Summerhaven Arizona is a lovely little vacation community that occupies a spot on Mount Lemmon at about 8200 feet above sea level smack dab in the middle of the Coronado National Forest of southern Arizona.
You reach it by hiking the Arizona Scenic Trail or by driving the winding Sky Island Scenic Byway out of Tucson Arizona. Plan on plenty of stops for scenic overlooks and oohs and aahs at the massive granite outcroppings and spectacular views of the Tucson Basin.
And if you happen to ride a bicycle the 24 miles to Summerhaven, managing the 6,000 foot altitude gain on two wheels, this is your reward:
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Hiking the Arizona Scenic Trail to Summerhaven
If I may, allow me to tell you what brought me to Summerhaven Arizona and the Cookie Cabin.
My friend Melanie is a long-distance hiker with a goal to hike all of the National Scenic Trails. That’s about 35,000 miles total. At about 6,000 miles into her goal, she began the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail. She invited me and a couple of close friends to join her.
Now I’m not much of a hiker, although I have been known to climb a mountain or two. But our mutual friend Amy has kicked butt on some strenuous hikes and marathons. So we agreed that Amy and Melanie would hike and I would be their trail angel, bringing them water and other supplies, and camping with them at the end of their long day on the trail.
My trail name became Clarence. Clarence the angel, second class.
Eager to earn my wings, Clarence the Trail Angel was on the job.
Arizona’s Sky Island Scenic Byway to Summerhaven
Before you start out on the Sky Island Scenic Byway, download the app for the Mount Lemmon Science Tour. This cool app is produced by the University of Arizona College of Science and explains how all of the life forms in this area contribute to the beauty and unparalleled diversity of this short drive. It will tell you where to stop, what to look for and why it’s important. The app is free.
On my drive up Mount Lemmon in a four wheel drive SUV, I was often surrounded and sometimes passed by people on bicycles. Going up the mountain.
But I made it up to Summerhaven and quickly noted that snow at the trailhead was more than two feet deep. No way were Amy and Melanie going to post hole through that.
Then, I set out to locate The Cookie Cabin. Summerhaven is just about two blocks long, so it wasn’t a long search.
Visiting the Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven Arizona
The Cookie Cabin is exactly what the name suggests — simply a little log cabin that sells really big cookies. They also sell pizza and chili and such, but that’s not alliteratively compatible with cabin. Hikers on the Arizona Trail make it a point to stop at the Cookie Cabin.
It’s a friendly, family-owned business and just as adorable as can be with lots of outdoor seating that would be enjoyable in warm weather, but hey, there was two feet of snow on the ground.
Just as I entered the door, I was surrounded by those bicyclists. It turns out they were members of the U.S. Army West Point Triathlon Team. This ride up Mount Lemmon was a part of their training program. And their reward for the uphill climb was the Ice Cream Cookie. It’s a pizza-sized cookie of your choice with four scoops of ice cream, a mountain of whipped cream and as many toppings as you can handle.
The cadets estimated it was easily 2,000 calories of carbohydrates. They had certainly earned it. Their energy and exuberance was contagious, and I smiled realizing I was old enough to be their mother.
I ordered a chocolate chip and butterscotch cookie to go for Amy and Melanie.
Melanie devoured the cookie, saying it saved her life.
We pledged that instead we would tell people that Clarence saved their lives by wrestling a charging javelina to the ground or jumping into a freezing river in Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve.
Which ever story you believe, Clarence the Trail Angel earned her wings on the Arizona Scenic Trail, proving once again that it is indeed a wonderful life when you have friends.
Planning on hiking in Arizona? Try these resources:
When you are out and about in rural Arizona, you might find yourself driving past the Biosphere. Pull in and explore. I did while I was waiting to connect with Melanie and Amy on a trailhead. Here’s my story.
And later, on the last day I served as Trail Angel, Amy and I discovered the wonderful little town of Superior, AZ. We highly recommend you spend some time in this sweet little town.