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Madera Canyon - Nature Trail to Wrightson, AZ

Guide 46 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.4 of 5 
834 46 1
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 4.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,500 feet
Elevation Gain 1,000 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,000 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5
Kokopelli Seeds 7.58
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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5  2020-08-30 gummo
8  2020-07-19 gummo
8  2020-06-07 gummo
10  2018-11-23 paulhubbard
13  2018-10-28 rwstorm
13  2018-02-23
Madera Canyon Nature Trail
11  2017-06-12
Bog Spring and Roger's Rock
5  2017-03-18
Four Springs loop Madera Canyon
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Trishness
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 0
Photos 720
Trips 187 map ( 1,244 miles )
Age 62 Female Gender
Location Apache Junction, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  5:39am - 7:21pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2005 Florida Fire23.2k
🔥 2005 Florida47.6 mi*
🔥 View All over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

Bird-watchers paradise
by Trishness

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The Santa Rita Mountains are one of the many "Sky Islands" located in southeastern Arizona, and Madera Canyon is a lovely gem situated 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 recorded six 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 also witnessed 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 tandem 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 significant source of timber for Tucson over a century ago. Mount Wrightson is named after William Wrightson, a Nogales mining superintendent killed by Apaches near Sonoita in the 1860s. 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 a typical shaded oak-juniper forest of this elevation. My hiking companion and I found this to be pretty easy, and there were lovely 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 Trogon 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 might have heard the Elegant Trogon, 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 an excellent 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.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2005-06-05 Trishness

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking 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.
    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.

    Permit $$
    Visit this link for full details.
    2021 - FAQ
    $8 per vehicle per day
    $10 per vehicle per week
    $40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

    There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
    1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
    2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
    3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
    4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day-use sites.

    2021 Catalina State Park
    Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
    Individual/bicycle: $3.00

    2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    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
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated
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