Madera Canyon - Bog Springs Hike
Written by Tim Hull   

-Dispatch, 10.22.08

Stop and stay awhile on this well-water loop hike

Having lived all my life in the arid Southwest, I’m a sucker for even the most humble of water features. Rushing mountain creeks, stands of cottonwood and sycamore, springs bubbling out of the usually coy, sun-blasted earth, have always inordinately attracted us lifers, mostly because of their rarity.

There are few easier ways to see the benefits and diversity that a little water and a little elevation can bring to the otherwise parched landscape than to take a trip up to Madera Canyon, and one of the easier, well-watered hikes in the canyon is the Bog Spring-Kent Spring Loop, an approximately five-mile climb back into the verdant wilderness area and back down a disused jeep trail paralleled by a perennial stream.

Once you hit the trail (see Getting There below), it’s about a mile hike, most of it a fairly steep climb along a well-maintained foot trail, to Bog Springs. You move up from the lower elevations dominated by alligator juniper, pinion pine, yucca and agaves, into, by the time you reach the first spring, a lush riparian habitat with fat sycamore and walnut trees, the ground spongy and grassed, the air cool, the shade plentiful.

One has a pretty good chance of seeing one of the canyon’s more tropical-minded birds around a spring, so consider sitting back on the cool ground, listening to the water babble, and waiting to see what darts in for a look at you.

Back on the trail, another mile or so up with the ponderosa pines, along a ridge with expansive views of the canyon and the Santa Cruz Valley—if you’ve never seen the mine tailing from this view, prepare for a revelation—and you’re at Kent Spring.

Stop and stay awhile here as well. This is not, in my view, a hike for its own sake, but a route into a rare environment that deserves to be luxuriated over. Pack-in a blanket and a picnic, forget about registering a new land-speed record or getting your heart rate up to optimum level.

When you’re ready to head back, trudge carefully down the steep access road to make it a loop. The creek that runs alongside the road has several small waterfalls and relatively deep collecting pools. Along the way you’ll pass a third spring, Sylvester Spring, a good place to fill up your water bottle with delicious clear spring water.

One note of warning: The road down is steep and rocky, and is not recommended for the unsure of foot or anyone with knee issues. You don’t have to make it a loop; if you want, you can just head back down the trail, retracing your steps back to the car. Then it’s back down to the desert, hopefully rejuvenated by water and all the natural beauty it provides.


Getting There:

Take Interstate 19 to the Continental exit, follow the brown signs about 13 miles to Madera Canyon. When you get to the canyon, you can catch the trailhead from the Bog Springs Campground or from the picnic are and amphitheater—both areas are well-signed. Either way, make sure to pay the $5 user fee where you park or you’ll be ticketed for sure. Why we should have to pay extra to use our own public lands is beyond me, but that’s the law—for now. From either starting point you spend a little time on an old road; from the campground it’s a 0.7 mile hike up to the junction, where you’ll catch the skinny trail that leads up to Bog Springs.


Originally published in the Sahuarita Sun

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