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Sky Island Scenic Byway

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Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 29 miles / 46.7 km
  • Ride Time: 1-2 hours
  • Approximate Fuel Costs: $2.20
  • State: Arizona
Submitted by:
OpenRoadRider pro

Travel along one of the most scenic highways in the Southwest, complete with mountain forests, canyons, deserts, and breathtaking vistas. One of the only paved roads leading up to the top of Mt. Lemmon, it begins in the Lower Sonoran region and climbs up to the forests of the Canadian zone, providing a unique chance to experience four seasons in one trip. The parkway gets its name from areas of biological diversity in the Coronado National Forest that rise dramatically from the desert floor to stand wreathed in clouds as twelve widely scattered 'sky islands.'
You'll find several places along the Parkway that have wonderful vistas of the forest and desert far below. In particular, the trek up to Babad Do'ag Vista is the perfect place to pull out your picnic basket, take a rest from your climb and enjoy the view of the sky islands spread out before you. Aspen Vista also offers a fantastic view; your reward for making your way up there will be a panoramic view of the San Pedro Valley. Windy Point Vista offers dramatic views of the Santa Catalina Mountains with its deep canyons, and the Tucson Basin below invites you to explore.

The Sky Island Parkway provides a wide range of recreational opportunities, such as mountain-biking or horseback-riding on its many trails, or remote backcountry hiking in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. Mt. Lemmon offers alpine skiing in the winter and an escape from the desert heat in the summer.

The civilizations of the Tohono O'odham and the ancient Hohokam visited these mountains long before Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo settlers arrived. Gordon Hirabayashi refused a relocation order during the Second World War, and served a prison sentence here. Rife with historic importance along with its scenic beauty, the visually stunning Sky Island Scenic Byway offers a well-rounded trip for the traveler.

This is a winding mountain road with sharp curves and steep grades. Potential hazards include sudden weather changes, areas of concentrated traffic, and falling rock. Drivers should be aware of bicyclists on the Byway. No gasoline is available along the route.

The best time to drive is during the summer, when the trees in the Coronado Forest create a cool, shady enviornment to spend the day hiking.

Information was obtained by permission from

This is a motorcycle ride in the state of Arizona. This motorcycle route has 7 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by OpenRoadRider in February. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by OpenRoadRider

Rider Photos:

  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 1 for Sky Island Scenic Byway
  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 2 for Sky Island Scenic Byway
  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 3 for Sky Island Scenic Byway
  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 4 for Sky Island Scenic Byway
  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 5 for Sky Island Scenic Byway

Ride Scenery:

Urban/ResidentialParksFall ColorsForestMountainsRuralFarm Land

Best Time to Go

Spring, Summer, Fall

Road Characteristics:

Sweeping Curves RoadTwisty RoadHillyLight TrafficAverageRare Gas StationsRare

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Previous Comments from other Riders:

2kruseAZ says:

great ride and too much to see in one trip. Although be warned and watch out during the summer monsoon season, the storms will blow you off the bike. Plenty of Barney's to slow you down if you like some speed!
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:10 AM

bbally says:

Fantastic ride, 30 miles of twisty turning closing radius beautiful road! Road it to Mt Lemmon and back on 29 December 2011!
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:10 AM

bdking says:

I have not tried this road in Winter, but it is a wonderful way to get out of the desert heat in the summer. Watch out for Tucson traffic -- there are more fools per mile there than any other place in Arizona.
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:10 AM


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