Just south of Tucson near Green Valley, the Santa Rita Mountains offer spectacular outdoor excursions.
At a higher elevation than the Tucson area to the north, Madera Canyon invites hikers to enjoy year-round adventuring in cool, shaded hills. The canyon forms a deep, wooded ravine on the northwest face of the Santa Ritas, one of the sky-island mountain ranges of Southern Arizona. Visitors find natural beauty in every direction, above ground and below. Stargazers head to the area for special events and guided tours at Whipple Observatory and explorers go deep underground at nearby Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Welcome to the Woods
Hikers access more than 100 miles of trails from picnic areas and campgrounds throughout Madera Canyon. Start on shady trails with minimal elevation gains such as the ADA-accessible Nature Trail and the waterside Madera Creek Trail. Tougher hikes include the Old Baldy Trail and the Super Trail, a two-for-one loop that tests experienced hikers. Mt. Wrightson is the tallest peak in the Santa Ritas at nearly 10,000 feet. Reaching the summit requires a climb that features tough switchbacks. Mountain bikers access the Elephant Head trailhead to enjoy a romp through grasslands that transition to juniper and oak woodlands.
Visit a Premier Birding Corridor
Riparian woodlands along the Santa Cruz River in Southern Arizona have an international reputation for birdwatching. More than 250 species of birds can be spotted in this pristine area, including 15 species of hummingbirds, but the most activity happens when migrating birds use Madera Canyon as a layover. April and May see the most activity during spring migrations and June and September are the best months to spot hummers. Be on the lookout for Elegant Trogons — the unicorn sighting among birdwatchers in Southern Arizona — plus other rarities such as Elf Owls and Red-Faced Warblers.
Stay at Santa Rita Lodge
After winding through high-desert grasslands to reach the Santa Rita Mountains, the first sign of civilization in the canyon is a woodsy retreat notched near the creek. Santa Rita Lodge offers 14 cabin-style rooms for visitors to set up at the entry to multiple canyon adventures. Tackle early morning hikes from the front door, sit on the patio and watch the animals come to the creek and enjoy cookouts under a dark sky full of stars at this mountain retreat.
For More Information
Nogales Ranger District
303 Old Tucson Rd
Nogales, AZ 85621