Sunflower Spring (aka Quartzite Spring), Tucson, Arizona



High flow! Can fill a 3 gallon in under 2 minutes.

Once it snows, the remaining mile and a half or so to the top most parking lot is gated closed until snow season is over. At all other ‘access’ times of the year, one can park at the top parking lot a short walking distance from Steward Observatory. There is a trail that leads to Mt. Lemmon Trail #5. This is a service road that leads approximately a half mile to the capped spring which is a metal shed to the right side of the road. The pipe where the water comes out of is to the left of the road.

Nearest Address

Steward Observatory parking lot, top of Mt. Lemmon

Directions from Nearest Address

Begin at Steward’s parking lot. Walk toward the observatory, past the gate, and take the first hiking trail to your left. Continue down the hill, taking the right path at any trail junction. (There is also wild tobacco growing along this trail if you know what to look for.) About a mile down, the trail will turn abruptly to the right, and ahead on the right you will see a metal shed. Across from this shed, there is a hill (with sunflowers in the summer) dropping off to your left. You will be able to hear the water flowing. There are about 5 stone steps leading down a few feet, and a pipe sticking out from the hill! 🙂

Vital Information

  • Fee: Only to access Mt. Lemmon…none if you have a park pass.
  • Access: Public
  • Flow: Continuous
  • TDS: N/A
  • Temp: N/A
  • pH: N/A

Hours Spring is Open:

Daylight. Access road to Steward is closed during the winter.


Map Link: Sunflower Spring Map

Submitted by: Bri Date


  1. I have heard from a local Naturopath that this spring water has amoebas in it. Does anybody know? I used to live in Mt. Shasta Ca and heard that some people got sick because amoebas were in that water but i drank it right off the mountain and never had a problem.

    1. So, use Chlorine dioxide (MMS) if you feel infected. Who’s the naturopath and where did he/she have it analyzed, how often is he/she testing it, and so forth? It’s 8,000 feet up, comes out of a capped well, flows a short distance and out a PVC pipe… which is the only detrimental aspect of the spring. It’s far better then anything coming out from below that altitude. We’re lucky to even have a spring, so stop instilling fear in us!

      1. Wow, seems like a pretty harsh reply to an honest question. I do not know the answer to the original question either, but getting it tested sounds like a helpful idea. I’d love to know what anyone finds out about this water source. Thanks!

        1. I’d be very interested in going up with someone from Tucson on a Friday or a Saturday to get water. I’d be happy to eventually get the water tested as well. I like the idea!!!

      2. realnuz, How about we test the water and you can just put your hands over your ears. I’ve heard boogey men can’t see you if you don’t see them.

  2. The directions send us to Kitt Peak, has anyone been to this spring that can give us straight directions coming from RT 10 south of Tucson?

    1. Hey Gina. . . Obviously there is a discrepancy with written direction and the coordinates plugged into Google maps. I was hoping there was one south of Tucson too, however the directions are definitely for the top of the Santa Catalinas, Mt Lemmon. The written directions to Sunflower Spring at the site are accurate. Good Luck.

    2. The description says Mt. Lemmon, but the map shows Kitt Peak. Have lived in Tucson almost 30 years, but hadn’t heard of this well. Kitt Peak is on Native American land, so I don’t know if there would be any restrictions to using a well there.

  3. Sunflowers are cropping up in groves in Fukushima, and it’s no accident. Farmers and volunteers are planting the flower all across the area, in the hopes that the sunflowers will absorb some of the radiation.

    1. Didn’t know that, how beautiful! In the book, The Spiritual Properties of Herbs, Mullein’s purpose is to help heal traumatized land. And of course, zeolite, is the conventional soil treatment.

  4. Steward Observatory is at the top of Mt. Graham, yet this page says ‘Mt. Lemmon’ repeatedly. What the dilly-o?

    1. Actually, Steward Observatory is located on The University of Arizona campus- they have multiple observing sites in the Tucson area.

  5.  ADMIN you need to make some changes to this. I have heard from other people how difficult the directions for some reason to find.  If on I-10E (that is toward El Paso) take Houghton Exit. Go toward Mt Lemmon about 15 miles to Catalina Drive  Turn Right- then in a couple miles turns into Mt Lemmon Hwy.  The drive up to the top is over 20+miles from that point.  The drive is worth it itself – BEAUTIFUL. When you get to a STOP SIGN continue straight. Take FIRST RIGHT onto SKI RUN Road. There are THREE GATES to the top. Do not attempt in winter.  Today is APRIL 11 th and there was SNOW! so they do not have all three gates open in snowy weather and the walk to the water spring would be well over 2+ miles.  With three gates open you go to the top.  At the parking lot you leave and hike pass the gate or around the fence to TRAIL #5 Mt. Lemmon Trail.  It is .61 miles 15 minute walk downhill from parking lot to spring.  Stay on #5 trail.  There is a water shed on the right and the PVC pipe is to the Left of Road. There are no real step though there are rocks to handle though not actual stairs.  The views are beautiful at almost 9,000 feet.  There is camping on the mountain and many places to hike and take a camera.  The drive up Mount Lemmon covers the eco system similar from New Mexico to Canada – VERY BEAUTIFUL!!! There was a fire I hear 10 years ago and at least at the top you will see many trees / area burnt.  To the spring There is NO Public CAR access or Service Road that even a jeep could access as it is fenced or gated to the trail and trail is not really going to be that safe for a vehicle even if you could access the trail.  Considering a wheel barrow- though a good back pack would be best to haul water out.  Again Winter that drive of 20+ miles would be risky – sheer drop offs A LOT!

    1. These directions are accurate.  The only thing I would add is the trail #5 sign post is next to the electrical containment area surrounded by a chain link fence.  The other thing is when you come to the fork in trail #5 stay on trail #5, not trail #5A.  I collected a small amount of water and plan to get it tested.  I will post the results when I do.

      1. A very pretty hike and what a relief from the blazing heat of Tucson this month! Wondering if you got the spring water tested?  I drank some – it tasted great 🙂

  6. Went up there yesterday…..the USGS maps show it as Quartzite Spring…..not sure why you guys are calling it Sunflower spring (other than the sunflowers growing on the hillside)

  7. So, there is A LOT wrong with the directions to this spring. First off, the map image is wrong – it’s near an observatory on Mount Lemmon, not Kitt Peak. Also, I think the original author got confused because the spring is nowhere near the Steward Observatory. However, it is on a trail just to the left of the SkyCenter Observatory at the tippy-top of Mount Lemmon’s Ski Valley.

    The quickest/easiest way to find it is just to do a Google search for Mount Lemmon’s Trail #5. There is a parking lot for the trail head and signs directing you to it. About .6 miles into Trail #5, you will see a large metal shed to the right (can’t miss it) and the pipe is sticking out of the mountain to the left. I took some pictures and video, but don’t see a way to post them here.

    I’m disappointed because, logistically, it’s not really possible to collect a large amount of water from this spring unless you have a lot of time, energy, and strength. The trail is almost entirely uphill on the way back from the spring, and I had to stop and rest frequently with a single almost full 5 gallon bottle.

    I plan to send off some of the water I collected for testing, and I will post the results here. I do believe local people would harvest water from this spring regularly, if it were closer to a dirt service road. Is that a possibility? The pipe is pretty short, just sticking out of the mountain a couple feet. What would be involved in extending the pipe down the mountain to a point that people could reach it via one of the dirt service roads or wide trails? Anybody know?

  8. Extremely easy to find and located at the very top of Mt Lemmon ( 3rd gate past ski slope) stay on trail #5 look for a metal building ( pump house) directly across. I can’t tell you how many people walk past this and have no idea it’s right under there nose.

  9. I have visited this site twice in the past few months & harvested water. It is cold, delicious, and fresh! I actually spoke with a man who lives at the top of Lemmon in the lightning lookout tower. I had asked about the water & he informed me that they test it monthly, and it is actually the water he lives off of. Additionally, I purchased a ~$30 water testing kit and checked it out myself – nothing alarming came up. Hopefully this is some consoling and up-to-date information for anyone looking to drink this water..

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