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The Full Lemmon Drop in Tucson, Arizona is what The Whole Enchilada is to Moab: a 25+ mile link-up of world-class mountain bike trails that plunge down ridges and canyons, ascend up steep climbs (or hike-a-bikes), navigate tricky trail obstacles, and more.
In short, it’s an epic, all-day ride.
However, as you’ll read below, it’s important to note that the Full Lemmon Drop is no walk in the park. It’s much more rugged, remote, and challenging than the Whole Enchilada and should only be attempted by experienced mountain bikers who are used to big days in the saddle and don’t mind a bit of suffering. If that sounds like you, though, you’re in for a treat!
In this post, I share everything you need to know about riding the Full Lemmon Drop including what to expect, how to shuttle it, alternative ride options, and more.
Ready for adventure? Let’s ride!
(Also, sorry about the lack of photos. I rode this before I started Two Wheeled Wanderer…)
Watch Nate Hills Ride the Full Lemmon Drop with Randy Sooter
Important Things to Know
Lemmon Drop Trail Packing List
Below are a few of my favorite pieces of mountain biking gear and recommendations for your Mt. Lemmon ride:
What to expect
The Full Lemmon Drop is a 31-mile ‘descent’ down Mt. Lemmon from just below the summit all the way down to its base. I put ‘descent’ in quotation marks because there is still quite a bit of climbing (3,000+ ft), mostly along the lines of steep hike-a-bikes.
Riders can also expect:
This is a full-day endeavor and should not be taken lightly!
But if you’re up for everything this trail will throw at you, it’s a must-ride for sure.
Mt. Lemmon Shuttle Options
You’ll need to either set up your own shuttle for the Full Lemmon Drop or use the locally owned Home Grown to get you to the top.
If you’re self shuttling, park one car at the the base of La Milagrosa (or Molino Basin if you choose not to do La Milagrosa – see the trail guide below). Drive time from the La Milagrosa Trailhead to the Aspen Draw Trailhead at the top is about an hour.
If you’re using Home Grown, they offer shuttles to the top for the Full Lemmon Drop or you can opt for a shorter day by choosing their Middle Mountain Adventure which accesses Bug Springs. You can also hire a Home Grown guide for the day or get fitted with a rental bike.
The Full Lemmon Drop Map & Trail Guide
The Full Lemmon Drop is not super well marked and it can be easy to get turned around. A phone (or two) with TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded is a must!
The Full Lemmon Drop starts on Aspen Draw near the summit at just over 9,000 ft. Enjoy the fast, flowy dirt of this trail because there’s nothing else like it on the rest of the ride! Aspen Draw descends down through pine forest with tight switchbacks and one rock garden that comes up fast.
To access Aspen Draw, you’ll need to pedal a short way down a fire road and then the trail will be on your left.
At the bottom of Aspen Draw, take the road into Summerhaven where you will then make your way to Sunset along North Sabino Canyon Park road.
Sunset is a short one-mile connector trail with several pretty technical rocky sections to get you warmed up for Incinerator Ridge. The end of Sunset will bring you to a hiking trail that connects into Mt. Bigelow Road.
If you’re not warmed up already, this three-mile climb will do the trick. Just before you get to the water tower, you’ll see a trail to the left and that’s the start of Incinerator Ridge.
Incinerator Ridge is where the real riding begins! It is steep, rocky, loose, and very raw with several tight switchbacks that require impressive bike handling skills to get around.
If you have ridden Bug Springs and Molino Basin and found those trails challenging, you will be walking a lot of Incinerator Ridge.
Green Mountain is a little bit more civilized (I say that in an endearing way) than Incinerator Ridge in that it’s not as rocky and chunky, but it is still very steep in places with large rock steps to bounce down.
Green Mountain starts with a grunt of an up (aka a hike-a-bike) and then it gets right back into full-on DH.
Both Incinerator Ridge and Green Mountain are good trails to stop and session features if you have time (and energy) to spare.
Bug Springs & Molino Basin
Now things start to get fast and flowy again. Bug Springs is one of the most popular trails in Tucson and for good reason. Most of the hardcore tech is left behind on Green Mountain and the trail opens up into hard, fast singletrack with a few rock gardens just because it’s Mt. Lemmon.
You’re now mostly below the tree line, so the views out over Tucson and Saguaro National Park are stunning. Molino Basin is a little less fun because it’s not as fast 🙂 but still pretty darn fun.
Ok, now back to the rocky rowdy stuff. La Milagrosa is the final trail on the Full Lemmon Drop and since you’re probably pretty knackered at this point it’ll feel like the hardest. But it’s so fun!
La Milagrosa is arguably Tucson’s best technical descent. Where Incinerator Ridge and Green Mountain are more stop-and-go, La Milagrosa has flow and style. But there’s definitely still the tech, so check your speed.
La Milagrosa will dump you out at the base of Mt. Lemmon where you (should) have a car and cold drink waiting for you.
is it for you?
The Full Lemmon Drop is not for the fainthearted. Not only is it long (30 miles is a big day on a mountain bike in this terrain), but it’s also very challenging technically, physically, and – at times – mentally.
As I mentioned above, most of these trails are not built for bikers, but rather they’re multi-use hiking trails. Some sections – especially on Green Mountain – have huge rock steps to bumble down and steep, unswitchbacked climbs. Don’t expect the Full Lemmon Drop to be ‘purpose-built’. This is partly what makes it so unique!
All that being said, The Full Lemmon Drop is a blast if you take it for what it is: raw, old-school, gnarly in sections, and a full-day adventure.
Alternative Route Option
If you still want to experience some Mt. Lemmon riding but don’t want to do the rugged and demanding Full Lemmon Drop, a good alternative is to just do the Bug Springs/Molino Basin section. Both of these trails are super fun without the gnarly rock gardens.
You’ll still need to shuttle this route (unless you’re up for a hefty pedal up General Hitchcock Highway), but Bug Springs and Molino Springs are far more accessible to intermediate (NOT beginner) riders.
If you want to add a few more miles and a bit more tech, you could also tack on Green Mountain above and/or La Milagrosa below, but keep in mind that both of these trails are very challenging.
The Best Time To Ride The Lemmon Drop
The Full Lemmon Drop is best ridden in the fall/early winter when the hot Tucson temps simmer down and the snow has yet to fly.
I rode it in November and it was perfect. Of course, that depends on the year, but I’d say that October-November is prime and you may be able to get away with later winter months if it doesn’t snow (yes, Arizona gets snow).
Looking for more fun things to do?
Check out these popular tours in Tucson
The Full Lemmon Drop is a full-day, full-on adventure. It’s not for the faint-of-heart nor is for riders just starting out. You’ll need good skills, excellent fitness, and a mindset for adventure.
If that sounds like you, then you’re in for a treat! The Full Lemmon Drop is the epitome of an epic ride with a little bit of everything thrown at you: fast flow, steep hike-a-bikes, technical rock gardens, and more.
Be sure you are prepared with TrailForks downloaded to your phone, plenty of water and food (bring more than just a few bars), your mountain bike pack essentials, and a first aid kit.
Have you ridden the Lemmon Drop in Tucson? What did you think? Would you do it again? Leave a comment below!