The Nogales Ranger District comprises four mountain ranges north and west of Nogales, Arizona. These ranges are the Santa Rita (O’odham: To:wa Kuswo Doʼag), Tumacacori, Pajarito, and San Luis Mountains. Included in this area are Mount Hopkins, Mount Wrightson, and Madera Canyon, all located in the Santa Ritas. In the early 20th century this area included two national forests which were absorbed into Coronado: Santa Rita National Forest and Tumacacori National Forest.
This district boasts the highest point in southern Arizona – Mount Wrightson – at 9,453 feet (2,881 m), along with the only known sighting of the jaguar named “El Jefe” in the Santa Ritas in 2011. The jaguar is one of four cats (los cuatros gatos) found in a corridor of ranges consisting of the Tumacacori, Pajarito, and San Luis Mountains (among other ranges), together dubbed the Tumacacori Highlands. In general, the Nogales Ranger District is well known for its biological diversity, given its relative proximity to the Mexican Sierra Madre Occidental, compared to the other four ranger districts in the Coronado National Forest. Birdwatching, hiking, camping, horse-riding, and other similar activities are popular in part because of this.
Latitude: 31.6959 Longitude: -110.8481
Counties: Pima, Santa Cruz
Arizona madrone (Arbutus arizonica)
Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii)
Elegant trogon (Trogon elegans)
Jaguar (Panthera onci)
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)
Highest Point: Mount Wrightson: 9,453 ft (2,881 m)
Lowest Point: Nogales Road: 3,400 ft (1,036 m)
What To Do
Madera Canyon lies along the northwestern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountain range in the Nogales Ranger District, twenty-five miles from Tucson, Arizona and just east of Green Valley, Arizona. The canyon has many miles of hiking trails, picnicking sites, and campsites, both along the canyon walls and down near Madera Creek, which runs perennially.
A major feature of the canyon is its nationally- and world-renowned biodiversity (especially migratory avian biodiversity). Madera Canyon traverses four different biomes based on elevational changes, from prickly-pear scrubland near the foothills, to quaking aspen and Douglas-fir forests near the peak of Mount Wrightson. “Visitors from all over the world arrive in search of such avian specialties as the Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart. Over 230 species of birds have been recorded in the Canyon with 15 hummingbird species among them,” Friends of Madera Canyon proclaim.
Madera Canyon was also originally named White House Canyon, after a prominent white adobe house was built there in the late 19th century. The canyon was renamed sometime in the early 1900s, although some locals still use the original name.
25 miles from Tucson, AZ
The Nogales Ranger District is home to the ghost town – Kentucky Camp – in the Santa Rita Mountain range near the community of Sonoita, Arizona. The Kentucky Camp Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been since 1995.
Friends of Kentucky Camp state:
“Kentucky Camp was built in 1904 as the headquarters of the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company, whose investors hoped to collect water from the Santa Rita Mountains for hydraulic gold mining. The venture was abandoned following the mysterious death of the chief engineer the following year. The property became a working cattle ranch for the next 50 years, before being sold to a mining conglomerate. The Coronado National Forest acquired the site in 1989; since then, the Forest and volunteers have been working together to preserve the site. Kentucky Camp (and associated features related to the development of the water system and mining in the area) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A unique feature of this site is its collection of five century-old adobe buildings. The ten room headquarters building is one of the largest surviving adobe buildings of its era. A gold processing building hints at the original purpose of the site. A three room adobe building is available for overnight rental. The Arizona Trail runs through Kentucky Camp and offers many possibilities for hiking, mountain biking and horse-back riding through the Santa Rita mountain foothills.“
from Tucson, AZ
Mount Wrightson is the highest peak in Southern Arizona and a mere 40 miles (64 km) away from Tucson. The peak is quite barren and rocky, allowing hikers to view a 360 degree panoramic view (on a clear day), including views into Sonora, Mexico. There are two main trails leading up to the peak and multiple picnicking sites near the end of the paved road and trailhead.
40 miles (64 km) from Tucson, AZ