Last Revised 2-21-2023
Location: 8 mi N of Upper Lake. DeLorme 75 B5
Elevation and Coordinates:
Launch: 4100′ MSL, N 39º 16′ 37″ W 122º 56′ 27″
LZ: 1500′ MSL N 39º 15′ 47″ W 122º 57′ 69″
Driving Directions: From Highway 20 at Upper Lake, go north on Mendenhall Ave or Main St to Elk Mountain Rd and continue north on Elk Mountain Rd to Middle Creek Campground, on the right. The LZ is the creek bed east of and south of the campground. From the LZ, drive north up the paved road to the highest point. Turn west (left) onto the steep and gnarly 4WD dirt road to launch (USFS 17N51).
Usage/Requirements: Hang Gliding and Paragliding. Some supervision for H2/P2 is suggested. No prior notification, sign-offs or fees required.
South launch – minimum wind 0 mph, maximum wind 15 mph, ideal wind 8 mph, maximum gust 5 mph from S, SW, WSW.
North launch – minimum wind 0 mph, maximum wind 20 mph, ideal wind 10 mph, maximum gust 5 mph from the N, NW, WNW. The north launch should not be used by H2/P2 unless under supervision. Any right cross makes the north launch tricky – avoid right crosswind there.
Very rough 4WD road to top. Good vehicle ground clearance recommended. The launch and the LZ is on National Forest land. On 17N51 you might see a sign about restricted access. You can drive to the launches. Do not attempt to drive on 17N51 beyond the west knob, where the road becomes impassable to all but motorcycles. Motorcycle access is restricted beyond this point.
Landing: The LZ is the creek bed by Middle Creek campground. Land in the creek bed. Do not land west of any barrier. Do not land in any parking area or in any motorcycle area. Although you can land in the creek bed farther south, you will need to cross private property to reach any road, and some landowners have told us not to cross their property. If you go xc, know your landowner in advance.
Season: Flying is best in the spring and fall. 17N51 can be inaccessible in the winter after rain or snow.
Any east wind (NE, SE) can make the LZ tricky.
Elk is not flown much in mid-summer, when the thermals are poor and the LZ gets hot and nasty. If you can wait to land until the LZ becomes fully shaded, do, especially if you are a H2/P2.
Ratings: Elk is on public land and no ratings are required, though H3/P3 is recommended. H2/P2 with supervision. Good site for H2/P2 first high altitude flights in spring or fall.
Flying: Mostly thermal flying. Ridge soarable in sufficient wind, especially on the north side. Wind often starts out from the south in the morning then switches to north or northwest by the afternoon. If the marine airmass moves in, winds go west, which can make for difficult launch conditions and mediocre flying. Thermals to 6000 – 8000 ft, rarely to 10000 ft. Elk is a good XC site, but you must be familiar with the routes and LZs.
Cautions: The road to the top is be very rough. Good 4WD is needed. The North launch faces away from the LZ – novices must be aware not to get low in front of this launch before turning left and flying around the shoulder of the hill towards the LZ, which is at the bottom of a fairly steep canyon. Winds are not usually strong in the LZ but they can be switchy. In the summer or in strong winds the LZ can be very turbulent.
Beware of power lines that cross Middle Creek!
If you head south toward Upper Lake be aware that several power lines cross the creek bed.
Dirt bikes should not be riding in the creek bed but watch for them anyway. Do not land in any parking area or riding area west of the barricades.
Do not land in the thistle field. Know of and avoid several power lines that cross Middle Creek to the south. If you land in the creek bed to the south, do not cross private land without permission when getting out of the creek bed.
Facilities: There is camping in the LZ, Middle Creek Campground, with vault toilets, running water and paved campsites. There is lodging in Upper Lake (Super 8), Nice (rhymes with “geese”) and Lucerne. Upper Lake has groceries, gas, and restaurants/pizza.
Parking: There is plenty of parking at launch and in the LZ.
Radio Information: 147.495 MHz. (Sonoma Wings drive frequency)
Emergency: The nearest hospitals are in Ukiah and Clearlake. The closest telephone is in Upper Lake. Cell phones work in the LZ and most work at launch.