REVISION DATE: 2/22/2023
Box Canyon, located 45 minutes south of Tucson on the west side of the Santa Rita mountains, is a north-south oriented mountain range that offers excellent XC potential, and also produces great glass-off flights and year-round flying. There are multiple launches, serving multiple wind directions, wing types, and hiking desires.
Only 8-10 miles south of the Box launches are Madera Canyon and Mt. Wrightson (9,452’). A world-renowned location for bird watching, Madera Canyon is a major resting place for migrating species, while the extensive trail system of the Santa Rita Mountains is easily accessed from the canyon’s campground and picnic areas.
Mt. Wrightson was named for William Wrightson, a miner and entrepreneur. The peak’s distinctive pyramid-shaped profile is visible from much of southeastern Arizona and adjoining areas in Sonora, Mexico.
- Current SAHGA (or AZHPA) and USHPA memberships.
- Lower launches: P2.
- Mid launches: H3 or H2 with local sponsor, P3.
- Top launch: P3 or P2 with local sponsor.
- All visiting Pilots are required to have a site briefing prior to flying.
- CAUTION: Read all the general requirements and warnings here.
- All Box Canyon launches sit on USFS land, and the LZ sits on the Eastern edge of the University of Arizona Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER). Pilots are reminded to be a good stewards of the site to ensure future access.
Know Before You Go
- 31.823631, -110.808206 (Google Maps link)
- There are no facilities at the LZ or launches. The nearest restrooms are in Sahuarita.
- 31.821241, -110.796596, 5200 MSL. (Google Maps link)
- Hike up from LZ, following a mostly well-defined trail up the obvious hill due W of LZ.
- There are 3 distinct launches: N, NW, and SW.
- PG Winds: 5-10 mph with maximum gust factor 5 mph over 5 seconds.
- Wind Direction:
- SW launch: “Go” wind direction: 235°-265°; “Caution” wind direction: 225°-275°, “No-Go” (Rotor Danger) wind direction: 275°-305°
- NW launch: “Go” 320°-350°; “Caution" 310°-360°
- N launch: “Go" 350°-15°; “Caution” 345°-25°
- 31.821709, -110.782581. 5700 MSL (Google Maps link)
- Drive-up launch. Approach via Greaterville Rd. and a complicated 4WD route. Travel with an experienced local for directions. 4WD and high-clearance is a must!
- PG launch is steep with challenging footing.
- HG launch is a shallow-slope ramp.
- PG Winds: 5-10 mph with maximum gust factor 5 mph over 5 seconds
- HG Winds: 5-10 mph with maximum gust factor 5 mph over 3 seconds
- Wind Direction: “Go” 265°-310°, “Caution”: 255°-320°
- 31.817357, -110.787082. 6,100’ MSL (Google Maps link)
- 30-min. hike from Mid Launch up to, and just past Alazurra Peak.
- PG Winds: 5-10 mph, max gust 5 mph over 5 seconds
- Wind direction: “Go” 335°-350°, “Caution” 320°-360°
Designated Landing Zone
- 31.823894, -110.806638. 4,400’ MSL. (Google Maps link)
- Clearing with a windsock
- Slopes gradually from NE to SW
- Bordered by washes on the north and south and a barbed wire fence on the west.
- While this LZ is large by PG standards, it is considered a restricted landing field for HG, so HG pilots should plan their landing approaches accordingly.
- Driving from the Mid Launch to the landing zone requires over an hour because the most direct route is blocked by a land owner. This is an annotated map showing the route.
From Lower Launch
- During evening glass offs, the generally followed flight plan is to bench up towards Alazurra Peak via the E-W ridge created by the peak and Lower Launch.
- Lower launch is ~800’ above the LZ. Head for the LZ once you are flying below launch to avoid coming up short and landing in the bushes or wash.
From Mid Launch
- Follow the terrain from launch to the LZ.
- With NNW winds, it is best to follow the large E-W ridge to the left (south) of launch.
- With W winds, the smaller ridge to the right (north) of launch is usually a better choice.
From Top Launch
- From this launch, it is usually easy to follow the main ridge leading from the top of the mountain down to the lower launches.
- Stay on the windward side of the ridge, even if you are above it.
Approaching the LZ
- Once you have cleared the wash, 1,000’ east of the LZ, there are plenty of places to land.
- Plan to arrive high enough to fly a rectangular pattern around the LZ to observe the wind and thermal conditions.
- When landing East to West, plan to land East (short) of the center of the LZ (windsock), as a barbed wire fence is only 300’ West of the center of the LZ.