The sycamore-shaded tables at Madera and those tucked under the oaks across the road at Madera Trailhead Picnic Area would be well worth a visit even if they were not located right in the heart of one of the most famous birdwatching areas in the west. But all those colorful flashes you see flitting through the tall trees along Madera Creek belong to some of the over 200 species of birds that have been seen in this unique canyon. Most of the people here will be strolling along with their eyes glued to a pair of binoculars. Many will probably ask, "What have you seen?" assuming that you are a birdwatcher too. Chances are good that they will be right, since the majority of those who find this tucked away canyon have not stumbled on it, they have come looking for it.

Whether you are a birdwatcher or not, you will be interested to know that the Madera Nature Trail meanders up and down the stream from the picnic area, offering easy access to the habitat along the creek. This easy-going walk through the woods, part paved and part surfaced with natural materials, provides excellent opportunities to enjoy the fascinating diversity of plant and animal life that marks this canyon as a true desert oasis. Downstream, the nature trail leads to Whitehouse Picnic Area and beyond, where a significant part of the trail is barrier-free. Upstream, it leads to an outdoor amphitheater, where nature programs are presented throughout the summer under the coordination of the Friends of Madera Canyon. After passing the amphiteater, the trail climbs away from the creek to continue on to the trail's end at the Roundup Picnic Area. This upper stretch of the trail climbs out of the canyon bottom to provide good views of Mt. Wrightson, the lower reaches of Madera Canyon, and the broad Santa Cruz Valley below.

LOCATION: 49 miles south of Tucson in beautiful Madera Canyon of the Santa Rita Mountains.


  • Drive south from Tucson on I-19 to the Continental Road/Madera Canyon Exit 63.
  • Turn east and follow the Madera Canyon signs 12.5 miles to the picnic areas on both sides of the road.
  • The entire route is paved.

ELEVATION: 4,800 feet.

SEASON: Year-round.


  • World famous birdwatching
  • 13 sites with tables and the grills
  • Other wildlife watching, too
  • Drinking water
  • Streamside location/shaded sites
  • Barrier-free toilets
  • Nature trail (good views)
  • Nearby amphitheater/interpretive programs

Fee: Donation of $2 suggested


  • No trailers allowed.
  • Pets must be on a leash. No overnight camping.
  • Pack and saddle stock are not permitted in picnic area.
  • Firewood is not available. Bring your own wood or bring charcoal or a camp stove for cooking.
  • Bring an extra garbage bag with you. You will want to leave such an outstanding area better than you found it.