Humboldt Mountain is in the Tonto National Forest and sits within the southwestern end of some of Arizona’s most incredible range of mountains, valleys and mesas and as is in close proximity to Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes. Hang Gliding has been a recognized sporting activity here since the early 1980’s. The Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and the Tonto National Forest have a long-standing relationship and a set of guidelines is in place for flight operations here.
All pilots must be current members of the Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (AZHPA). Membership info here.
All pilots must be current members of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) and have ratings listed below.
All pilots must have a current H3/P3 or higher USHPA rating while launching and flying.
On-site briefings from a local, qualified pilot are a requirement. This sponsor shall be a qualified pilot that has experience flying that individual site.
Visiting pilots can obtain a visiting pilot pass here and show the registration confirmation as proof.
"TUR" (tubulence) and "RLF" (restricted landing field) special skill endorsements are required.
No commercial operations or instruction permitted within Phoenix Mountain Preserve Park areas.
General Rules That Must Be Adhered To By All Pilots
All Tonto National Forest Guidelines must be adhered to.
Do not launch anywhere in the park except for in the designated launching areas. (See Images Below)
Do not land anywhere in the park except for in the designated landing areas. (See Images Below)
Park only in designated parking areas.
Do not venture off designated trails.
Know Before You Go
If flying to the south toward Bartlett Lake, be aware of PHX SkyHarbor airspace. Map below.
Phoenix Metro Area Airspace Graphic (simplified for soaring pilots):
Site Frequency: 151.505 Mhz, DCS code 25: Please note you must turn your DCS on, set the code to 25, and make sure it is turned on for both transmit and receive prior to arrival. Programming instructions for most popular 2 meter radios can be found here.
Latest REV: 2.8.23
Phoenix SkyHarbor Airspace Chart (SkyVector.com)
Usage: Hang Gliding and Paragliding.
Season: Allowed usage year round but mid-summer conditions lead most pilots to venture to northern AZ during peak heat months.
Affiliation: Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. USHPA RRRG insured site.
Land ownership: Tonto National Forest.
Other use: Open to the public for sightseeing, horseback riding, hiking, bicycling and more.
HG and PG Launches
Orientation HG Launch: Faces 90 degrees at 5,165' MSL. (1,574m)
Orientation PG Launch: Faces 90 degrees at 5,155' MSL. (1,573m)
HG Type: New HG ramp was constructed but was pulled into the adjacent parking area by vandals, several supports were broken and the ramp is not currently usable.
PG Type: Cleared natural landscape.
GPS Coordinates: 33.9825°, -111.7984°, Google Maps
Winds: Light to moderate surface winds are preferred as this is a thermal site. ESE, S, ENE. HG 5-15 mph. PG. 5-15 mph. Gust differential 5 mph in 5 seconds.
Driving Directions: From the town of Carefree, take North Cave Creek Road and continue on it as it turns into Seven Springs Road. Turn right on E State Hwy 562 which dead ends at FAA flight radar dome next to launch.
Road Conditions: Rough dirt and paved roads lead to launch.
Parking: Areas for parking up to 10 cars away from launch.
Set-up Area HG: SW of launch.
Set-up Area PG: South of launch.
Hazards: PG launch area is in discussion for improvements. Current area has very minimal pitch so ideal conditions, a strong launch and good feel for the glider is required. Some lift or neutral glide is required for paragliders to make primary LZ, so a thorough understanding of conditions is required. Flying toward LZ when not gaining altitude at launch elevation is required due to conditions and needed glide.
Keep site briefing and situational awareness in mind at all times and give extra safety margin due to desert conditions. Sufficient clearance from observatory, air traffic radar dome and terrain is needed.Conditions can change rapidly in the desert. Please be an active pilot. Do not have final glide/approach to landing zone over water or parked cars adjacent to LZ. Clear the LZ immediately. Dust devils are year round here and they show up with no notice or invitation. Pack up immediately.
Desert terrain and weather are extremely unforgiving on unprepared pilots, outdated equipment and pilots not giving extra margin of safety within their operating limitations. Adequate preparation, a sufficient understanding of desert weather forecasting and a local on-site briefing is required. Desert heat is oppressive (100°-115° F) May through September. Dehydration is a real possibility even during winter months, and those not used to hiking in these conditions can succumb to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Give yourself an extra margin for error due to the terrain and weather conditions.
All pilots must read the General Site Guidelines prior to arrival.
Type: Desert thermal conditions. Dust devils are year round. Typical blue thermals: high pressure, sharp edged. It is a rare treat to have consistent ridge soaring conditions at Humboldt. When we do, it is usually early morning or at the end of the day and usually in winter. Stay clear of terrain and avoid "scratching" at all times. Be especially mindful of the gusts.
Restrictions: Controlled airspace exists approximately 13-16 miles to the south & SW. Please refer to “know before you go” section on this website.
Special Note on Thermal Flying:
Thermal conditions create a demand for pilots to not only have solid ground handling skills with a connected feel to their glider, but also a thorough understanding of how the local weather conditions play into the forecast models in order to be sufficiently prepared for a short launch window that demands certain launch techniques. Proficiency in high-wind-with-gusts kiting, no-wind forwards and light-wind dynamic reverse launches on shallow slopes are crucial for many of our sites and conditions.
Please be aware that strength of conditions will determine if it is better to a.) launch between the thermal cycle, when speeds are zero or light, to then fly away into the next thermal approaching the hill with ample clearance from the terrain, or b.) pull glider up and launch glider directly into the thermal cycle blowing into launch.
Many times launching during a zero- or light-wind cycle between the stronger thermals is not only a safer window, but a better plan to capitalize on the launch cycles as well as the flight plan.
It was common to see many pilots "waiting for the wind" (which is the thermal) to cycle through launch because they are not comfortable and/or proficient with forward and light wind launch techniques, only to experience a stronger cycle than anticipated once their glider was overhead.
Pilots most accustomed to launching in prevailing winds, onshore winds and lighter thermal ridge lift need local, and perhaps local professional, expertise and guidance to gain the needed insight to fly our sites safely.
HG and PG Designated Landing Zones
Horseshoe Reservoir LZ: Straight in front of launch on SW corner of lake, visible from launch as an obvious large dirt area. Break down gliders immediately.
GPS Coordinates: 33.9862°, -111.7197° Google Maps
Elevation: 2,054', 626m
Directions: From Carefree take North Cave Creek Road to turn right on Service Road 205 to left on North Horseshoe Dam Road until it dead ends in dirt parking lot adjacent to LZ.
Wind Sock: An orange wind cone is placed in middle of LZ by local pilots when staging vehicles in parking lot. Designated parking is 50- 200 yards from LZ area.
Conditions: LZ has ample space to set up multiple approaches for landing in clear areas.
Hazards: LZ has slight downhill slope to the south. Paraglider pilots should set up their approach so as to not have final approach over water or parking area when cars are present. Do not set up too close to water. Get to LZ with sufficient altitude. Picnic tables are easily seen and avoided. Desert terrain causes turbulence. Dry river washes produce lift and sink at times.
PG Bailout LZ (Lime Creek Wash): This is an obvious white sand wash area clearly visible from launch. It is possible to land here if final glide to primary LZ is not being made. River washes can produce sink or lift. Landing directly in wash is crucial and a slight tailwind is possible so a long final glide over the land-able terrain of the wash without getting too close to water is required. Prepare for deep sand that may create difficulty for running out your landing.
Note: Pilots must familiarize themselves with this information before arriving, and this information does not replace the need for an in-person site briefing from a qualified, local pilot or instructor familiar with the area and experienced in flying the site.