Madera Canyon Road #62/70 Scenic Drive

Area Status: Open

Madera Canyon map

This canyon was named “Madera” (which means lumber or wood in Spanish) because it served as a major source of timber for the city of Tucson over a century ago. It wasn’t long, however, before this accessible haven was better known for the diverse wildlife it sheltered and the cool relief it offered from the desert heat. Today, Madera Canyon continues to be a popular destination for wildlife watchers and nature lovers who come to see the more than 240 species of birds (including more than a dozen species of hummingbirds) that live in its nurturing environment. April and May are the best months for most species, June and September are best for hummingbirds. Birdwatching is at its best up-canyon. One of the best ways to get to know this unique environment is by visiting the Madera Nature Trail. The trail is accessible from a roadside trailhead, four picnic areas, one campground and a private resort, all located in the canyon. This streamside route provides an excellent introduction to the fascinating diversity of plant and animal life that mark this canyon as a true desert oasis. Portions of the lower reaches of the trail are barrier-free. Along higher reaches the gradient steepens. Up-canyon of the Santa Rita Lodge, an outdoor amphitheater hosts nature programs presented throughout the summer under the coordination of the Friends of Madera Canyon. Beyond the amphitheater, the trail continues to the Roundup Picnic Area and offers good views of Mt. Wrightson, lower Madera Canyon and the Santa Cruz Valley. For those seeking deeper access to the Santa Rita Range, a number of Forest trails lead to the top of Mt. Wrightson and through the Santa Ritas from the Mt Wrighton Picnic Area and Bog Springs Campground.

At a Glance

Open Season: Year-round
Closest Towns: South of Tucson via paved roads in the scenic Santa Rita Mountains.
Operated By: Nogales Ranger District
Information Center: Nogales Ranger District   520-281-2296

General Information

Directions: Fifty miles south of Tucson, leave Interstate 19 at the Continental Road exit. Turn east under the highway and follow the signs to Madera Canyon.


Scenic Driving

World class birdwatching/great scenery. Streamside nature trail (portions barrier-free). 3 picnic areas, 1 campground, cabins for rent. Interpretive programs (in season). Hiking and horseback trails. Mileage/Driving Time: 1 hour round trip from Interstate 19, but plan to spend at least half a day.Road Conditions: The road to Madera Canyon is a narrow, curving, 2-lane paved road with steep grades in places. In winter, there is often snow or patches of ice on the road in the canyon. Two loops of the Madera Nature Trail are barrier-free, one from the Proctor Road Trailhead and one from the Whitehouse Picnic Area. A Madera Canyon bird checklist is available at the Santa Rita Lodge.