Mt. Lemmon--Gordon Hirabayashi RA (Prison Camp)

Mt. Lemmon--Gordon Hirabayashi RA (Prison Camp)

Coronado National Forest Tucson, Arizona 85749

Gordon Hirabayashi Campground webpage
Mount Lemmon Attraction Guide
Things to Do on Mount Lemmon

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Mt. Lemmon

About this Location

The name Prison camp came from the Federal Honor Camp began in 1937 to house federal prisoners supplying labor to build a road providing access into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prisoners had been convicted of federal crimes ranging from immigration law violations to tax evasion to bank robbery.

During World War II, many of the prisoners were conscientious objectors whose religions prohibited them from serving in the military. Some were Japanese Americans protesting the “Japanese American Relocation,” the largest forced removal and incarceration in U.S. History. After the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 100,000 Japanese Americans, many American Citizens, were imprisoned in crowded internment camps for fear they would conduct espionage and sabotage along the west coast.

Gordon Hirabayashi was a senior at the University of Washington in 1942. He challenged the constitutionality of internment based on race or ancestry. He turned himself into the FBI rather than report for relocation. He was convicted and sentenced to serve at the honor camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

In 1987 Hirabayashi’s case was overturned. A federal commission determined that the internment had been motivated by racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. In 1988 the Civil Liberties Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan, which acknowledged the injustice and apologized for the internment.

In 1999 the Coronado National Forest renamed the site in honor of Dr. Hirabayashi and the other resisters of conscience who were imprisoned there. Dr. Hirabayashi and others attended the dedication ceremony.

Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue approximately 7 miles to the campground. As you go up the mountain, the campground entrance is on your left.

About Mt. Lemmon

Approximately an hour's drive from Tucson's city center, Mount Lemmon is a favorite day trip and camping spot for Tucsonans. It's a beautiful outdoor escape, ideal for hiking, biking, rock climbing, picnicking, sunset watching, sledding, and skiing.

Mount Lemmon is usually 20-30 degrees cooler than Tucson, so you can find cooler temperatures there in the summer and a beautiful layer of snow in the winter, along with vibrantly colored leaves in autumn.

With a summit of 9,159 feet, Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The mountain was named for botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain by horse and foot in 1881.

Mount Lemmon is a peak in the Catalina mountain range, surrounded by Coronado National Forest.

To reach Mount Lemmon from Tucson, turn off Tanque Verde Road onto Catalina Highway. Take Catalina Highway as far up the mountain as you desire to go!

On your way up the mountain, you may want to stop at Windy Point Vista (Mile Marker 14). This popular lookout point has bathrooms and is a terrific spot for photos.

Note that the road up the mountain is curvy with very few straight sections. If you or anyone in your car is prone to motion sickness, plan ahead by bringing bags, mints, cold water, snacks, or stomach-settling medications. It also helps to not drive on an empty stomach.

Take Catalina Highway northeast from Tanque Verde Road. For desert and mountain species, stop at picnic and campgrounds (Molina Basin, Bear Canyon, Rose Canyon Lake, and others) as you drive the narrow, winding road to high elevations.

Content from Gordon Hirabayashi Campground webpage, Mount Lemmon Attraction Guide, and Tucson Audubon Society