Latest REV: 2.17.21
Shaw Butte is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. An historic hang gliding and paragliding site in the heart of Phoenix, pioneered in the early 70's, Shaw Butte is still surprising pilots with epic and memorable flights quite often.
The Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation along with South Mountain Preserve Parks, Recreation and Library Department have a long-standing relationship and an agreement in place with a set of guidelines for flight operations at our designated flying sites within the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The Master Plan for Shaw Butte, adopted by the City Council, confirmed hang gliding and paragliding as an appropriate use and specified areas for launching and landing hang gliders.
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation along with Shaw Butte Preserve Park Rangers has given permission for people to fly from a designated launch and land in designated landing areas under the following conditions:
All pilots must be current members of the Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (AZHPA). Membership info here.
All pilots must read and indicate consent to both the Phoenix Parks and Recreation and AZHPA/USHPA liability waivers.
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" (turbulence), "CL" (cliff launch), 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 Shaw Butte/North Mountain Park 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
A current airspace map and understanding of it is critical for flying at Shaw Butte. There is a Class B 6,000' ASL restriction/ceiling above all Park terrain. If planning on flying XC to areas other than designated LZ’s, previous XC experience and a current airspace map is required, paying close attention to Scottsdale and Deer Valley airport airspaces to the north and northeast.
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.
Phoenix SkyHarbor Airspace Chart (SkyVector.com)
Deer Valley Airport Airspace Chart (SkyVector.com)
Scottsdale Airport 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: City of Phoenix Municipal Park. Phoenix Mountains Preserve.
Other use: Open to the public for sightseeing, hiking, bicycling and more. Trails can be busy during winter months and holidays.
Access: Hike and fly, or vehicle access with a local pilot with key. (Gate is locked for truck road at Central Ave. trailhead.)
Orientation: Faces 225 degrees at 2,132' MSL. (650m)
Type: Natural landscape. Cleared area.
GPS Coordinates: 33.5940°, -112.0869°, Google Maps
Winds: This is not a light wind flying site. It is primarily flown later in the day for ridge soaring and glass-off flying. If planning to thermal fly at Shaw Butte, a comprehensive understanding and sufficient experience launching and flying thermal sites in demanding environments and a current airspace map is required. SW, WSW 7-15 mph. Unsafe with winds below 7 mph or above 15 mph. Gust differential should be less than 3 mph in 3 seconds.
Driving Directions: Meet with other pilots at LZ (see below). From Black Canyon Freeway (I-17), take Peoria exit East. Follow to end at 7th Ave., take left and follow to trail head parking area.
Hiking Directions: From the LZ parking lot, take trail 306 to Shaw Butte Trail to the top. From Central Avenue Shaw Butte Trailhead Parking lot: Take Shaw Butte Trail to the top. Hike will take 25-45 minutes depending on your physical condition.
Road Conditions: High clearnace, 4WD only; steep, winding and very rough in spots. Vehicles must give right-of-way to hikers and drive extrememly slow so not to kick up dust and or rocks. Hiking is strongly encouraged.
Parking: Parking area on top. Parking lots at trailheads.
Set-up Area: Adjacent to fenced comm tower is a flat, clear area for set up. Paragliders should do their set up and line checks here rather than on the very small launch.
Hazards: Having strong ground handling skills and feel for glider are required to launch Shaw Butte. Radio towers and power lines behind launch. Cliff type launch. Rocky areas are predominant. Power lines to the south of launch have orange ball markers and must be flown over to make LZ. Desert type environment and conditions.
Due to the common occurrence of thermals joining as they ascend, sink can be minimal on many days so it is best practice to exit thermals at 5,300 ASL to make sure you have sufficient time to implement proper descent techniques and stay out of restricted airspace. Conditions can change rapidly in the desert. Please be an active pilot. Always have extra altitude for final glide/approach to landing zone. Clear 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, 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 ridge soaring and thermal conditions. Dust devils are year round. Typical high pressure days feature blue (sharp edged) thermals. Stay clear of terrain and avoid "scratching"/flying close to terrain at all time.
Restrictions: Heavily-used airspace with three nearby airports, including Sky Harbor. 6,000' MSL limit over the Butte. KDVT and KSDL controlled Class D airports to the North and NE. Please refer to the “Know Before You Go” section and airspace graphic and chart links provided on this page.
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.
Designated Landing Zones
Retention Basin LZ: Visible from areas directly South and East of launch as an obvious natural clearing in desert..
GPS Coordinates: 33.5842°, -112.0809° Google Maps
Elevation: 1,312', 400m
Mountain View Park LZ: Visible from areas South and East of Launch as a large grassy area.
GPS Coordinates: 33.5796°, -112.0815° Google Maps
Elevation: 1,295', 395m
Directions: Take 7th avenue North of Hatcher Road until it ends for both LZ’s.
Wind Sock: There is a large orange wind cone at the trailhead marker and sign located at the end of 7th avenue directly West of the Retention Basin LZ.
Conditions: Paved roads to both LZs.
Hazards: Landing zones are not visible from launch. Both landing zones need to be approached with ample altitude. If glider is below launch altitude, flying toward LZ’s is required. There are power lines along 7th Avenue. Retention LZ has slight downhill slope to the West. Paraglider pilots should set up their approach avoiding the obvious ravine around the Retention LZ as well as any hikers on neighboring trails. If there are people in the Mountain View Park LZ, land in areas without people and if the park is even somewhat busy, land at Retention Basin LZ. It is a very real possibility to be blown over the back of both Shaw Butte peak or adjacent North Mountain peak if you are not paying attention to the current winds, the forecast winds (surface and aloft) or both. Keep well out in front of the peaks if you have any doubts.
Restrictions: Stay on designated trails. Park in designated areas only. All park rules must be adhered to.
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.