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Madera Canyon-Nature Trail to Wrightson, AZ
Description 35 Triplogs 1 Topic
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 Tucson - South
Difficulty 2    Route Finding
Distance One Way 4.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,500 feet
Elevation Gain 1,000 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5
Kokopelli Seeds 7.58
Author Trishness
Descriptions 14
Routes 0
Photos 682
Trips 186 map ( 1,244 miles )
Age 56
Location Apache Junction, AZ
Rated Viewed All Mine Friends
3  2014-05-30 pat shaw
5  2014-03-26 Jonnybackpack
36  2013-12-26
Madera Meander
35  2013-09-27 Bradshaws
1  2013-09-08 fricknaley
34  2013-08-30 rwstorm
26  2013-08-30 Outdoor Lover
30  2012-09-28 Bradshaws
9  2012-09-16
Madera Canyon Nature Trai
18  2012-09-16
Madera Canyon at Summer's
47  2012-04-29 tibber
48  2012-04-28
Bog-Kent Springs Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Trailhead Forecast
Historical Weather
Map - Rainbow Expeditions Santa Ritas
Forest Coronado
Wilderness Mount Wrightson
Backpack - Possible - Not Popular
Seasons - Late Spring to Late Autumn
Official Route
Alternative Routes
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.0  Agua Caliente Saddle Dos Veces
0.0  Jack Mountain Loop
0.0  Kent Spring Trail #157
0.0  Old Baldy - Super Trail Loop
0.0  Old Baldy Trail #372 to Wrightson Summit
0.0  Roger's Rock
[ View More! ]
     Acorn Woodpecker
     Arizona Gray Squirrel
     Arizona Woodpecker
     Black Bear
     Black-chinned Hummingbird
     Black-headed Grosbeak
   Blue-throated Hummingbird
     Bordered Patch Butterfly
     Broad-billed Hummingbird
     Broad-winged bush Katydid
     Checkered White Butterfly
     Costa's Hummingbird
     Desert Grassland Whiptail
     Dull Firetip Skipper
     Empress Leilia Butterfly
     Fungus Beetle
     Hepatic Tanager
     Horse Lubber Grasshopper
     Ladybug beetle
     Lazuli Bunting
     Leaf Beetle
     Lesser Goldfinch
     Mexican Jay
     Monarch butterfly
     Mule Deer
     Painted Redstart
     Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly
     Queen Butterfly
     Red Admiral Butterfly
     Red-spotted Purple Butterfly
     Song Sparrow
   Sonoran Spotted Whiptail
     Stink Bug
 Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
 Unidentified Butterfly
     Unidentified Fauna
     White Tailed Deer
     Wild Turkey
     Yarrow's Spiny Lizard
     Arizona White Oak
     Barrel Cactus
     Common Monkey Flower
     Hookers Evening Primrose
     Japanese honeysuckle
     Mountain Dandelion
   Smooth Bouvardia
   Starfish Flower
     Sweet Four O'Clock

Bird-watchers paradise
by Trishness

The Santa Rita Mountains are one of the many "Sky Islands" located in southeastern Arizona and Madera Canyon is a lovely gem located on the northwest side of this magnificent range under the towering Mount Wrightson (elev 9453 ft) the third tallest peak in Arizona and the tallest in the Santa Rita Range. Being one of the "Sky Islands", this canyon has unique and diversified flora and fauna with over 230 different species of birds recorded and documented, including more than a dozen species of hummingbirds that live in this ecosystem. April through June afford the best bird-watching months with June and September being the best for hummingbirds. I personally recorded 6 different species of hummingbirds in one afternoon including the male/female of the Broad Billed, Magnificent, Calliope, White-eared, Anna's and Black Chinned hummingbirds that visited the feeders located on the grounds of the Santa Rita Lodge which was our home for three days while we explored the area. Other species we saw included the Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, White-Crested Nuthatch, Goldfinches, House Finches, Warblers, Vireos and Chickadees. We were also witness to an Elf Owl that had set up a nest (with babies!!) in the telephone pole outside our cabin and mysteriously appeared around 8:30 PM as she cried "chy-ewp" and then we heard another similar cry from across the trees which we think was her mate answering her. It seems they were a tandom pair and one stayed with the nest as the other went off for food. An Elf owl is about the size of a sparrow and is the smallest of the species.

The area is as rich with history as it is with wildlife. Madera is the Spanish word for lumber or wood and was so named because it served as a major source of timber for Tucson over a century ago. Mount Wrightson is named after William Wrightson, a Nogales mining superintendent who was killed by Apaches near Sonoita in the 1860's. William Wrightson is also credited with bringing the first printing press to the Arizona Territory and published the first weekly newspaper in Tubac called "The Arizonian" in 1859.

The Nature trail starts at the Santa Rita Lodge and makes its way on the west side of Madera Creek and continues for 2.7 miles to the Mount Wrightson picnic area. This trail can best be described as a "nice stroll" and very well maintained with a bit of elevation gain through typical shaded oak-juniper forest of this elevation. My hiking companion and I found this to be pretty easy and there were nice views of Madera Canyon below us and the Santa Rita's to our East. The ridgeline of the Santa Ritas included Old Baldy (Mt Wrightson, Mt McCleary, Jack Mtn, and Mt Hopkins, where the Smithsonian had an observatory. It was an overcast day and temps were pleasant in the 70's with a nice breeze. This trail gains about 1000 feet in about two miles then levels out before intersecting with the Super Trail and Old Baldy Trails at the 2.7 mile mark. There is also the Carrie Nation Trail to Vault Mine trail from this intersection. We decided that we didn't have enough yet and started up a well maintained Super Trail toward Josephine Saddle (elev 7080 ft) and decided we would make the saddle or turn around at any given point. As we headed up the Super Trail, the flora gave way to more pine forest and there was a lovely little creek running. This is where we saw an abundance of birds including a Hooded Oriole, Robin and a Spotted Towhee. We were looking for an Elegant Trogan but didn't see any on this trip although there were reports of several nesting pairs in the canyon. We decided to turn around after hiking about 1 1/2 miles in on the Super Trail and vowed to return when we had more time to make the saddle or go to the peak. We took the paved road back to the Santa Rita Lodge and thought we may have heard the Elegant Trogan which supposedly sounds like an angry duck.

I should also mention here that this is Black Bear country although we saw none on our trip. Bobcats too. We also saw two very graceful white tailed deer that drank from the birdbath in front of our cabin at 6 AM. They know where the water is!

This is a great area if you're into bird watching or just a nature lover at heart. You can hike on the trails or just sit at the wildlife area at the Santa Rita lodge and soak it all in.


One-Way Notice: This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.

    Directions Preferred Months May Jun Sep Oct
    Water / Source:Creek
    Preferred Start8 AM Cell Phone SignalNot in canyon Sunrise6:20am Sunset6:39pm
    Road / VehiclePaved - Car Okay
    Fees / Permit
    Sabino/Madera - $5 per day or $20 annual. Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $8 extra.

    To Madera Canyon Trailhead
    From Tucson: I-19 south to exit 63 Continental. At the end of the exit take a left and follow brown signs to Madera Canyon. You'll be taking White House Canyon Road 13.2 miles to Madera Canyon.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 152 mi - about 2 hours 31 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 42.3 mi - about 55 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 295 mi - about 4 hours 37 mins
    Login for Mapped Driving Directions
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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