The cool mountain breeze and fresh forest air make patio dining sublime.
Campfire cast iron cooking skills require an unexpected level of finesse. You’re not supposed to cook over the fire, just the coals. And getting the fire started? Fuh-get about it.
Not to mention the fear of being the one responsible for accidentally burning down the forest. The look of shame from Smokey would be unbearable, and you know he’s the type of bear to say, “I told you so.”
Head to Ski Valley and Summerhaven
Atop Mt. Lemmon, eating and drinking options are conveniently located at Ski Valley and Summerhaven.
It’s no city of gastronomy but it hits the spot after a long hike through any of the nearby trails or if you’re simply looking for a cooler place to spend the day (sans hike).
It’s generally 20 to 30 degrees cooler than Tucson and less than an hour to the top. The cool mountain breeze and fresh forest air make patio dining sublime.
While beer and wine are available at a couple of places, make sure you also try a crisp glass of water. Sourced from springs in Carter Canyon and Upper Sabino Canyon, it’s easy to taste the difference even if you’re not a water snob.
Iron Door Restaurant
10300 Ski Run Rd., Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619
Near the mountain peak at Ski Valley (one server rides a shuttle for three hours each day to work here), Iron Door restaurant is surrounded by flowers and hummingbird feeders, so you’ll channel your inner Disney Princess on the patio.
Hearty mountain meals
For a hearty mountain meal, order the Iron Door Chili served with onion, cheese, sour cream, and cornbread. The crumbly cornbread is on the sweeter side, which complements the subtle heat in the chili. Drizzle a little honey on your house baked cornbread for something a little more decadent.
For something meaty, try Garth’s Gully. Sliced beef smothered in green chiles and cheddar are served on grilled sourdough with chipotle mayo. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and a choice of side.
Don’t skip the dessert
For dessert, don’t miss out on the Ski the Lemmon Famous Individual Pie. Though there are many flavors available, the standout is the Mtn. Berry, which was inspired by the wild berries that used to grow in the area.
Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin
12781 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy, Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619
Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin is sadly not a cabin made out of cookies.
However, it is a cozy two-story cabin that regularly cranks out Giant Massive Cookies big enough to feed four people. There are standard options like chocolate chip and peanut butter, but try the Rachel, which includes oats, coconut, and butterscotch chips.
Cookies… or pizza
The other popular option is pizza, available by the half-slice, full-slice, 16-inch pie.
For toppings, choose from pepperoni, sausage, chicken, olives, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
Once you’re done loading on carbs, feel free to walk next door to peek at trinkets in the Living Rainbow Gift Shop.
Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop
12856 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy., Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619
Stock up on picnic goodies and other useful items
While you’ll find mostly food and drink at the restaurants, you’ll find the miscellaneous at Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop.
If you need a pocket knife with your name on it or you forgot to bring a bottle of wine for your camping trip, this is the place to stock up. Or, if you simply decide you’d rather picnic on the mountain instead of dine at a restaurant, this is where to pick up the goods.
In regards to edible items, they’re most famous for their homemade fudge, available in a variety of flavors:
- Butter Pecan
- Chewy Praline
- Chocolate Caramel Nut
- Cookies ‘n Cream
- Heath English Toffee
- Maple Nut
- Mint Chocolate Swirl
- Peanut Butter Chocolate
- Raspberry Chocolate Swirl
- Salted caramel
- Rocky Road
- Vanilla Walnut Fudge
- Caramel Apple Pie
- Orange Cream
- Peppermint Bark
- Pumpkin Pecan
- Pumpkin Praline
If you just can’t get enough of the fudge, you can call in to have it shipped.
The General Store also offers a house-brand coffee, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and jarred salsas.
Fore more information, visit mtlemmon.com.
Sawmill Run Restaurant
12976 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy., Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619
Sawmill Run offers a rotating menu, reflecting the seasons on Mt Lemmon.
While sandwiches and burgers are still on the menu, you can call in to keep up-to-date with the menu weekly. Past creations include the Louisiana Alligator Burger and Stuffed Monkfish Tail.
Nap in comfort with spectacular mountain views
Mt. Lemmon cuisine is mostly comfort food, so bring a hammock.
A nap or reading session hanging between the trees after your feast is the perfect distraction from anything.
And ideally, you’d stay the night or weekend. Rental options are sparse but available. Visit mtlemmon.com for a list of places to find lodging.