Last Revision: February 19, 2024

Chelan Butte is a world-renowned freeflight site and has a long history of hosting national competitions. Experienced cross-country pilots enjoy the varied terrain: flatlands to the south and east, mountains to the north and west. Chelan can offer a quick winter sled ride, a short XC flight up the lake to Manson, an epic flight to Idaho, and everything in between.

Access to Chelan Butte by pilots is by agreement with WA DNR, and access to our main landing fields is by agreement with Chelan PUD. Please help us maintain good relationships with these entities by reading and following the rules and guidelines here, and by getting an in-person site intro from someone familiar with the site. You can connect with local pilots on Telegram or Facebook, or by contacting the club.


  1. All pilots must be current members of USHPA. Temporary memberships are available for visiting international pilots. Our landowners require this, as it is a condition for insurance coverage.
  2. All pilots must hold a P3/H3 rating (or international equivalent), or a P2/H2 with instructor supervision. Flat Slope Launch and Turbulence special skills are strongly recommended.
  3. All pilots must join Lake Chelan Flyers.
  4. Due to extreme fire danger that is common during flying season:
    • All vehicles driving up the Butte must carry a shovel and a minimum 10/BC fire extinguisher.
    • Drivers must not drive off the road or park over vegetation.
    • Fires and smoking are strictly prohibited on launch.
  5. Parked vehicles must display a Washington State Discover Pass (available online and at several local stores including Safeway).
  6. Parked vehicles should not obstruct the upper loop road. Park on the gravel or mowed areas behind the launch area.
  7. No motors. Our land use agreements are for unpowered flight. Please do not attempt to launch or land any powered ultralight vehicles at our LZs or launch sites.

Site Description

Location: South of the city of Chelan, WA. Launches: 47.8044, -120.0387. Junkyard LZ: 47.8300, -120.0095. Chelan Falls LZ: 47.7989, -119.9849.
Usage: Hang Gliding and Paragliding. 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.
Season: Allowed year-round, but the road is often impassable in the winter/spring and hiking/snowshoeing may be necessary for access.
Affiliation: Lake Chelan Flyers. USHPA RRRG insured site.
Land Ownership: Washington State Department of Natural Resources (launch). Chelan PUD (landings).
Other use: Open to the public for sightseeing, hiking, bicycling, and more. Chelan Butte is a fantastic viewpoint so it attracts some activity.

  • Access to launch by vehicle is from US97A in the Lakeside are of Chelan. Turn uphill at Chelan Butte Road. Continue straight until nearly the top, where you will make a right turn to get to the launch area. The lower portion is paved, the upper portion is unimproved dirt/gravel. High clearance and 4WD is recommended. Please drive slowly, especially around the blind turns. Please carpool to keep traffic on the road to a minimum, and to avoid filling up the parking area on busy days. Road is typically accessible mid-April through the first snow of winter. Avoid the road when wet.
  • Launch can also be accessed by a hike, but it’s grueling in the heat of summer. The trailhead is conveniently located across the street from the Junkyard LZ, so if conditions allow, you can land at your vehicle.


Pilots are expected to assess hazards for themselves. The following is a summary of some of the hazards that pilots may experience at Chelan Butte, but it is not an exhaustive list.

  • Dust devils in the launch and setup area can be violent. Hang glider pilots are REQUIRED to use tie-downs for pilot and spectator safety.  Never leave equipment unattended when unpacked. Limit your exposure to dust devils by laying out your wing only when you are ready to launch. Use extreme caution when launching in thermic conditions. Carefully evaluate the conditions and determine whether they are appropriate for your skills and risk tolerance. Consider launching earlier in the day to reduce the risk of encountering dust devils on launch.
  • 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. Thermal activity often results in severe turbulence at or near launch. This is particularly pronounced on light wind days, and during mid-day heat. Carefully evaluate launch conditions before flight. Use a different launch or wait for milder conditions when thermal conditions produce excessive gust speeds. Chelan Butte, at some times, can be a benign site that is suitable for low-time pilots with limited experience. At other times, it can be extremely challenging, even for master-rated pilots.
  • Conditions can be extremely turbulent. Pilots flying midday must be ready for turbulence immediately upon exposing the wing to the airflow, and are encouraged to maintain terrain clearance after launching. It is not appropriate to scratch for lift on Chelan Butte. The safest course of action is to fly straight out after launching until safely away from the terrain, even if you immediately find lift. It is typical to find good lift out front.
  • East wind puts all of the launches in the lee to a certain extent, and it’s not always obvious since the wind can wrap around and appear to be flowing up-slope. Flights can be safely conducted with light east components to the wind, but caution must be exercised.
  • The bowl to the left when standing on the Ants launch often has sink and turbulent air. It is recommended to avoid that area, especially when below ridge height.
  • The Chelan Airport is very active, and has a skydiving operation. If flying near the airport, we recommend that you remain well west of the runway centerline to avoid conflicting with the jump planes and other traffic.
  • 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. 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 autumn, when it’s still 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.
  • Winds are often strong in the late afternoon and evening.

A dust devil wreaks havoc on assembled hang gliders

A dust devil wreaks havoc on assembled hang gliders


Launches Overview

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.


Orientation: Faces SE at ~3700 ft MSL.
Glide to LZ: ~4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park).
Type: Grass, short shrubs, and bare dirt.
GPS Coordinates: 47.8041, -120.0383
Winds: 2-12 mph; ideal 5; gust factor 5 (PG). 5-12 mph; ideal 8; gust 8 (HG).
Notes: Use caution when wind is crossing from right.

Between the Rocks

Orientation: Faces S at ~3700 ft MSL.
Glide to LZ: ~4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park).
Type: Grass, short shrubs, and bare dirt.
GPS Coordinates: 47.8040, -120.0388
Winds: 5-12 mph; ideal 8; gust factor 5 (PG). 5-18 mph; ideal 8; gust factor 5 (HG).
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.

Green Monster

Orientation: Faces SW at ~3700 ft MSL.
Glide to LZ: ~4.6:1 (to Chelan Falls Park).
Type: Grass, short shrubs, and bare dirt.
GPS Coordinates: 47.8040, -120.0394
Winds: 5-12 mph; ideal 8; gust factor 5 (PG). 5-18 mph; ideal 8; gust factor 10 (HG).
Notes: Becomes turbulent in stronger winds.


Orientation: Faces NW at ~3700 ft MSL.
Glide to LZ: ~5.0:1 (to Junkyard LZ).
Type: Grass, short shrubs, and bare dirt.

GPS Coordinates: 47.8049, -120.0390
Winds: 0-15 mph; ideal 7; gust factor 10 (PG). 0-20 mph; ideal 10; gust factor 10 (HG).
Notes: Steeper slope, unobstructed launch. Best choice for light air and newer pilots.


Type: Desert thermal conditions. Dust devils are common during the spring and summer. Smooth glass-off conditions can occur in the evenings, and sledders in laminar air are common in the late fall and winter.
Restrictions: There is no airspace in the vicinity that ultralights are not allowed in. Pilots are, however, expected to familiarize themselves with airspace when planning flights. Pilots are also expected to check for any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). These are common in the area during fire season, but may occur for other reasons.

Designated Landing Zones

Chelan Falls Park (Soccer Field)

GPS Coordinates: 47.7989, -119.9849
Elevation: ~700 ft MSL.
Type: Mowed and irrigated grass field.
Wind Sock: Flag and permanent wind sock at SE corner.
Description: Chelan Falls Park is a multi-use public park maintained by Chelan County PUD.  Pilots may not land at this LZ when there is conflicting activity. Prior to flying, check the schedule and inspect the landing area.  In the event of conflicting activity at Chelan Falls Park, plan to land at Gorge Road (Junkyard) LZ. Land only in the designated area south of the soccer field. Fly your downwind leg to the east of the field, as shown in the image below. Land well clear of other park users. Do not land at Beebe Bridge Park across the river.
Obstructions: Narrow landing approach with water, trees, buildings. Large power lines to the north. Parking lot adjacent to south end of LZ.


GPS Coordinates:  47.8300, -120.0095
Elevation: ~1200 ft MSL.
Type: Wild grass and shrubs. Mowed once per season.
Wind Sock: A flag/streamer is installed near the center of the field on the SW side.
Description: The Junkyard LZ is a multi-use area owned by Chelan County PUD. The area serves as a trailhead for several different trails. If parking here, use the PUD trailhead parking lot across the street. Do not drive on the grass: hot cars can start fires. Mid-day thermals and dust devils are common. Expect turbulence in the afternoon.
Obstructions: Power lines at E end of LZ.

Lone Pine (Closed)

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. Chelan Basin Conservancy has more information about this project.

Cross-Country LZ: Chelan Airport (Closed)

The Chelan Airport LZ, located at 47.8629, -119.9447, is no longer supported by Lake Chelan Flyers. It was used infrequently and is not the most appropriate place for XC pilots to land on or near the airport. If you are planning an XC flight in that direction and would like to discuss possible landing fields, please contact the club (see the beginning of this site guide).

XC Tips

Pilots flying cross country must, to an even greater extent, take sole responsibility for their own safety and must reliably make good decisions about conditions, routes, landing fields, airspace, and more. We have included some tips below, but they should be taken only as a starting point.
Flights over the Waterville Plateau to the SE are common. The longest distance XC flights from Chelan Butte are typically flown in this direction. Make sure to top up your first climb, as it can be difficult to find the first thermal on the other side of the river! The flat terrain means that higher winds can be a bit more forgiving, and pilots can make great distance with a SW, W, or (less commonly) NW tailwind. Please do not land in active wheat fields. Prefer an empty field or an unimproved road. Dust devils are very common on the flats and while they can be great thermal markers, they are also extremely hazardous if you are low to the ground. Watch out for the Ephrata, Moses Lake, and Spokane airspace if you are going long.
Flights can also be made over the mountains. A common first move is to fly W along the spine leading from the Butte to higher terrain. Climbs are typically not as strong nor do they typically top out as high after you leave the Butte, until you get into higher terrain. As at any mountain site, use caution in higher winds and keep in mind that valley winds may be stronger than what you are experiencing at altitude.
Flying NE is also a good option. The first move to Deer Mountain on the other side of the City of Chelan is a fairly easy crossing with good bailout landing fields, and Deer offers reliable climbs. From there you can fly NW over the lower terrain towards Manson, N along the lower terrain near the river, or aim for the high terrain between the Chelan and Methow valleys. Use caution in this area for the active Chelan airport, which includes parachute operations. You may consider monitoring 122.9 MHz (which many 2 m handhelds can receive) to maintain situational awareness about other aircraft.