REVISION DATE: 02/21/22

Overview

Miller Canyon is a big-mountain, lee-side flying site with launches in Coronado National Forest and the Huachuca Mountains, just south of Sierra Vista, AZ. It can provide excellent XC potential as well as great morning sled rides.

If you are able to stay long enough to participate in non-flying activities, you will find Miller Canyon a fine riparian area with plenty of evidence of the area’s mining past and wonderful views from the Huachuca Crest. Inside the canyon are the remains of the townsite of Palmerlee and a number of abandoned mining digs. Down in the bed of Miller Creek, which usually has water in it year-round, you’ll be able to see lengths of the old carbon steel pipe which were placed here in the nineteenth century to carry water to the boomtown of Tombstone. Along lower stretches of the trail, large old sycamore trees and Douglas firs shade the streambed.

At Miller, even a sled ride is considered a premiere flying event because of the altitude and the scenery both up at launch, in the canyon to the south, and even the grassy, rolling hills around the landing zone.

Miller Canyon is a USHPA/RRRG insured site.

Site Requirements

  • Current SAHGA (or AZHPA) and USHPA memberships.
  • H3 rating (or H2 with a local sponsor).
    • Local guide required for all HG pilots visiting or new to the site.
  • P3 rating (or P2 with local sponsor).
    • Local guide highly recommended for all PG pilots visiting or new to the site.

Skill Requirements

  • H3/P3 w/ CL, TUR, FSL & HA

General Rules

  • Launch only from one of the three designated launches.
  • Park only in the designated parking areas.

Know Before You Go

  • Using the provided images, familiarize yourself with the details and potential hazards of the site.
  • Bring your own windsock.
  • Driving to launch requires a local guide with a key. The alternative is a one-mile hike with a 400’ gain in altitude.
  • Plan to visit the LZ before heading to launch:
    • Install a windsock on the fence using the pole lying on the ground.
    • Notice the hazards in the LZ:
      • Downhill slope from south to north and from west to east.
      • Power lines.
      • Mailboxes and road signs.
  • Avoid restricted airspace:
    • 15K’ MSL ceiling over launch.
    • Two-mile radius around aerostat (airborne, tethered radar blimp), four miles North of launch.
  • Avoid controlled airspace six miles North of launch.
  • Avoid Mexican airspace six miles South of launch.
  • Avoid landing in Mexico.

Site Description

Parking

Very limited. No more than two vehicles at the E and NE launch area, no more than three vehicles at the SE HG launch, and no more than two vehicles at the junction with Carr Canyon Road.

Facilities

USFS restrooms at the lower end of Carr Canyon Road, about 1.8 miles from AZ-92. None at launch or in the LZ.

Launches

  • High-altitude, big-mountain, lee-side site sitting above a high-desert (4,800’ MSL) floor.
  • Location: North rim of Miller Canyon, below Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains within the Coronado National Forest, eight miles South of Sierra Vista.
  • Usage: HG and PG.
  • Season: Dependent on weather and USFS control of the Carr Canyon Road. While the site can be flown year round, the road is often closed from late November (first snow) until March or April.
  • Land ownership:
    • Launch is Coronado National Forest.
    • LZ is private, with permission contingent on insurance.
  • Other use: Launches are behind a locked gate, but the public often finds a way to get there, so it is important to keep non-pilots far enough away from launch activities to ensure their safety.
  • Driving directions to launch: From LZ, drive North on AZ-92 and turn left (West) on Carr Canyon Road, partly a 2WD dirt road. At 31.42880, -110.28873, turn left onto a 4WD dirt road secured by a locked gate. You will need a SAHGA member with a gate key to drive any further. The alternative is to hike to launch from here, about 400’ vertical and just under a mile.

HG Launch, Southeast

  • Required HG special skills: FL, CL, HA.
  • Elevation: 7600’.
  • Orientation: Southeast.
  • Type: Stabilized packed soil ramp.
  • Coordinates: 31.422947, -110.285102 (Google Maps link).
  • Winds: 5-10 mph with peak gust differential of 5 mph over 3 seconds; anything over 10 mph requires a wire crew.
  • Wind Direction: “Go” 90°-120°, “Caution” 70°-125°.
  • Setup area: North of launch ramp; tie-down hooks are present.

HG and PG Launches, East and Northeast

  • Required HG and PG special skills: FL, HA.
  • Elevation: 7600’.
  • Orientation: East and Northeast.
  • Type: Steep, rocky slope.
  • Coordinates: 31.426320, -110.283167 (Google Maps link).
  • HG Winds: 5-10 mph with peak gust differential of 5 mph over 3 seconds.
  • PG Winds: 3-12 mph with peak gust differential of 4 mph over 3 seconds.
  • East-facing launch:
    • Wind direction: “Go” 45°-90°, “Caution” 30°-100°.
  • Northeast-facing launch:
    • Wind direction: “Go” 350°-30°, “Caution” 340°-45°
  • Setup area: top of hill, west of launch slopes, tie-down hooks are present

Designated Landing Zone

  • Elevation: 4800’
  • Driving directions to LZ: From I-10 and AZ-90, head South on AZ-90 through Sierra Vista to AZ-92. LZ is at AZ-92 and Mountain Vista Road. Coordinates: 31.440237, -110.252026 (Google Maps link).
  • Location: AZ-92 and Mountain Vista Road.
  • Windsock: Large metal pole lying along fence, South of parking area.

Flying

  • Two peaks: Carr and Miller, separated by Miller Canyon.
  • XC potential in all directions.
  • Fly as a thermal site; avoid ridge soaring or scratching close to terrain.
  • The E and NE launches look better than they are.
    • Both are steep, rocky slopes that end abruptly with a cliff obscured by vegetation.
    • At 7,600’ MSL surrounded by a high-desert (4500’ MSL), the conditions often change rapidly.
  • The East-facing launch requires a solid cycle for launching either wing type as there is often an area of calm air about midway down the launch. No-wind launches are not recommended here.
  • Prevailing SE wind often wraps around rocky outcropping to the right (South) of East-facing launch causing (PG) wing-folding turbulence shortly after launching into a perfectly straight-in cycle.
  • Strong, (PG) plucking cycles are common on both NE and E launches.
  • While no-wind launches are possible, they are not recommended: high altitude, poor footing, slope ends abruptly in a cliff obscured by vegetation.
  • Terrain slopes down behind the NE and E launches, so pilots must avoid drifting behind launch, as it is possible to get pinned by sinking, sometimes turbulent, air just behind launch, only to discover that you are now below launch level with no good landing options.
  • Strong, turbulent convergence is common near the peaks, so approach them with caution and spare altitude.
  • Air over the canyon is almost always turbulent.
  • Both launches sit above a large rock reef that produces turbulence above and behind it. Pilots are cautioned against getting too far back behind the reef.
  • Getting pushed back into Miller Canyon should be avoided and can result in an unpleasant canyon landing. Pilots should follow the flight plan to the LZ to avoid this.
  • HG and PG pilots should head toward the LZ as soon as they are below launch, staying above and on the windward side of the east-west ridge between launch and the LZ. The ridge is not visible from the SE launch until you are east of the large rock reef.
  • Surface winds in the LZ often defy prediction, so plan to arrive high enough to fly a rectangular pattern around this high-desert, dry LZ.
  • The LZ slopes downhill from south to north and from west to east. It also sports power lines along the SW, W, and NW boundaries.
  • Pilots should plan to land between the highway and the “Y” in the dirt road.