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The distance from the base camp to the observatory is about 30 miles, covering an altitude difference of about 7,600 ft (2300 m). The first 22 miles are a well maintained (but slow) paved mountain road; the remainder is unpaved road. Normally, outside the winter season, the observatory can be reached by passenger car in less than 75 minutes. In winter, a four-wheel drive vehicle and more time are required. The paved section of road is cleared of snow by ADOT, the dirt section by MGIO.

Figure 1.2: Coronado Forest Map

Figure 1.3: MGIO Topographic Map


There is a locked gate. During the winter, the locked gate is at the end of the paved road (mile marker 136). In the spring/fall, the locked gate is at the bottom of the access road, just after mile marker 142. The access road is a one way road, about 2 miles in length (shown in Figure 1.3 as the road leading down from the SMT/VATT), so that you must ask if there is any traffic coming the opposite way before you proceed. Usual protocol is to ask three times (to give time for a response) and then to announce that which way you are going. If going to the telescope, you would say ``One car going up the access road''. If going down to base camp, you would say ``One car going down the access road''. Observers are required to get keys and radios before leaving the base camp in Safford. They must be aware of the driving protocol on the mountain at the access road. Ask if you are not sure on how to work the radio.

MGIO provides a shuttle service between the base camp and the site. The shuttle leaves the base camp at 6:30 and returns by 16:30. An hour and one quarter is the nominal driving time up the mountain. This is a four-wheel drive, six-passenger vehicle. If needed, observers are encouraged to schedule their time to utilize this service. An experienced mountain driver operates this vehicle.

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Last updated: 11/08/11.