Williams Peak is a mountain flying site located in the scenic Blue River valley approximately 23 miles north of Silverthorne, Colorado. With sweeping views of the rugged Gore range and beautiful Green Mountain reservoir, a variety of launch locations and drive up access, this site has something to offer every pilot. While Williams is a high altitude “big air” site, the early morning hours offer smooth sledder conditions off of the upper launch for newer pilots with strong forward launching skills. Later in the day the valley winds will usually develop and lower launch is the place to be. From here experienced pilots can soar to hypoxia inducing heights while exploring the phenomenal XC potential of the area. If the weather permits, evening glass off flights will round out the day and allow a wider range of pilots to experience soaring flights in smoother sunset conditions.
Ideal launch aspects at Williams peak are S-W-NW, depending on chosen launch. Valley wind conditions are to be expected, with a south to southwest wind common in the morning switching to a west to northwest flow as the day passes. An ideal day features both low wind on launch (5-10 mph for PG) and lower winds aloft (below 20mph @ 18k) as Williams is primarily a thermalling site and not ideal for ridge soaring. Parawaiting in the evening for winds to calm enough for PGs is a common occurrence. The prime flying months for Williams are from April – October, generally when the road has become dry enough to drive. Winter flights are possible but may be sled or hiking access only. Green mountain reservoir can serve as an accurate windicator to determine conditions near the LZ. If the reservoir is white capping, it is strongly recommended you do not fly. As this is a high altitude mountain site, conditions may change rapidly and thorough understanding of wind, over development, and general mountain flying hazards is important. General hazards for the area include rapid over development, high winds aloft creating rotor and wave effects off of the Gore range, wind assisted by ridge compression leading to blow back, thermic turbulence, and altitude related health issues. Specific site hazards are listed below in launches.
While specific USHPA ratings can be both hard to qualify and cover a wide range of pilot experience, Williams Peak will in general be a P2/H2 site in the morning before thermal activity picks up and an P3/H3 site otherwise. Winds and associated turbulence may increase suddenly during midday heating and may quickly become unsuitable for paragliders. Pilots should be aware of over development and associated gust fronts during the summer months. Pilots intent on flying mid day should have a thorough understanding of density altitude, fast descent techniques, compression and venturi, active piloting, and wave effect. Know your limits and talk to locals! Peak conditions can quickly become uncomfortable and/or dangerous to the unwitting pilot.
Not a beginner area, mountain winds often fluctuate rapidly so forecast appropriately. Possible to sledder or soar here, allow adequate separation from terrain, smallest recommended wing to make LZ: 16m. Miniwings can enjoy short flights off of the Dinosaur launch, but flights from the upper or lower launches are likely to end in sagebrush. See the glide table located in the next section for further information.
|Launch||Main LZ||Postage Stamp LZ||Dino/Bailout LZ|
|Williams Upper Launch||5:1||7:1||5:1|
|Williams Lower Launch||8:1||6:1||4:1|
The Williams Peak flying site is located along HW 9, accessible from Silverthorne to the south and Kremmling from the north. The main LZ is located directly off of HW 9, 23 miles from Silverthorne and 14.1 miles from Kremmling. The postage stamp LZ and both upper and lower launches are accessed via the Williams Peak road, a moderately steep and rough dirt road that may require a 4x4 vehicle when wet. This road is well signed and is located 2.8 miles north of the main LZ along HW 9. From HW 9, the mileages along the Williams Peak road are as follows:
The Williams Peak site is a collection of 3 commonly used launches, 1 small training hill, 2 larger LZs, and a small and more rarely used bailout LZ.
Approximately six miles up the Williams Peak road, the upper launch is the largest, most scenic and beginner friendly launch in the area. Facing south to southwest, this gradual and grassy slope is ideal for newer pilots and earlier morning flights. There is space available to lay out 5+ wings and multiple streamers are located around the immediate launch area. A beautiful camping area is located just across the road for those planning on staying for a couple of days.
The hazards for the upper launch include high altitude, possible rotor, and a longer glide to the LZ. As this launch is located at 10,400', strong launching skills are required. Top landing is possible but may be difficult due to compression and large trees located directly behind launch. It is not recommended to use this launch if the winds are trending to the west or northwest as the ridge line to the right (if looking out towards the reservoir) can create significant rotor. Finally, reaching the LZ requires a 5:1 glide which can become difficult on a PG with any significant headwind.
Located approximately 3.7 miles up the Williams Peak road, the lower launch is accessed via a short (~2 mins) footpath through the woods off of the right side of the road. This is the most reliable and commonly flown launch in the area as the afternoon valley winds usually push too west to northwest for the upper launch to work.
Lower launch is considerably smaller, with enough room to lay out and launch only one glider at a time. Streamers are located around the vicinity. Special care should be taken to watch the streamer located to the NNW along the road. If this streamer is showing cross from the NW to NNW then you are likely to experience rotor off of the ridge in that direction. Also, as there exists some small scrub and sagebrush in the area, it is recommended that pilots carefully inspect their wing for snags or knots before stepping off of launch.
To reach the postage stamp LZ requires a 6.4:1 glide which may be difficult or impossible to achieve in a PG with the typical afternoon and evening winds. There is a bail out LZ at the base of the Dinosaur, however, this area is small and requires strong spot landing skills. Landing along the Williams Peak road is also an option but can be difficult due to a steep downhill grade and occasional traffic.
The Dinosaur is the obvious rock formation easily seen from HW 9, said to resemble a stegosaurus. To access this launch drive 2.6 miles up the Williams Peak road from HW 9, turn right at the fork, and continue around the backside and up, staying right, for approximately 3 minutes until you arrive at a saddle just below the rock formation. The final portion of the road consists of a couple steep switchbacks. High clearance or 4WD is recommended.
The Dinosaur launch is a small NW facing bowl with around 550' of relief from the road and small LZ below. Topped with short grass and some small shrubs, this is a relatively beginner friendly launch that can also be top landed. This is the preferred launch when the valley winds have pushed too far to the N for the other launches to be considered safe. This is a site where ridge soaring is possible, and can be extremely fun if you are able to get up over the Dinosaur formation itself. While rare, it is possible to bench over to the main ridge from here as well with a good thermal or glass off.
Once again, reaching the postage stamp LZ requires a decent glide, and the LZ located just below is very small. Launch with a plan in mind and be prepared for a possible restricted landing.
This is a 350' hill located directly NE of the main landing area. S to WNW facing with a short glide to the LZ. Hike up only.
2.8 miles south of the Williams Peak road, the main LZ is a large grassy field accessed via a pull out loop on the NE side if HW 9. Streamers are posted on the fence line near the parking area and across the highway near the edge of the reservoir. This LZ is huge, relatively level, and largely obstacle free, a good option for beginners ending a morning sledder from the upper launch. Later in the day this field can become quite thermic however, and pilots should exercise caution if attempting to land in mid day conditions. When the reservoir is low, landing on the beach just across the highway can be a safer option.
Pilots should be aware that the main LZ is prone to flooding and may be quite soggy earlier in the spring. Mosquitoes are also an issue in the early summer, come prepared!
This is a medium sized (300' x 100') cleared area at the base of the Williams Peak road that serves the lower launch and Dinosaur area. There are multiple streamers located around the area and limited hazards. Pilots should be aware of the low ridge located to the north that can create rotor if strong valley winds occur. This feature is easily avoided. This LZ can be a difficult glide for pilots fighting a head wind and alternate LZs should be kept available at all times.
This is a tiny (25' diameter) LZ located at the base of the Dinosaur hill available to pilots lacking the required glide to make it to the Postage Stamp. This LZ is also used by pilots sinking out from lower launch as hiking back up from the bail out and relaunching can be done relatively quickly. This LZ is not recommended for HGs.
There are no windicators in the vicinity and the small cleared area sits on a downward slope making this an advanced LZ. Missing the LZ will not result in any serious harm but will require untangling equipment from the dense shrub covering the area.
The Williams flying site lies entirely on public land, a combination of BLM, forest service, and Summit County open space properties. However, private parcels exists along the Williams Peak road public land LZs rapidly diminish as one heads XC towards Silverthorne. Please respect private lands. To stay legal when considering going XC consult with a local or use the Colorado Parks and Wildlife property finder.
The Colorado and Blue river valleys are a free flight paradise. A huge amount of road accessible public land and sparse tree cover means flying sites can be found just about anywhere. In addition to Williams Peak, the area includes east facing morning thermal and XC sites, large hike and fly objectives, beautiful drive up launches, small ridge soaring areas, and an abundance of evening glass off sites. It is certainly possible on a good day to do a hike and fly in the morning, drive up and fly XC mid day, and then get back in time to catch the evening glass off!
For additional information, a site walk through, or stoke, contact a local and/or a Williams area site representative. Happy flying!
Eric Klammer (918) 527-2706
James Drewett (303) 915-0884