ag, the Catalinas were later named in 1697 by Italian Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino in honor of St. Catherine who was the patron saint of Kino’s oldest sister. Mount Lemmon is named after Sara Lemmon, a plant collector and the first white woman to ascend the peak in the 1870s.

Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), on Mt. Lemmon, is a project to discover comets and asteroids, and to search for near-Earth objects (NEOs). More specifically, CSS is to search for any potentially hazardous asteroids that may pose a threat of impact . Its southern hemisphere counterpart, the Siding Spring Survey (SSS) was closed in 2013.

This area also includes the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area, created in an attempt to preserve one of the few remaining Arizona populations of Desert Big Horn Sheep. A reintroduction effort of 31 adult big horn sheep took place in 2013, which resulted in at least two naturally-born lambs the following year. Due to the sensitive nature of this effort, there are are certain restrictions on recreational use in this area that do not apply elsewhere in the district.

Region Information

Latitude: 32.3457 Longitude: -110.6485

Counties: Cochise, Pima & Pinal

Unique Flora:

Douglas fir

Mountain mahogany

Ponderosa pine

Single-leaf piñon pine


Unique Fauna:

American black bear


Canyon Tree Frog

Desert Big Horn Sheep

Mountain lion/Cougar

Highest Point: Mt. Lemmon: 9,157 ft (2,790 m)

and clear

Lowest Point: Sabino Canyon: 2,800 ft (850 m)

and clear


Points of Interest

What To Do

Image of Mt. Lemmon

Mt. Lemmon

  1. Enjoy the beautiful drive up the Catalina Highway Scenic Drive
  2. Discover Ski Valley
  3. Escape the heat in Summer Haven
Image of Redington Pass

Redington Pass

Connect with one of our partners Friends of Redington Pass to find out more information

Image of Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon

  1. Read more info on Coronado National Forest Sabino Canyon Page
  2. Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists always host fun activities!
  3. Sabino Canyon Volunteer Patrol provide helpful information to plan your trip