Mount Wrightson Wilderness

Area Status: Open

Old Baldy is the name by which those familiar with the Santa Rita Mountains know the centerpiece of this 25,260-acre Wilderness. Towering more than 7,000 feet over the surrounding savannas and deserts, Mt. Wrightson’s distinctive pyramid-shaped profile is visible from much of southeastern Arizona and adjoining areas in Mexico. Located within the Wilderness are the headwaters of Madera Canyon, one of the most famous birdwatching areas in the Southwest. The diversity which characterizes this desert oasis extends into other, more out of the way, habitats within the Wilderness, serving as a powerful attraction to nature lovers who value wildlife watching as a vital element of their wilderness experience. Trails within the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness range from well-used pathways to primitive routes. A few of the most popular access points are located within the Madera Canyon Recreation Area, where roads and parking areas are paved. Trails in the Wilderness crisscross forests, canyons and ridgetops, accessing panoramic views and cool, shaded glades. Ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir inhabit higher reaches of the area while lower and more exposed slopes are covered with oak woodlands. The Santa Ritas were once the site of extensive mining activity. Evidence of that is visible along several of the trails. That colorful history, added to the area’s plentiful wildlife and magnificent scenery have made the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness a popular destination point.


At a Glance

Restrictions: Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness.
Closest Towns: Location: The wilderness boundary is approximately 20 miles north of Nogales and 30 miles south of Tucson. It is approximately 5 more miles to the peak.
Information Center: Nogales Ranger District (520) (520) 761-6000

General Information

Directions: Access is available at several points along paved Forest Road 70 in Madera Canyon. FR 183, a dirt road which is suitable for most passenger cars, leads to Agua Caliente trailhead. Trailheads are also located at the end of FR’s 62A, 4084, 92, 165, 785, and 72.


Day Hiking