St Helena

Site Guide Last Revised: 12-10-2021

NOTE: Several changes were made to our Permit in 2020 and are in effect.

Launch from the original Middle Spine Launch ONLY.

Call 707-942-4575 at least 24 hours before going up the mountain.

4 vehicles and 12 pilots max.

Location: 7 mi NNW of Calistoga. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. DeLorme 83 C7

Elevation: Middle Spine Launch 3,800 ft, top of mountain 4,343 ft MSL.

Launches:   Middle Spine Launch – Minimum wind 0 mph, maximum wind 14 mph, ideal wind 6 mph, maximum gust 5 mph, NW, W, SW.

Park vehicles at the sharp bend in the road, on the west side of the road.

The old Tower Launch is closed. The property owner has determined that the launch is on their private property, and not on state park property as we had believed. They have told us we may not use their property.

Season:  Spring and fall.  Thermals in the summer are weak and rough, seldom flown then.

Ratings: H4/P4, H3/P3 if sponsored by SW.
Pilots must be current USHPA (United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Assn.) members.
Pilots must be members of Sonoma Wings, or be a sponsored guest. Sponsors must be H4/P4 Sonoma Wings members, are responsible for their guests, and for ensuring that they are familiar with the rules.

Mini-wings are prohibited.

Cautions: Locked gate on road to launch, 6:1 glide out; vineyards abound.  There are few safe places to land on the way out to Knights Valley, so don’t get low on the mountain.
Bailout LZs, such as they are, are for emergency use only.

Flying: In summer the marine airmass from the south  usually dominates, so soaring conditions are poor.
Best times are spring and sometimes in the fall.
5,000 – 6,000 ft MSL is typical over the mountain, 7000 is good, 13,000 is the record. Over the back, 11,000 ft at Crazy Creek.
Thermals can be rough over the big rocks at the North Peak.
Early in the year, the valley and LZ can be very good and smoother than the top.
XC south down the Napa Valley is possible but not recommended because of the scarcity of LZs.
Pope Valley is a better route to Lake Berryessa and the Blue Ridge.
The record is over 100 miles to the eastern Central Valley, watch out for restricted airspace near Travis, Sacramento, etc.

Landing: Large field in Knights Valley, privately owned.
We are VERY lucky to be able to use this field – everywhere else is vineyards.
Gate is usually locked – do NOT climb OVER gates or fences.
There are usually cows, and some bulls, in this field. Not a problem when landing but can be a nuisance when breaking down.
Conditions are usually light winds out of the W or NW
The LZ can be floaty so land a ways out there.
Spring winds can sometimes be strong and turbulent, especially on the ground. Watch out for wires and turbulence from trees.

Park Regulations and Site Procedures

  • All Robert Louis Stevenson State Park rules and regulations must be observed.
    Park Info here, here, and here
    Pilots and their guests are responsible for knowing these rules. The Site Director, or the senior Sonoma Wings Committee member present, shall be responsible for ensuring that Park rules, Club rules, and safe operating procedures are followed.
  • Speed wings are not allowed.
  • Use is limited to 4 vehicles and 12 pilots maximum.
  • Drivers must exercise extreme caution while driving on Park roads due to hikers. Do not exceed 15 mph and go dead slow when passing hikers. Hikers have right of way. Drive so as to create a minimum of dust. We want no complaints about this.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the park.
  • Smoking is not allowed in the park.
  • Hang glider vehicles must stay on designated roads. They are not allowed on the road to the North Peak.
  • Hang gliders may launch only from the designated launch area.
  • All streamers, windsocks etc. must be removed at the end of each day.
  • Drivers of vehicles must ensure that the gate is locked when leaving the Park.