Madera Canyon is a north-facing valley in the Santa Rita Mountains with riparian woodland along an intermittent stream, bordered by mesquite, juniper-oak woodlands, and pine forests.
Native Peoples lived in the Santa Rita Mountains for thousands of years, known from artifacts of O’odham tribes. The oldest structure in the Canyon is believed to have been built by a sheepherder around 1880.
Home to over 250 bird species, including 15 hummingbird species, visitors from all over the world arrive in search of specialties; Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart.
Visiting the Canyon . . .
While much of the rest of the country appears to be slowly recovering from the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid-19, the number of documented cases in Arizona continues to increase. While birding and nature viewing are generally considered healthy and safe activities, some precautions should be taken. Avoid gathering in close proximity to other humans. Car pooling is discouraged, birding field trips and other events have been cancelled, places where people gather to view birds are being closed, and other places are voluntarily limiting the number of people in one place. How should we adjust our behaviors as birders and visitors to Madera Canyon?
Avoid gatherings. Should there be crowds at the feeding stations think about coming back later and if you are at the feeding stations limit your time as to give others a chance to safely view the birds. Should you find the crowd of people observing the Elegant Trogon, try to find the bird from a distance or another vantage point. Should you find the trogon yourself; yes let others know and then move away as to give them a safe opportunity to view this beautiful creature.
Avoid human-to-human contact. Shaking hands and hugging are out. “High-fives” after finding the Elegant Trogon or the season’s first Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher is out. Wash your hands. Should you touch railings, chairs, benches, door handles, anything in the restrooms - wash your hands with soap & water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Visitor Resources, Bird Checklist & Canyon Bird Reports
A Madera Canyon Bird Checklist, Hiking information and map PDFs, and Madera Quarterly Bird Reports can be downloaded here → Resources.
Printed Bird Checklist and Trail Maps are available at the Proctor Visitor Information Station and at all Parking / Picnic Area Trail Heads throughout the canyon.
Proctor Trail Enhancements & The Memory Wall
Visit the New Proctor Accessible Trail, now with a wider concrete walkway, a new bridge, a beautiful stone knee wall and viewing area overlooking Madera Creek, all thanks to Friends and the U.S. Forest Service.
At the trail entrance stop to see the Memory and Honor Wall, tributes to Volunteers and Supporters of this extraordinary place, the Santa Ritas and Madera Canyon. Arrange a tribute to a loved-one and help support the FOMC and the Canyon.
Learn more about the Memory & Honor Wall →
Become a Friend of Madera Canyon
Becoming a Friend of Madera Canyon offers access to interesting, fulfilling volunteer opportunities, but your best reward is knowing your support helps to preserve this special piece of our Nation's wilderness habitat.
Join or Renew on our secure site →
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With lofty mountain peaks, forested slopes, seasonal streams, and an amazing variety of plants and wildlife, Madera Canyon has become a popular recreational destination. Madera hiking trails are applauded throughout the Southwest, and vary from paved, handicap-accessible trails and gentle walking paths in the lower canyon, to steep, expert trails leading to the top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson.
The third best birding destination in the United States is Southeastern Arizona, with Madera Canyon at its heart. With fifteen species of hummingbirds, Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Flame-colored Tanager, 36 species of wood warblers, and over 256 species of birds documented, it is a "required" site for all serious birders.
White-tailed and Mule Deer, Wild Turkeys, rabbits and squirrels are regularly observed. Other animals such as Black Bear, Coati, fox, Ring-tailed Cats, Raccoons, Bobcats, and Mountain Lion are more shy and only occasionally seen. Sixteen species of bats have been recorded in the Canyon. It is unusual to spend any time in Madera Canyon without seeing signs of wildlife.
Madera Canyon and Madera Creek traverse four life zones and many habitats between the desert floor and the mountaintops, making the Santa Rita Mountains in which Madera Canyon resides, a world-famous sky island known for its unique and abundant flora and fauna - from Prickly-Pear cactus in the lower Canyon to Douglas Fir and Quaking Aspen on Mt. Wrightson.