This is a wonderful loop around Mt Wrightson with two sections of dirt road and two sections of paved road. Both sections of dirt climb through beautiful country – remote in the case of FR 143 and popular in the case of Box Canyon. The ride is about 84 miles with 5,600 feet of climbing. I rode this 4/21/2020.
Drive down Hwy 83 to Sonoita then turn right and continue down Hwy 82 to Patagonia. I parked in the center of town in front of the Stage Stop Inn.
The first 26 miles are up Forest Road 143, but in the opposite direction to the Amado-Patagonia-Nogales Loop I did a week ago. I found riding East from Amado was the tougher direction, largely because the uphill was rougher and steeper. So this loop gives you the easier direction along FR 143.
Cross Hwy 82 and ride up 4th Ave to its end then turn left on Pennsylvania Ave and follow this for the next 26 miles 🙂
The road starts fairly flat but soon starts climbing, although never continuously. The road is good and there are some lovely views as you start to gain height.
Eventually you reach the Salero Ranch valley. You’ll see roads leading off on both sides, all gated and marked with the Salero Ranch sign. The main road through the ranch, FR 143, is beautifully graded as it goes through the ranch valley and you’ll wish you could ride on this forever, especially as it goes more downhill than uphill.
But all good things must end and at about mile 12.3 you start the long gradual climb into the hills. Just after mile 16 you reach an intersection, and you turn left following the sign for Amado.
At about mile 16.75 you do a lovely long descent into a pretty valley then just after mile 18 you start what is perhaps the best of the difficult climbs on FR 143. The climb tops out at the high-point of the road, with a great view down to the plains below, with the triangular peak of Baboquivari on the distant horizon.
You finally reach the paved Mt Hopkins Road at about mile 26.7. Turn left and ride down to Elephant Head Road, where you turn left again and ride to the I-19 Frontage Road, which you reach at about mile 33.
Turn right here and ride up the frontage for almost 8 miles to Continental Road in Green Valley. Turn right here and ride about 1 mile to the traffic light, where you turn right following the signs for Madera Canyon.
After about 7.3 miles from the light, you’ll see a sign for Box Canyon to Hwy 83, 14 miles. Just where the paved road turns right, you take Hwy 62, the big wide dirt road on the left.
For the next few miles the road climbs very gradually with some minor descents. Then you enter Box Canyon and start the real climb. Follow the wonderful road up the left side of the beautiful canyon as it twists and turns and eventually tops out with some more dirt to gradually descend. This dirt road turns to paved road about 3 miles before you finally reach Hwy 83.
Turn right and ride about 8 miles of rolling road to Sonoita, then turn right and follow Hwy 82 for 12 flattish miles back to Patagonia.
Links and Other Clicks
The Amado-Patagonia-Nogales-Amado Loop that rides FR 143 West -> East. I found this the more difficult direction on FR 143.
Riding FR 143 as an out-and-back.
A page about riding Box Canyon from Hwy 83.
The other big mountain loop is the Mt Lemmon Loop. This is about 20 miles longer but only has one section of dirt road, over Redington Road.