Dry Canyon

Robin Hastings launch (HG, PG) 32.927172° -105.885840° Alamogordo, NM  7,013' MSL 2,400' AGL 
Bo Frazier launch (PG)32.925986° -105.883702°
Primary LZ 32.928334° -105.945127° (when not going XC, which is very common :) )
Bail Out LZ (emergencies only) 32.92772223793077°, -105.93997964498287°
Rated H/P3 or H/P2 with an USHPA instructor present.
HA and TURB recommended
Robin Hastings Launch:
  Hangies: ideal direction 200° - 270°, wind 10 mph gusts no more than 5 mph
  Baggies: P4 recommended, ideal direction 230° - 270°, wind 10 mph gusts no more than 5 mph
Bo Frazier Launch:
  Baggies only, ideal direction 200° - 235° (at launch, not synoptic), wind 10 mph gusts no more than 5 mph

Revised 20220303

NOTE!!! The road to Dry Canyon is impassible unless you have a VERY sturdy, high clearance 4x4, ATV, or dirt bike. Even highly capable stock Jeeps, Tacomas and Tundras struggle to make it up at this time. Expect to have to get out and spend at least an hour to fill in the deep ruts with rocks and dirt.

The RGSA is working on locating a heavy equipment operator and securing matching funds to fix the road.

General Info

A premier world class site for PG and HG that has outstanding views of the Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Monument, the City of Alamogordo, and the Sacramento Mountains.  The site was discovered and developed by the local hang gliding community many decades ago.  We are very thankful for their pioneering work.  Its southwest face and the bowl shape of the Canyon make for safe launching and ideal thermal and ridge soaring conditions.  It is rare when pilots have a sled ride from Dry Canyon.  Glass-offs and cross-country trips are regular features offered to pilots who fly Dry Canyon.

2021 Columbus Day Fun-Fly info

Some Videos


Dry Canyon RGSA SSA 2018 Memorial Day Fly-in
Dry Canyon Fly In 2020. 195 Mile XC. Alamagordo, NM to Conchas, NM
Dry Canyon Hangliding at the annual fly-in
Ozone Swift 5 - Dry Canyon mini-fly-in and mini-XC

The main launch faces southwest over the Tularosa Basin and is at the center of a huge bowl formed by the Sacramento Mountains.  View here is to the east with the 10,000' MSL summit of the Sacramento ridge in the far background.

paragliding at Dry Canyon, Alamogordo, NM

paragliding at Dry Canyon, Alamogordo, NMSteve Crye soaring the ridge in front of launch.  Photo by Steve

Main LZ

32.928334° -105.945127° 

LZ From Air
Ownership of the main LZ, aka "Hang Glider Park" aka Cox Field was recently transferred to Alamogordo Public Schools. In 2022 a middle school will be build there. For now it is open, but we will will need to find an alternate LZ in the summer of 2022.  Do not land if you see construction activity; use the bail-out, or land just west of the grass on the dirt south of the shade structure. Prior to flying, leave a voice mail or email the APS Chief of Capital Outlay and Facilities: Justin Burks 575-812-6015 justin.burks@alamogordoschools.org .

Turn east off of HWY 70 (also HWY 54 and White Sands Blvd.) on Fairgrounds road, go straight past the Griggs Field ball park to the landing zone on the left.

HG pilots or PG pilots on EN C or EN D wings can easily make the LZ in a sled ride from launch.  PG pilots on an EN B wing must have altitude greater than the westerly part of the Dry Canyon ridge ("West Ridge") in order to make the LZ in a straight glide, but often on the way to the LZ lift can be found along the ridge that runs down from launch.  If you have reached the westerly part of the ridge and are still too low to make the Main LZ, Bai lOut LZ, or Optional LZ, immediately turn southwest and find something flat somewhere south of the Space Museum. Inexperienced pilots should not land on the dirt road just south of the Museum as there are hazards in the area including light poles and fencing.  Less experienced pilots can safely use the dirt road that spans the Canyon from northeast to southwest and goes downhill nearly all of the way.  It is a hike out but there is over a mile of downhill sloping dirt road that is easy and safe to land on.  Do not attempt to land on the dirt road that goes northwest – southeast at the base of the canyon.  It is intersected by deep washouts that are hard to see and would be dangerous to land in.

Bail Out LZ - emergencies only

32.92772223793077°, -105.93997964498287°

Bail Out LZ
Just east of the primary LZ is a shallow drainage area. It is usually dry and not heavily vegetated. It is plenty big enough for PG, HG will require RLF skills and a cool head. Please only use in emergencies if you cannot reach the Main or Optional LZs. In general, do not land anywhere in the City of Alamogordo without prior written permission.

Optional LZ

The Christ Community Church on North Scenic Drive has a gravel parking lot below the paved parking lot that has been used in the past. Do NOT land if cars are parked there! Watch out for the light poles on the paved section of the parking lot.

Christ Churge Maps

ChristChurch Google

Click for Directions to Launch

Restrictions

All pilots must contact the RGSA in order to use the landing zone. Only RGSA members and their guests may use the LZ per rules set by Alamogordo Public Schools.  First time pilots should be guided as the site has hazards. 

Winds and Conditions

This is both a thermic and ridge soaring site, although the best flights use the amazing thermals that are common. Winds at the PG launch area are best when 4-12 mph.  Above that, there is a danger getting blown over the back.  HG, of course, can fly in much higher base winds but should not launch if winds are below 8 mph.  Wind direction should be 240º - 270º.  When winds start to turn more north, there can be very strong rotor near the ridge going out NW of launch.  Pilots have been forced to the ground (side hill landing) by the rotor when winds were light from the north.

Thermals

Dry Canyon has strong thermals that drift through the canyon and often merge near the launch area – making them more powerful.  Pilots should be alert to turbulence when thermalling in this area, especially during the summer, and be careful to launch in conditions appropriate to their glider type and skill level.  The house thermals are shown in the photo below.  Pilots can expect 5m/s+ air in the middle of the day during the late spring, summer, and early fall seasons and even stronger rates near launch.  The high pressure conditions that are common in the region often make the thermals sharp edged (punchy) with potentially dangerous lee side (downwind) turbulence.  Unless you are comfortable and capable of handling glider deflations, we generally recommend that PG pilots stay out of the air from 10:30AM-4:30PM from April until October.

Launch Areas

There are separate launch areas for PG and HG.  We strongly recommend that PG pilots use the safer Bo Frazier launch 270 meters southeast of the Robin Hastings HG/PG launch.  The Hastings launch is hazardous for PG for two reasons: 
1.) Rotor and turbulence are high because of the nearly shear cliff in front of the launch. 
2.)  There are many sharp rocks in the launch area which tend to snag the lines, even cutting them on occasion.

PG: Launch into the direction of the wind, turn left (Hastings launch) or right (Frazier launch).  Be sure to get out in front quickly.  Keep a healthy 50 meters between you and the rocks.  While the Hastings launch adds another 70' to launch altitude, it should not matter for PG.

HG: Conditions will determine which direction HG pilots will turn when launching.  Here is a good launch strategy (courtesy of Robin Hastings): If you go UP off the concrete ramp, turn left. If you go down, or straight out – turn right, and head for the LZ.

View just northwest from launch.  The green arrow points to the primary LZ.  Photo courtesy of Christopher Clemens.

Dry Canyon view

For PG pilots, flying during the late fall and winter is the ideal.  Thermals are gentle and the ridge soaring conditions are delightful.  Pilots can fly the ridge all day and enjoy a glass off above the city of Alamogordo.  A dusting of snow can add to the enchantment of flying Dry Canyon.

Hastings launch area on January 27, 2010.  Lee Boone is getting ready to launch.  The LZ in Alamogordo was warm.

Dry Canyon in snow

Additional Info &Hazards

Top landing (PG only) has now been done a number of times but it is only for experienced pilots.  Rotor can be present! Again, TL is for experiences pilots only who can judge the hazards

Being blown over the back can be dangerous so pilots should always be watching their speed over the ground. The canyons behind the launch ridge are filled with tall pine trees and rocks.

Always watch the clouds east of launch and use caution if you see rain falling west of the Cloudcroft ridge - OD can build quickly!.  Watch the weather while flying and be prepared to land immediately if overdevelopment begins.  Weather dangers that are from the west can be observed by looking for the white sands kicking up in the air.  Thank you, Robin Hastings, for this important tip.

If you look carefully in the photo below, you can see the effects of high winds on the Sands.  They will kick up the white sands thousands of feet in the air.  IF YOU SEE ANYTHING LIKE THIS, DO NOT LAUNCH/COME DOWN IMMEDIATELY as you are about to experience high winds.

White Sands sand storm from vantage of Dry Canyon

Do not fly this site unless you have checked winds aloft as an occasional northwest breeze can swirl around and come straight in at launch but there will be rotor out in front, especially if you get lower than the ridge.  Conditions in the Tularosa Basin can be checked by calling the automated weather service at the airport: 575-439-4112.

Dry Canyon launch areas & house thermals

Dry Canyon thermal locations

Below is a Google Earth image with path (green) to the Bo Frazier PG launch area.  It is a short hike (270 meters.) around the back of the ridge and down a small cliff.  PG pilots can safely lay out their wing with little rotor or turbulence and without the danger of snagging/cutting their lines.  The path is fairly obvious but is not well worn as only pilots use it. The tirck is finding the correct point to negotiate the short cliff about halfway down the path. The correct spot goes down the cliff in a narrow cleft. (Our thanks to Bo Frazier of the Sandia Soaring Association for his help and suggestions for using the PG launch.)

Dry Canyon paraglider launch

Robin Hastings just leaving his eponymous launch.  Conditions at this moment were mild as it was getting late in the day and Robin had a safe, easy launch.  Photo by David Sanderson.

Hang glider launch from Dry Canyon

A view of the Dry Canyon LZ.  Grady Viramontes is kiting in the LZ.  The City of Alamogordo was very generous when they cleared, seeded and irrigated this land back in the 80's. It is tragic that soon a school will be built there and we will be forced to find another LZ.

Dry Canyon LZ

Mike Ellsworth soaring off the face of Dry Canyon.  Photo by David Sanderson

Hang glider above Dry Canyon

A PG pilot bringing his glider up at the Hastings launch.  As evidenced here, the air coming in past the hang glider ramp is turbulent at the south end which is why we recommend that PG pilots do not use this launch.  PG pilots should use the safer launch Bo Frazier launch 270 meters southeast of the Hastings launch.  Photo by David Sanderson

paraglider launch at Dry Canyon

A view from the Hastings launch ramp (7,000') with the City of Alamogordo, NM and the White Sands in the background.

view of Alamogordo from Dry Canyon launch

Soaring Dry Canyon late in the day.  The white dot in the center is the moon.

moon over Dry Canyon

View of snowy Sierra Blanca 12,000' MSL looking north from the HG launch area.  Photo taken by PG pilot Christopher Clemens in late November.

Sierra Blanca from Dry Canyon

Doak Hoover flying above the launch.

paraglider above Dry Canyon Alamogordo, NM