jeep and teardrop trailer at a campsite in madera canyon

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There’s no such thing as camping season in Arizona. 

But it’s June in the Sonoran Desert, otherwise known as Devil’s Jockstrap Appreciation Month. So we seek higher elevations for outdoor recreation.

At 5,000 feet in elevation and 20 minutes from where we live in Tucson, Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains was perfect for a quick weekend getaway.

Friends of Madera Canyon – About Madera Canyon

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Snow on the Santa Rita Mountains in southern Arizona

Places to Stay

The area surrounding Madera Canyon has lots of options for dispersed camping, but Bog Springs Campground is a favorite among RVs and tent campers. 

This campground offers a variety of campsites, each with a picnic table and grill. The campground is paved and accessible to trailers and RVs. However, there are no hookups, so you’ll need to bring your own power source.

There’s a camp host on site, and amenities include vault toilets and bear boxes for safe food storage.

If you need a more traditional place to stay, the Santa Rita Lodge offers year-round lodging.

Birding in Madera Canyon

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Mexican Jay enjoying suet outside the Madera Canyon gift shop

Madera Canyon is one of the best birding areas in the United States. With over 250 bird species recorded, including the elusive Elegant Trogon, it’s a birder’s paradise.

The thick oak, pine, and juniper woodlands and cooler mountain temperatures provide a haven for migratory birds, making Madera Canyon a must-visit for birders. 

Don’t forget to check out the gift shop, which has a variety of bird feeders that attract hummingbirds, Mexican Jays, coatimundi, wild turkeys, and more.

Hiking and More

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Mule deer are plentiful in Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon offers a variety of trails, from the nature trail at the Proctor area to the strenuous hike up to Mount Wrightson

Many of the trailheads have convenient parking lots with restrooms, making it easy to set off on a hike after parking.

If you’re up for a little adventure, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is located on nearby Mount Hopkins. 

It’s a fascinating side trip for those interested in astronomy.

An Astronomical Road Trip: Exploring Mt. Hopkins Observatory Road in Southern Arizona

Our Experience at Bog Springs Campground

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The moon doing its best impression of the sun in Madera Canyon

We arrived at Bog Springs Campground at around noon on a Friday. The campground only has 12 spots, and they’re first come, first serve, so arriving early is the way to go.

We paid $10 a night with our National Park annual pass.

Each campsite at Bog Springs has luxuries we’re not used to when camping. Like a picnic table, grill, and a bear box for food storage.

Trash service is provided, and the Forest Service regularly patrols the area. Campers were initially a bit loud but respected the quiet hours of 10 p.m. — 6 a.m. (I don’t get the appeal of going out to the woods to blast country music, but to each their own.)

A grumpy desert spiny lizard hanging out in a juniper tree

Camping at Bog Springs gave us the opportunity to see a lot of wildlife. Wild turkeys and mule deer regularly visit the area, and we even had a grey fox walking through our site at night.

We watched a couple of desert spiny lizards scamper up and down the juniper trees getting grumpy and doing pushups at each other. And lots of painted redstarts danced around in the trees. We learned they’re impossible to photograph because they never sit still.

We’re not usually fans of camping in campgrounds, but we’d return to Bog Springs. It provided easy access to trails and was a great base camp for exploring the area.

Coronado National Forest – Bog Springs Campground

Whether you’re a birder, hiker, or just looking for a peaceful getaway, Madera Canyon offers something for everyone. 

With its amazing scenery, diverse wildlife, and camping opportunities, it’s no wonder Madera Canyon is considered one of the hidden gems of southern Arizona.

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