This description is of a hike
to the top of pine covered Madera Peak, which forms the northwestern corner of Arizona's Pinal Mountains. The hike follows a barricaded and incredibly steep 4x4 access road from the Warnica Springs Campground near Miami to the peak's 6647 foot summit. Although the climb up is tough, the hike's outstanding and unceasing views of all of central Arizona are more than enough reward. Hikers will earn their peak bag on this one.
The option for a shuttle hike exists, if you follow forest road 580 south from Madera Peak to forest road 651 (the road to Pinal Peak).
Start your hike at the locked gate at the entrance to the Warnica Springs Campground. The main road (forest road 906) continues on to the campground. Just behind the gate, a rough road takes off to the left. This is forest road 580; it is marked by a sign that says "primitive road-unsuited for public use". Start hiking up this road
, which immediately begins climbing up the chaparral covered mountainside. About a quarter mile in, the road forks; go left.
For the next mile, the road climbs steadily, all the while immersing you in increasingly wonderful views of Globe, Miami, and distant mountain ranges. The rounded summit of Madera Peak
looms high above, with its rich carpet of ponderosa pines. As you climb higher, the vegetation changes from scrub oak to manzanita, with some ponderosas on the north facing slopes.
Around the 5500 foot contour, the road starts its first wickedly steep pull, that terminates on a little pine covered bench, where a couple of small campsites can be had.
Now the road jogs west, and soon lands on a ridge line, which it follows to a hilltop at 6200 feet. From this lofty vantage point, one can now see the forested bowl of upper Steven's Gorge, the Superstition Mountains, and the lush, rolling green mountain tops of the western Pinals
The road becomes a bit more primitive as it rolls along the lightly forested ridge top, and soon makes a steep drop to a saddle at the base of Madera Peak itself.
Now the road begins a second wickedly steep climb, straight up the pine clad north face of Madera Peak. It's really more like a snow-less black diamond ski run covered in loose pebbles. Spectacular top-of-the-world views
provide a distraction, though. After a 500 foot climb in only a quarter of a mile, the road suddenly reaches the top, next to a lone tv tower. This is a false summit, the actual top of Madera Peak is a short distance to the south. From the tower, you can look down the mountainside and see how far you've come.
Continue following the now greatly improved road to a road junction in a saddle, just 0.1 miles to the south. Turn left at the yield sign onto an old pine needle covered road
, and follow it a short distance through the tall pines to an open area at the top of Madera Peak.
At the end of the road you are greeted by some weathered concrete footings with a large oak tree growing in the center. These are the remains of Madera Peak's 40 foot tall wooden fire lookout tower. Nestled among some rocks at the base of the oak tree is a half rotted summit register in a glass jar. Views from the top of the peak are limited, due to the forest.
Once you have had your fill of this sky island, head back down, and be careful on those steep sections. They are especially treacherous coming down!