Salt Lake City is known around the globe as a world-class paragliding destination. Paragliding in Salt Lake City has everything from the best beginner hill around to some of the meanest, sharpest thermal flying that can be used to fly hundreds of miles. With the Wasatch rising to 11,000 feet east of the city and the Oquirrh range rising to 10,000 feet west of the city, there is a unique trough for wind to funnel through which makes Salt Lake City a great destination for people to learn how to paraglide.
Seasoned experts know full well the value of being able to take work off tomorrow if the soaring forecast is excellent. They may be able to fly 200+ miles from a takeoff in Utah to beyond the Arizona border. Riding thermals up to higher than 16,000 feet and taking advantage of a tailwind to move to the next thermal is a magnificent experience, but not for the faint of heart. It takes serious dedication to be able to do something like that.
Paragliding at Point of the Mountain
Salt Lake City is one of the best places to go paragliding because the high desert landscape makes for strong thermals and the steep west facing Wasatch allows for the prevailing westerly winds to rise up the mountains in a predictable way. At the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley is the world-famous Point of the Mountain, which acts like an indoor surfing ramp as the flow of valley winds travels from north to south or south to north. Paragliding in Salt Lake City at Point of the Mountain is the go-to spot for paragliders in Salt Lake City.
Point of the Mountain is a great place for people to go and enjoy paragliding near Salt Lake City with less commitment to blowing the entire day off of work. The North Side is a Salt Lake County park and offers stunning views of the Wasatch and Salt Lake Valley while paraglider pilots and hang glider pilots fly at sunset. The South Side is a state park and is best enjoyed in the morning.
Point of the Mountain was allegedly formed by a landslide coming off of Lone Peak in the Wasatch mountains. This huge slump of land from Lone Peak that slid down to the west created a thousand foot tall east-west ridge that separates Salt Lake Valley from Utah Valley. This mountain is called Steep Mountain or Point of the Mountain, and it sticks out from the Wasatch like a peninsula, or a point of a mountain into the valley. After that, Lake Bonneville created a shoreline on this mountain. The flight parks take advantage of this flat shoreline bench on the side of the mountain in order to be a launching place for Salt Lake City paragliders and hang gliders.
The north-south flow happens along the Wasatch most likely due to the Great Salt Lake generating a sea breeze. The body of water stays a constant temperature and during the night the land cools off. The Great Salt Lake is relatively warm, creating warm air that rises and pulls air from the south to the north towards the lake. This flow is reversed in the mid-afternoon when the land heats up enough to create rising air and pulls relatively cool air from the north to south off the lake. This flow travels up the south side of Point of the Mountain in the morning and up the north side of Point of the Mountain in the evening. It is like the ultimate surf break, but for people who would rather surf waves in the sky rather than in the water.
For people looking for a good sunset picnic date idea, the evenings at the North Side are hard to beat. The last two hours before sunset on a sunny day with north or northwest winds at about 10 mph are the best times for flying. The North Side parking lot is on the Bonneville bench 300 vertical feet above the valley below and Steep Mountain is about 1000 vertical feet higher than the parking lot. This allows for the ability to go for spectacular tandem flights. Following the rising air as it flows up the mountain, it’s possible to gain 2000 feet over launch on a good night. Just watching is fun, and it always happens at sunset which is beautiful. The ability to go for a spectacular tandem flight before or after a picnic dinner makes it a hard to forget date, birthday evening, or just plain nice evening out.
When the Bonneville Bench was developed for homes in about 1999, a bunch of paraglider pilots bought them so they could live right where they fly. In 2009 it was dedicated as a Salt Lake County Park.
Adaptive Paragliding in Salt Lake City
As paragliding has matured over the last thirty years, the need for accessibility has been shown. Chris Santacroce, owner of one of the premiere paragliding schools and shops in the world, Super Fly, decided that he wanted to share the gift of paragliding with anybody he could. He founded the non-profit Project Airtime in order to provide adaptive equipment if needed to take people paragliding. Anybody with a spinal cord injury, sensitive knees or ankles, or people who are unable to walk or run can come to the magic hill and fly for free. Depending on funding ability, sometimes there are scholarships for people to learn to fly as a solo pilot with the help of wheels or other adaptive equipment. Other times there’s the ability for people to have an all expenses paid trip to come out for a week and just plain enjoy adaptive paragliding in Salt Lake City.
Learn to Fly in Salt Lake City
If anybody is looking for a new way to maximize their time, learning to fly at the South Side in the mornings from one of the local outfitters is an excellent experience. The best instructors in the country make their living teaching people to become their own pilots at this world famous flying site. Sunrises are when the air is super smooth and ideal for learning.
Paragliding at Point of the Mountain is a truly exceptional part of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch. In order to experience it in the most complete way possible, reach out to some of the best instructors if you want to learn how to paraglide in Salt Lake City. Check out some other fun options for summer outdoor recreation in Salt Lake City after you take a paragliding lesson.