Chelan Butte Site Guide

Last Revision: May 28, 2022

This place is truly a free-flight gem. With a rich history of flying and consistently one of America’s top big air XC Sites. While smooth air and benign thermals can be found during the mornings, evenings, and off-season, Chelan is renowned for its dust devils and turbulent conditions during mid-day. 
We ask all pilots flying Chelan Butte to complete the following before flying:
1.  Read through the materials here, and make sure to connect with someone in the local community for an in person site intro. 
2. Join the Club (All dues support the maintenance, insurance, and preservation of free-flight in Chelan)


Hang gliding and paragliding flights occur at Chelan Butte year-round.  Peak season is June and July, when pilots regularly soar to 10,000 feet or more above Chelan Butte.  Soaring can be seen from anywhere in town or the Chelan area.  To get an up-close view or to talk to the pilots, try the Chelan Falls Park landing area.  From Chelan, take SR150 towards the Columbia river, then turn right on Chelan Falls Road.  In about one mile turn left to the Chelan Falls Park.  This is a multi-use recreation area maintained by Chelan County PUD with public park, boat launch, soccer fields, picnic areas, walking paths, and a landing zone for hang gliders and paragliders.  For those interested in learning to fly, instructors and tandem pilots can be found through

Connect with local pilots

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Organizing meetups and shuttles. Reach out and see who’s Flying. For Setup instructions click here


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Site Introduction

Launch Area:

Chelan Butte Launch Site Access / Protocol:

Use of launch area is by agreement with Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through a Land Use License (LUL) with Lake Chelan Flyers (LCF).  All pilots MUST be current USHPA members with minimum H3/P3 rating, or Novice rating with instructor supervision.  Visiting international pilots (with equivalent rating) must obtain temporary USHPA membership.  Please contact a local pilot or visit

Extreme fire danger often exists at Chelan Butte during flying season.  The launch area LUL requires that all pilot vehicles carry a shovel and minimum 10/BC fire extinguisher.  Absolutely no fires and no smoking on launch.  Do not drive off the road and do not park over vegetation. Please carpool to keep traffic on the road to a minimum.

Access from US97A / Woodin Ave in the Lakeside area of Chelan.  Turn uphill at Millard Ave / Chelan Butte Road.  Continue straight to top of butte.  Lower portion is paved.  Upper portion is unimproved dirt / gravel.  4wd recommended.  Please drive slowly.  Road is typically open mid-April through first snow of winter.  Avoid road when wet.  Intermittent road closures may occur during summer fire season.

Park vehicles in gravel or mowed areas behind setup / launch area.  Do not block loop road.  Parked vehicles require Washington State Discover Pass recreational area permit (available at local stores including Walmart and Kelly’s Hardware).


All launches are on the south end of the butte at approx 3600ft MSL (see launch photo).  None of the Chelan Butte launch sites are suitable for mini speed wings or other low-performance gliders due to the glide required to reach designated LZs.

Set up areas on both sides are equipped with tie-downs.  HG pilots MUST tie down to cables.  Never leave equipment unattended.  Strong dust devils often occur.

Use extreme caution when launching in thermic conditions.  Severe turbulence can occur during or immediately after launch.

Ants launch:
Direction: SE
Glide to LZ: Approx 4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park)
Recommended winds: 2-12mph; gust factor 5
Notes: Use caution when wind is crossing from right.

Rocks launch:
Direction: S
Glide to LZ: Approx 4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park)
Recommended winds: 5-12mph; gust factor 5
Notes: Shallow slope.  Expect turbulence and wind shear during launch in thermic conditions.  This tends to become more pronounced in lighter winds.  HG pilots: Use aggressive flat-slope launch acceleration.  Do not rely on headwind for airspeed.

Monster launch:
Direction: SW
Glide to LZ: Approx 4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park)
Recommended winds: 5-12mph; gust factor 5
Notes: Becomes turbulent in stronger winds.

Lakeside launch:
Direction: NW
Recommended winds: 0-15mph; gust factor 10
Glide to LZ: Approx 4.8:1 (to Gorge Road LZ)
Notes: Steeper slope, unobstructed launch.  Best choice for light air and newer pilots.

Lakeside Launch, Chelan Butte
Lakeside Launch

Landing Zones

Primary Landing Zones:

There are two primary LZs available through land use agreement with the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD).  All pilots MUST be current USHPA members with minimum H3/P3 rating, or Novice rating with instructor supervision.  Visiting international pilots (with equivalent rating) must obtain temporary USHPA membership.  Please contact a local pilot or visit

Do NOT land in locations other than designated LZs in the City of Chelan or proximity.  XC pilots do NOT land in growing crops under any circumstance!

The Lone Pine LZ next to Chelan Butte Road that appeared in previous site guides is currently closed. The landowner may start developing it without notice, so we can no longer recommend that pilots land there.

Gorge Road / Junkyard LZ:

Elevation – 1,200′ MSL

Access from US97A/Webster Ave via S Farnham street next to high school.  Follow main arterial to Gorge Road.  LZ is on on the right (butte side).

Absolutely do not drive on grass – hot cars start fires! Park carefully on side of road or across street in PUD trailhead parking lot to avoid obstructing through traffic.

Type – Scrub / dirt field.  Mowed annually.

Winds in are typically steady mornings and evenings, but can be very switchy in the afternoon. Mid-day thermals / dust devils are common.

Terrain slopes up to the south.

Obstructions – Power lines at E end of LZ.

Note: LZ can be very thermally. Expect TURBULENCE in the afternoon.

Chelan Falls Park (Soccer Field) LZ

Chelan Falls Park is a multi-use public park maintained by Chelan County PUD.  Pilots must check for conflicting use prior to landing (except in emergency).  Prior to flying, visit to check reservation status and inspect landing area for conflicting activity.  In the event of conflicting activity at Chelan Falls Park, plan to land at Gorge Road (Junkyard) primary LZ.

Elevation – 700′ MSL
Type – Mowed grass field adjacent to Columbia river.  Flag and permanent wind-sock at NE corner.

Land only in designated area.  Do not land in soccer field to the north of the designated LZ.  Do not land at Beebe Bridge park across the river.  Plan for landings to N or S using rectangular approach with downwind leg on east side (see LZ photo).  Land well clear of other park users.

Obstructions – Narrow landing approach, with water, trees, buildings. Large power lines to the N.  Parking lot adjacent to S end of LZ.

Secondary / Cross-country LZ: Chelan Airport

Elevation – 1,260′ MSL

Access from US97A via Apple Acres road
Type – Active municipal airport with sky-diving operation.  LZ turbulent in wind
Approach & land in grass area on SE side of runway. Rectangular approach patterns are either directions on river side. WATCH FOR AIRCRAFT and SKY DIVERS!

Dust Devil Warning:

Dust devils in the launch and setup area can be violent. Tie-downs are required for pilot and spectator safety.  Never leave equipment unattended.  Use extreme caution when launching in thermic conditions.


The primary risk at Chelan Butte involves evaluating flying conditions at or near launch.

There have been two known fatality accidents at launch and numerous injuries to pilots from failed or aborted launches. Chelan Butte, on some days, can be a benign site that is suitable for low-time pilots with limited experience. On other days, it can be extremely challenging, even for master-rated pilots.

As with most big-air sites, it’s smart to connect up with a site-savvy pilot before heading up to fly. Better yet, plan your visit to coincide with one of many annual fly-ins or comps at the Butte (early May, early July, late September, late October – check the Cloudbase Country Club‘s Events page for this year’s dates).

If you plan on flying at Chelan during the summer, be sure your launch and landing skills and your bump tolerance are in peak form. Launches can be extremely challenging, and the mid-day thermals tend to be strong and turbulent. If you’re not an experienced mountain thermal pilot, you’ll have more enjoyable flying if you plan your trip for late summer or early fall, when it’s still plenty soarable but not as intense. Pilots visiting mid-summer should consider flying before noon or in the evening, and enjoy the lake during the middle of the day.