Mount Wrightson is the highest point in the area around Tucson, Arizona, United States at an elevation of 9,453 feet (2,881 m.). Mount Wrightson is located in the Santa Rita Mountains 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Tucson in the Coronado National Forest. It was named for William Wrightson, who was a miner and entrepreneur in the region. He was killed in the 1860s by Apaches. The mountain is known for the spectacular view from its barren peak, nearly 7,000 feet above Tucson some 30 miles north. Mt. Wrightson’s distinctive pyramid-shaped profile is visible from much of southeastern Arizona and adjoining areas in Mexico.
From grassy, high desert chaparral to mixed conifers with Arizona, Apache, and Chihuahua pines, Arizona madrone, aspen, oak brush, and finally Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine near the summit.
Animals living on Mt. Wrightson include birds (notably ravens high up near the peak), Coues white-tailed deer, black bear, and mountain lion (rare).
Hiking the peak
The shortest route is the Old Baldy Trail, a steady climb of nearly 4000' over 9 miles round-trip to the exposed summit. The Super Trail, also from the Madera Canyon trailhead, is not as steep but is far longer. These two trails intersect at Josephine Saddle (7,080 ft.) halfway to the peak, so hikers can choose one route for the lower path and one route for the upper. To reach the trailhead, take exit 63 off of I-19 south of Tucson, and turn east toward Continental. Turn right on Whitehouse Cyn. Rd, following it until it eventually turns into Madera Canyon Road. Parking is plentiful at and below the trailhead, which is at the end of the road.
Take plenty of water and be aware of wildlife. It is a prime birding area and black bears are common. There is a saddle two miles into the hike which offers an easy dayhike with dramatic views of this peak.
The last mile or two to the summit may be impassable without special equipment during the winter due to ice. Even if the mountain looks clear from the lower part of Super Trail or Old Baldy, this view from the southwest is deceptive; the final approach is along the north slope of the mountain, which receives very little sunlight during the winter and is thus far more prone to ice.
Notable Points Of Interest
- Boy Scout Memorial dedicated and maintained for three boy scouts who died in a storm on Mt. Wrightson November 15, 1958. According to the sign, the plaque was erected by Boy Scout Troop 249 in remembrance of David Greenberg (age 12), Mike Early (age 16), and Michael J. Lanoue (age 13). At times there are paraphernalia on or near the sign.
- There are several springs at different locations, depending which trail(s) you choose: Bog Spring, Kent Spring, Armour Spring, Baldy Spring, McBeth Spring and Bellows Spring; but as always, bring plenty of your own.
- At the top is a green ammo box, chained to a rock, that contains a registry.
- At the top is the ruins of an abandoned look-out tower.
- The Florida fire in 2005 burned a large expanse of the forest in this area, affecting much of this hike, especially the section between the Walker Basin trail and the Super Trail.