Everyone dreams of flying, but if you’re less a dreamer and more a DOer, you might be motivated to actually do some some day time soaring.
Luckily, there are two solid and relatively affordable ways of flying – hang gliding and paragliding.
Each has its pros and cons. Paragliding is quicker to learn, cheaper, easier to transport and has more of a variety of launching points since your equipment fits in a backpack. Hang gliding, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more technical, allows for longer distances and fancier tricks, but your launching sites are a bit more limited.
Here in the U.S., we live in a beautiful country with lots of mountains, valleys and coastlines that are perfect for either of these flying sports.
Here are best paragliding and hang gliding spots in the U.S.
Sun Valley, ID
This absolutely stunning valley in Idaho is one of the top destinations for paragliding and hang gliding and even served as one of the locations in the paragliding world cup last year – it’s a good area for both beginner and experiences pilots. Sun Valley is a huge area, with big desert updrafts that allow cross country gliders to fly for more than eight hours and cross hundreds of miles, all while enjoying spectacular scenery.
Fort Funston, CA
California is one of the top destinations in the world for adventure sports, specifically for hang gliding and paragliding. The combination of mountains, coastline and consistent sunny weather, with lots of updrafts, creates great conditions for flying.
Fort Funston is located just a few miles south of San Francisco and is one of the premier spots in Northern California for shorter, more trick-oriented hang gliding. It’s not a beginning site – more something to aspire to as you’re getting started. In fact, on any given weekend, you’ll see people standing on the cliffs in awe of the fliers as they launch and promptly dive down to the ocean in what looks like a truly insane plunge.
The scenery is beautiful and the location is great being only a few minutes drive from San Francisco. The famous Funston Shear – a wind phenomenon that’ll suddenly roll – propels pilots so high they have a hard time getting back down. The winds coming off the cliffs also allow for the potential for some cross-country as pilots try to head south down to Half Moon Bay.
Owens Valley, CA
Located along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, this linear valley allows for record-long flying thanks to a series of updrafts, one after another, for over a hundred miles. Half of the point of this kind of flying is to gain a new perspective on the tremendous natural beauty of the U.S. Owens Valley is no exception to this, with the scenic Sierras surrounding you, the desert to the east and at the southern end of your flight, views of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48.
This is also a great place for beginners, as there are several schools and launching points located around the valley, and a real culture of flying.
The Point of the Mountain, UT
This is among the premier flying spots in North America, great for both paragliding and hang gliding. Just outside of Salt Lake City, this spot offers the consistent wind that has justified the creation of the “Flight State Park Recreation Area” – a state park devoted to flying. The mountains jutting into the valley create a permanent stream of air that offers some of the smoothest, most predictable air conditions in North America. What this means is that it’s great for people learning. In the morning, the wind is steady and smooth and without turbulence. In the afternoon, however, with the valley heating up, there are big updrafts that let experienced pilots fly cross-country and do tricks.
Makapuu Cliffs, HI
For paradise on Earth, it’s hard to beat Hawaii. The Makapuu cliffs at the eastern-most part of Oahu rise over 600 feet out of the ocean and have consistent updrafts to keep you aloft for hours. Best suited for hang gliders, it’s a technically challenging spot with high wind reverse launches common ideal for more experience gliders. The combination of great natural beauty and fantastic, consistent wind make this one of the great places in the country to fly.