This secret, hidden waterfall in Madera Canyon may be the most accessible in Arizona

I got a tip about the secret, hidden waterfall of Madera Canyon from a local and had to go investigate.

Apparently, spotting birds is a popular thing to do in Madera Canyon. It’s about 20 miles southeast of Green Valley, AZ. That’s what I found out when I went chasing the waterfall that’s only three minutes from the Proctor Trailhead parking lot.

Had I stayed on the beaten (paved) path, I would have never known it was there. As I made my way toward the waterfall the first time, I asked an older gent coming toward me on the trail with his camera in tow if he’d found the fall.

“Nope. I wadn’t lookin’ fer it,” he replied.

I would find out soon enough that people strolling the trails with massive scopes or camera lenses are there to see birds, not waterfalls.

While I don’t know much about the birding scene in Madera Canyon, I have some tips for those of us that are more into waterfalls than birds.

First, stop at the Proctor Parking lot and pay the $5 fee. It’s the first parking lot inside Madera Canyon Recreation Area.

Next, set out on the paved trail just to the right of the large map at the trailhead.

Keep an eye out for the first opening you see in the trees in the right side of the trail.

Follow it down hill toward the creek and hook another right when you get to the creek.

Video: How to get to the secret hidden falls of Madera Canyon

Step by step directions to the secret hidden waterfall in Madera Creek Canyon:

  • Start out on the paved trail from Proctor parking lot.
  • Make your way about 200 to 300 yards down the trail.
  • Look for an opening in trees on the right (shown below) and take that trail down toward the creek.
  • The sound of the fall gets louder and louder as you descend the trail.
  • As you get close to the creek, watch for a dogleg turn to your right and follow it downstream.
  • Soon you’ll hear the waterfall gushing over the granite wall to your left. From here, you can walk over to the edge and see it cascading down the granite wall.
  • If you continue on downstream over the maze of boulders, you’ll reach the creek bank. From here, you’ll be able to look upstream and see the fall in all its glory.
Look for this sign as you enter the Madera Canyon Recreation Area. It’s the first lot you’ll come to.
Pay your $5 (cash) to park in the lot and proceed down the walk between the signs shown here.
About 200 to 300 yards down the paved trail, look for this cut off that leads down to the creek, then take another right when you get close to the creek. Follow the sound of the fall from there.
This is the view of the secret hidden fall on Madera Creek near the Proctor Trailhead. The sight and sound of this dazzling fall combine for an experience you won’t soon forget.

The waterfall is spectacular but there’s plenty more to see once you’ve had your fill there. If you make your way back to the paved trail and head upstream (right) you’ll be treated to one of the most scenic interpretive trails I’ve come across in Arizona.

Along the scenic interpretive trail you’re likely to see:

  • Numerous smaller waterfalls
  • Whitehouse Ruins site
  • Countless birds and other animals

On my Sunday morning stroll I saw turkeys, deer, lizards and a curious squirrel. You’ll cross the creek several times and have plenty of places to sit and absorb the ambiance. Or keep going.

You can hike/walk approximately three miles uphill if you wish, or turn around at any point and retrace your steps back to where you started. From the top of the trail you can continue on one of a half dozen or so mountainous trails that interconnect for a combination of loop and balloon type trails. I would rate this “hike” as easy to moderate. Even though there is some incline to it, much of it is paved with asphalt and it’s very easy to navigate.

Sure, you can go to Madera Canyon to see birds. But if that’s all you’re looking for you’ll miss a whole bunch of other spectacular natural wonders.

Ready to go check it out? Tap the map below to get to Proctor Trailhead.

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5 Comments

  1. Great post! Have you been to Patagonia lake, south of Madera? It is wonderful. I have camped there, rented a canoe, rented a kayak, hiked around it and swam across the lake one day!

    1. Patagonianis on my AZ bucket list. Planning to hit more of southern AZ this year. the Madera experience really opened my eyes to whole new adventures in that part of the state. Will need to check out Tanque Verde too.

      1. I found a great website that lists all the hikes in the south. When I was in Tucson in 2013, for a couple months I went on hikes every other day. If you check out my katelontjeffereys.wordpress.com blog, I did blog posts of many of them.

  2. PS….Upper Tanque Verde falls must be amazing right now, too.. You just drive out east in Tucson, that Tanque Verde road, keep going when the pavement ends, and keep driving. You’ll see a small sign for upper tanque verde falls. FYI, it is clothing optional. The hike down is less than 1/2 mile. Once you get there, you can hike up and down stream. Even when the falls aren’t running, the rocks are beautiful and there are usually pools left into the summer. Great place to hike or hang out.

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