REVSION DATE:  1/31/2023

Overview

The Whetstone Mountains are a hang gliding site located East of Sonoita on the southern face of the range, and can be flown year-round. The Whetstones are a dry and rugged fault-block mountain range only about 15 miles long. The upper slopes support open oak-juniper woodland; the lower slopes are scrub-grasslands.

The only access to this mountain range is by a few unimproved four-wheel drive routes that reach some of the lower canyons. There are no roads reaching higher elevations. A single hiking trail into the heart of the mountain range is accessed from Kartchner Caverns State Park (a visit to the Caverns is worth it if you have the time).

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Site Requirements

  • Current SAHGA (or AZHPA) and USHPA memberships.
  • Local guide required for all pilots new to the site.
  • H4 rating.
  • General requirements and warnings are here.

Skill Requirements

  • FSL, TUR, XC, RLF
  • This is a flat-slope launch best flown in strong SW conditions. 
  • 15mph min, 20mph max. gust limit 5mph
  •  Wind Direction in tables below listed in compass degrees 
  • Ideal
  • OK

Know Before You Go

  • Suitable for HG only.
  • A local guide is necessary to access the launch.
  • This is a flat-slope launch best flown in strong SW winds
  • Requires a hike of 160’ vertical over 0.25 miles.
  • The primary LZ is adjacent to a ravine.
  • Shallow-slope launch, 360’ vertical above LZ.

Site Description

  • Season: Year-round
  • Land ownership: Coronado National Forest.
  • Driving directions: Contact a local guide.

Parking

  • Very limited. No more than two vehicles at the LZ and no more than one vehicle at the trailhead.

Facilities

  • None at the LZ or launch. The nearest restrooms are in Sonoita.

Launch

  • Elevation: 5,940’
  • Coordinates: 31.768147, -110.458351 (Google Maps link)
  • Orientation: SW
  • Type: Shallow slope
  • The hillside is somewhat rocky. Clearances are not a problem, but desert flora (century plants and cactus) may present a hazard in the event of a failed launch.
  • HG Winds: 15-20 mph, max gust 5 mph over 5 seconds
  • Wind direction: “Go” 230°-255°, “Caution" 220°-265°
  • Setup area: Behind launch, to the North, no tie-downs

Designated Landing Zone

  • Elevation: 5,580’
  • Coordinates: 31.766913, -110.463522 (Google Maps link)
  • Restricted LZ bordered by a ravine on the east. There are a few trees at the uphill, downwind side of the preferred landing area where vehicles are normally parked.
  • The area is a little rocky, and the usual desert flora and fauna are present.
  • The geographic attributes of the preferred landing area can produce turbulence during the hot part of the day.

Flying

  • Controlled and restricted airspace to the South.
  • High-desert site with excellent XC potential in all directions.
  • Without sustaining lift, it is best to head directly to the LZ after launching.