Mount Wrightson

Mount Wrightson

Approaching the Summit of Mount Wrightson | Christopher Nast

Mount Wrightson, located in the Santa Rita Mountains of southeastern Arizona, is a prominent peak that rises to an elevation of 9,456 feet. As the highest point in the range, Mount Wrightson provides stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape, making it a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. The mountain is named in honor of William Wrightson, a mining engineer who was killed during an Apache attack in 1865.

The majestic Mount Wrightson is accessible via two main trails: the Old Baldy Trail and the Super Trail. Both trails are well-maintained and offer hikers a challenging yet rewarding experience. The Old Baldy Trail is the shorter and steeper of the two, covering 5.4 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 4,000 feet. In contrast, the Super Trail is a longer, more gradual ascent, spanning 8 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 3,950 feet. The two trails form a loop around the mountain, allowing hikers to choose their preferred route or combine both for a more comprehensive exploration of Mount Wrightson’s diverse terrain.

Mount Wrightson above Tubac, Arizona | Joel Hensler

Flora and fauna are abundant in the area surrounding Mount Wrightson, as the mountain’s high elevation supports a variety of ecosystems. Hikers can expect to see oak woodlands, pine forests, and even patches of subalpine meadows as they ascend the mountain. Wildlife sightings may include deer, black bears, wild turkeys, and numerous bird species.

In addition to its natural beauty, Mount Wrightson holds historical significance as well. The area contains remnants of Arizona’s mining past, with abandoned mines and equipment scattered throughout the landscape. The mountain also played a role in the development of modern astronomy when Dr. A.E. Douglass of the University of Arizona used its summit to test his groundbreaking dendrochronology techniques in the early 20th century.

Mount Wrightson is not only an iconic peak within the Santa Rita Mountains but also a destination that offers unparalleled opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. With its challenging trails, diverse ecosystems, and rich history, Mount Wrightson is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking adventure in the beautiful state of Arizona.

Fast Facts

Cloudy Summer Afternoon on Mount Wrightson | Christopher Nast

Country: United States

State/Province: Arizona

Mountain Range: Santa Rita Mountains

Parents: Santa Rita Mountains

Elevation: 9,456 feet / 2,882 meters

Prominence: 4,578 feet / 1,395 meters

Isolation: 38.84 miles / 62.5 kilometers

Nearest Higher Neighbor (NHN): Miller Peak

Flora and Fauna

Mount Wrightson is home to an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna. This mountain, standing at an elevation of 9,456 feet, provides a unique environment for plants and animals that thrive in varying habitats ranging from desert scrub to high-elevation mixed conifer forests. The Mount Wrightson flora and fauna not only contribute to the rich biodiversity of the region, but they also play an integral role in maintaining the ecological balance within the ecosystem.

The flora of Mount Wrightson is characterized by a wide variety of plant species that have adapted to the different microclimates found along the mountain’s elevation gradient. In the lower elevations, one can find desert-adapted plants such as ocotillo, agave, and various species of cacti. As one ascends the mountain, the vegetation transitions to oak woodlands consisting of various oak species and Arizona madrone trees. At higher elevations, the plants become even more diverse with mixed conifer forests containing Douglas fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, and southwestern white pine.

Teddy Bear Cholla Cacti under a cloudy morning sky in the Sonoran Desert near Amado, Arizona. Mt. Wrightson and the Santa Rita Mountains are seen in the distance. | Peter Silverman Photo

The fauna of Mount Wrightson is equally diverse and fascinating. The animals inhabiting this region include reptiles such as rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, mammals like black bears, mountain lions, and mule deer, and a multitude of bird species including hummingbirds, Mexican jays, and even rare sightings of the elegant trogon. The mountain’s varied habitats provide shelter and sustenance for these animals while also serving as important corridors for wildlife movement and gene flow between populations.

Mount Wrightson’s flora and fauna are integral components of the mountain’s ecosystem and contribute significantly to its overall health and resilience. The remarkable diversity of plants and animals found in this region is a testament to the adaptive capabilities of the species that call Mount Wrightson home. It is essential to continue efforts in preserving and protecting these habitats to ensure the long-term survival and well-being of the flora and fauna that reside within this unique environment.


Green Valley/Sahuarita, Arizona – December 28, 2018: Madera Canyon on Mount Wrightson. View of the mountain side covered with green pine trees. | pictureperfection

Mount Wrightson, located in the Santa Rita Mountains of southeastern Arizona, offers a variety of trails for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of varying skill levels. The trails surrounding Mount Wrightson provide a scenic and challenging experience for those seeking a memorable adventure in the great outdoors. With elevations ranging from 5,400 feet to the summit at 9,456 feet, these trails offer breathtaking panoramic views and diverse flora and fauna that are sure to captivate nature lovers.

The most popular and well-traveled trails on Mount Wrightson include Old Baldy Trail and Super Trail. Both trails originate from the Madera Canyon trailhead and provide hikers with a choice in terms of difficulty and duration. Old Baldy Trail is shorter but steeper, spanning approximately 5.4 miles one-way with a 4,000-foot elevation gain. This trail offers a more direct route to the summit but requires greater physical effort, making it ideal for experienced hikers seeking a challenge.

On the other hand, Super Trail is longer at 8 miles one-way but less steep, offering a more gradual ascent to the summit. This trail is perfect for those who prefer a less strenuous hike while still enjoying the beauty of Mount Wrightson’s natural surroundings. Both trails intersect at Josephine Saddle and Baldy Saddle, providing opportunities for hikers to switch between them if desired.

In addition to these two primary trails, Mount Wrightson also offers several connecting trails such as Vault Mine Trail, Agua Caliente Trail, and Florida Canyon Trail. These additional trails cater to different interests and abilities, offering shorter loop hikes or more challenging routes for experienced backpackers.

Mount Wrightson’s trails provide an exceptional opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the breathtaking beauty of southern Arizona’s landscape. Whether seeking a challenging climb to the summit or a leisurely stroll through lush forests and grasslands, hikers will undoubtedly be rewarded with captivating views and unforgettable memories on the trails of Mount Wrightson.

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