Aptly named Summerhaven is gem of a cool escape

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Cookie Cabin (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Cookie Cabin (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The General Store (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The General Store (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Living Rainbow (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Living Rainbow (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Javier Soto on the ski lift (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Javier Soto on the ski lift (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Up in the cool pines and amongst the ponderosa, there’s a hidden gem about three hours away from The Valley.

Welcome to Summerhaven, which is located on Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains about 30 miles north of Tucson. During this summer heat here in Phoenix, it’s the perfect escape.

“We're 30 degrees cooler than in the Valley," says Leeanne Mack, one of the 38 people who permanently live in Summerhaven. "We have the pine trees. It's a lot closer than going up north."

However, like most small communities, the residents are more family than neighbors. That bond became apparent after a devastating wildfire.

“Fourteen years ago, this past Tuesday, this is what we looked like at 12:30 in the afternoon," an emotional Mack said while showing us pictures. "And this was what it looked like at 1:30 in the afternoon. We completely burned down to the ground."

“We used to have cabins that we rent out, but after the fire, we burned to the ground,” remembers Hillary Ingalls from The Cookie Cabin.  

[WATCH: Part 1 | Part 2]

But Debbie Fagan, owner of The Living Rainbow, was heartbroken when the Aspen Fire devastated her business and home.

“The hardest thing was, I couldn’t fight for it," she said. "I had to sit down there and watch when I really wanted to come up and fight for this mountain.”

When the Aspen Fire was finally put out, 350 buildings were lost, wiping out three-fourths of the village.

However, 14 years later, Summerhaven is back better than ever. Although all the businesses rebuilt, some of the homeowners did not.

When you drive through town, some of the burned timber remains as a reminder of that devastating time. But the spirit of the town was never lost.

“It's just so alive," Fagan said. "It's never boring. It's magical. It's a privilege to be able to live here amongst all the wildlife and nature.”

So, while visiting Summerhaven in the cooler temperatures, you should visit all five businesses.

The General Store is the heart of town where they have whatever you need. If you forget camping equipment, they got it. If you need water, they carry it. If you are looking for a souvenir, they have plenty of things you can buy to remember their unique town.

However, you can’t leave without a taste of some of their “world famous” fudge.

“People come up from Tucson, from Phoenix to get fudge from us," Mack said. "We also ship it across the country. We've shipped it overseas to people in the military. Yeah, we’re well-known for our fudge.” 

Speaking of souvenirs, if you are in search of a unique keepsake, you have to visit Fagan’s The Living Rainbow.

“I didn’t want to be a typical gift shop and I didn’t want anyone to figure me out when they walked through the door," she said. "I think they all have assumptions of what's in here, but there are so many things in here that you forget where you are.”

After walking under the pine trees and enjoying Summerhaven you might be ready for a snack. Next stop? The Legendary Cookie Cabin.

“The chocolate chip is our most famous and you can't go wrong with it," Ingalls said. "We do have a bunch of other cookies that are equally delicious in my opinion.” 

But if you’re only visiting to escape the heat, then you might as well jump on the ski lift and head up Mt. Lemmon to 9,125 feet and really enjoy the cool air.

“It's a really beautiful environment. It's insane to go from cactus and sand to ponderosa pine trees and aspen trees," Ingalls said. "It's a unique experience.”

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