Madera Canyon is a lovely little tucked-away spot in southern Arizona. My husband and I discovered it one weekend while we were whiling away the day in the Tucson area. We followed a winding road that crossed over low desert, then started to climb until we suddenly found ourselves among tall trees and greenery. Madera Canyon and Madera Creek traverse four different “life zones” which supports a variety of flora and fauna in a relatively small area.
The area is considered to be the third-best birding destination in the United States – ornithology enthusiasts will be able to sight over 256 documented species of birds, including 15 different kinds of hummingbirds and 36 species of wood warblers. Patrons of the canyon’s parks and trails will frequently come across small herds of deer and flocks of wild turkeys – even black bears, mountain lions and bobcats have been spotted on occasion.
Madera Canyon has close to 100 miles of hiking trails that vary from paved, handicap-accessible trails and gentle walking paths in the lower canyon (including the Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail), to steep, expert trails leading to the top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson. As higher elevations are attained, hikers are presented with some spectacular views of the mountains and the Sonoran Desert.
Since the area is part of the Coronado National Forest and is designated a National Forest Recreation Area, the U.S. Forest Service charges a small fee for daily use which can be paid by cash or check. The Santa Rita Lodge is a favored place to stay for visitors of the area. Keep in mind there is no food service in Madera Canyon, so bring your own food! The cabins and apartments of the Santa Rita Lodge have kitchenettes for cooking. March, April and May are considered peak birding season so make your reservations in advance.
My husband and I passed the Chuparosa Inn along the drive and we are bound and determined to stay there. I’ve never seen a more picturesque little place in my life!
To get to Madera Canyon from the Phoenix area, take I-10 East towards Tucson. Merge onto I-19 towards Nogales, then take the Continental Road exit.
Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- Madera Canyon by Tiffany Joyce
- Mexican Jay by Alan Vernon on Flickr Creative Commons.