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.
Whether you're up for a day trip or refueling post-hike, here's our guide on where to eat and drink on the mountain.
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.
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 is served on grilled sourdough with chipotle mayo. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and a choice of side.
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.
For more information, visit skithelemmon.com. Keep up with Iron Door Restaurant and Ski Valley on Facebook.
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.
The other popular option is pizza, available by the half-slice, full-slice, or 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.
For more information, visit thecookiecabin.org. Keep up with Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin on Facebook.
While you'll mostly find 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 dining 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:
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.
For more information, visit mtlemmon.com.
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.
For more information, visit sawmillrun.com. Keep up with Sawmill Run Restaurant on Facebook.
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.
The journey up Mount Lemmon is something special. You've got beautiful views on both sides of the vehicle while traveling along its curvy path — enough to get you pumped about getting to the top. However, if you need a pick-me-up on the way back down, there will soon be a new option.
Mt. Lemmon Coffee Bean is currently getting things in motion as it prepares to open up at 12925 N. Sabino Canyon Parkway in the Spring of 2022.
Once construction is complete, the new coffee shop will be nestled near the new Mount Lemmon Hotel, serving as both a walk-up coffee counter for guests, a daily spot for those who live up on the mountain, and a refreshing beverage for the folks driving up for a day trip.
Read our December 1, 2021 article "Mt. Lemmon Coffee Bean to open its doors in Spring of 2022."
[This article was originally written on June 23, 2016, and most recently updated on December 10, 2021]
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...