There is a short handicapped accessible trail starting at the Proctor Parking Area. It has a few interpretive signs and has nice views of the surrounding area (to include Elephant Head Mountain), the creek, and some wildlife. It also leads to the White House Ruins.
The nature trail starts at either the Nature Trail and Ampitheater Parking Area or the Mt Wrightson Picnic Area. I suggest starting at the Nature Trail and Ampitheater Trailhead. The total length of the trail is 2.7 miles. The trail is moderate in difficulty, mostly due to altitude changes. There are many beautiful views along the trail.
Along the nature trail which starts at the Nature Trail and Ampitheater Parking Area or the Mt Wrightson Picnic Area (and is 2.7 miles long) there are several interpretive signs telling you about key sites along the way. One of them refers to the Resurrection Plant. This plant is so named because it spends much of its life brown and dead looking but it will turn green and full of life just hours after a rainfall. This plant is very important to help control erosion on hillsides.
Along the nature trail which starts at the Nature Trail and Ampitheater Parking Area or the Mt Wrightson Picnic Area (and is 2.7 miles long) there are several interpretive signs telling you about key sites along the way. One of them refers to the white outcropping of rock you can see across the canyon in this photograph. This is an outcropping of Quartzite a hard form of metamorphic sandstone.
Madera Canyon Creek flows through the valley and crosses several of the trails. At some points they have benches so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. Sediment brought down from the mountains by the creek spreads out at the mouth of the canyon and creates a fertile zone called the alluvial fan.
The White House has stood at the entrance to Madera Canyon since the 1880s. It was built by the Theodore Wellish family who also owned the White House Mercantile Store in nearby Tucson. It was painted a bright white and was very useful as a landmark to anyone traveling in the area and was used as a reference point on numerous mining claims. These walls are all that remains of the White House today.
When you first arrive at Madera Canyon there is a small kiosk in the middle of the road. You stop here and they will give you some information about the area, and a map of the hiking trails. There are five main areas where you can park and hit a trailhead: The Proctor Parking Area; Whitehouse Picnic Area; Madera Trail Head and Picnic Area; Nature Trail and Ampitheater; and the Mt Wrightson Picnic Area. At whichever of these you want to park at, you will find a self-serve station to pay your fees. You take a blue envelope, put $5.00 for a one day parking fee inside, and tear off the top and place it in your car where it is visible through the windshield. There are handicapped accessible trails at the first two sites. Hiking Trails range from a moderately easy 1.8 mile nature trail to the difficult 12.2 mile Mount Wrightson Trail.
By the pay station at the first (Proctor Parking Area) is a series of signs showing the ages of the earth and how short man's dominance in the world has been
Also from the Nature Trail you can see the ridgline that is the route for the Mount Wrightson Trail, the most challenging hike in the Madera Canyon.
You can see up to 28 species of bats living in Madera Canyon. Because of the dwindling natural habitat, bat houses like these are becoming more and more important to perpetuating the species.
There is a variety of plantlife living in the Madera Canyon. Shown here is a nice example of a barrell cactus.