Sycamore Groves in the Santa Rita Mountains

by Dave Baker Monday, June 29th 2009

Mt Wrightson looms large on the drive up Madera Canyon Road in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, and the hike to this towering summit from the end of the road is the signature outing in the area.

So, it can be easy to miss some trailheads near the mouth of Madera Canyon that access a loop trail which visits two of Madera’s side drainages. Graced with several springs and tangled groves of white barked sycamore trees, oak, pine and fir - this is a lovely area to spend time in.

Near Bog Springs

Sycamore cathedral near Bog Springs

A direct hike to Bog Springs requires a round trip of a little over 3.5 miles with an elevation gain of a just less than a thousand feet. The cathedral grove of sycamore trees around the spring is exceptionally beautiful and serene.

Walking the complete loop takes in Sylvester Spring, Kent Spring, and Bog Springs, adding another 700 feet of elevation, for a about a 6.5 mile round trip hike from the trailhead; a distinctly harder hike than the in-and-out trip to Bog Springs. On the loop hike, there are some nice long views out Madera Canyon as you traverse the steep slopes between Kent and Bog Springs.

Trail to Sylvester Spring

Tramping uphill towards Sylvester Spring

Two trailheads serve this loop. The first trailhead (31.72681 N, 110.8803 W, WGS84) is on the east side Madera Canyon Road just past the turnoff to Bog Spring Campground. Marking the turn into the parking lot, a sign declares “Madera Trailhead, PICNIC AREA”. In the parking lot, the trailhead is conveniently marked with another sign: “BOG SPRING TRAILHEAD”.

The second trailhead (31.72225 N, 110.87943 W, WGS84) is just a few hundred yards up Madera Canyon Road, but here one parks in a parking lot on the west side of the road identified by a sign stating “Amphitheater and Nature Trail”. The trailhead here is on the opposite (east) side of the road from the parking area.

Once on the trail, the loop junction is reached after a little more than a mile; turn left (east) towards Bog Springs, or continue straight (south) towards Sylvester and Kent springs.

Season: These hikes can be done year round. During summer months it can be hot here, so early starts are recommended.

Water: There is often water at Bog Springs, Kent Spring, and Sylvester Spring, but best to bring plenty of your own.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate if you choose to hike to Bog Springs and back; a little over 3.5 miles round trip with just less than a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Moderate if you walk the complete loop; just over 6.5 miles round trip with a 1,700 foot elevation gain.

Maps: Green Trails Maps – Santa Rita Mountains.


Click Map for larger image


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!