Madera Canyon south of Tucson is a haven of scenic splendor in any season. But this summer’s cloud-bursting monsoon has turned the canyon into an almost impossibly lush landscape of emerald woodlands, dazzling wildflowers and gushing streams.
Forest trails take hikers through a shady canopy of greened-up trees and ground cover almost reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest.
Madera Creek is a frothing ribbon of fast-flowing water — varying from melodic as it passes through open woodlands to rumbling as it plunges over steep rocks in small waterfalls.
Mount Wrightson, the high point of the Santa Rita Mountains, towers over Madera Canyon — often with it’s 9,453-foot head in the clouds.
SEE THE SIGHTS
- Numerous trails — some short, some long — begin in the canyon. For an easygoing introduction, try the 0.8-mile Accessible Trail. It begins at the Proctor parking area near the entrance to the canyon. Longer routes include the Bog Springs Trail and the challenging 10.8-mile round-trip trek to the top of Mount Wrightson.
- Visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of Madera Creek from several points in the canyon. The Nature Trail, which generally follows the watercourse, can be reached from the Amphitheater site, with a large parking area on the right just up the canyon road from the Santa Rita Lodge. Be aware that flash flooding can pose a severe danger along any Arizona stream, especially during the monsoon. Keep a close eye on the weather and stay well away from the creek during stormy weather in the canyon or over nearby mountaintops.
- Driving the canyon road or hiking almost any trail will take you past colorful wildflowers.
GET TO THE CANYON
To reach Madera Canyon from Tucson, drive south on Interstate 19 to Green Valley and take the Continental Exit. Continue southeast about 13 miles to the canyon. Signs show the way.
The U.S. Forest Service charges a $5 per vehicle fee in the canyon.