Denver/Boulder RC Soaring sites reviewed

Green Mountain just north of Bear Creek Lake right between Golden and Lakewood Colorado. This site generally requires a little exercise and a sturdy ship (the mountain is a 30 million year old pile of round river rocks covered in grass and bushes) but the rewards are tremendous.

General Green Mountain stats.
The south faces have 400 foot verticals.
The north face has 500 foot verticals.
There's no shade, so bring a hat, and water, and dress warm if it's windy.
I generally find the East side of the mountain to not be worth flying, except for the NE ridge.
There's a lot of hawks to fly formation with over the course of a day, and the thermals that break loose in front of these slopes can take a foamie into orbit. I've flown my heavy, draggy Zagi 3C combat wing into clouds 1000 feet up near sunset in magic air on the west side. I've disappeared my 56" 40oz foamie JW DS wing directly overhead on the north bowl. I've got at least two 1 hour long thermal flights logged on the north side with my Zagi, and I've had stuff up in slope lift for much longer. The thermals are big, and thus the sink can be big (not always) but if you get back to the slope you can usually maintain easily through the thermal sink.

Other than the two spots marked in blue below there really aren't any places to land a crunchie safely, so the best idea is to bring your foamies if you're going to wander around the mountain.   Catch the wind on a good day and the hike up the mountain fades from memory. The combination slope/thermal flights can be unbelievable.  

South Green Mountain (from W. Alameda Dr.)

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Click on the image above to see a larger version with more context.

Accessed from the south side there are 4 main sites. Refer to this image before continuing:
Green Mtn Marked Topo for labels matching the sites..

1. Southeast lower bowl. Hike up to the high trail (1/3 of the way up) turn right and go east. There's a low bowl with a flat spot on top where you can land crunchies. It's a great thermal/slope site if the wind is from the southeast. With a little altitude you can fly back and catch the much larger southeast face of the mountain overhead. 

2. South upper bowl. From the Forsberg Park parking lot (only one place to park on south side so it's obvious), go straight up the mountain. It's hard to miss. A big steep bowl facing straight south. When the wind is into that bowl.. holy smokes. If the wind is a bit from the south east you can DS over the south west ridge at the top of the bowl. No friendly landing areas there though. With a  south wind you can fly the whole south face of the mountain too.
Visit my Videos Page and then click on the various JW movies to see some flying on the south face.

3. West face, south end of mountain. This is directly over the ridge behind the south bowl. It faces straight west, and with a steady wind you can do continuous loops until your fingers are numb.  The lift there is very punchy but if the wind turns to the NW it'll get pretty poor on that west face as there's a ridge upwind to the NW.    I like to fly from the middle of this hill.

4. West point. Again hike up to the upper trail on the south side, and then turn west and follow that trail around past hills then go straight up. It's a big broad point that sticks out to the south west. It catches wind from any direction between straight south, west, and north west. With a north west wind you can DS over the ridge that connects the point to the main mountain. Don't try to fly here if the wind is straight from the north (may be tempted to chase a northwest wind around the corner).
I haven't found a good place to land crunchies up there yet, but there may be a way.

North Green Mountain

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Click on the image above to see larger version
And here's another version composited together with a topo map showing relationship to highways..
Another North Green Mtn Topo

Access to the North side of Green Mountain is easier.

Drive around to 6th and Indiana, go south on Indiana and keep going up and up until you get to S. Quaker Ct. (no sign.. it's just a 50 ft long street going off to the left), turn left, park on the south side of the street away from the houses. Hike straight up. IMPORTANT: Stay away from the house at the West end of the fence.   That homeowner thinks that the hill behind his house is private property (which I seriously doubt), and asked me to stay off (besides his dog flips out).    So very simply put, park well away from the houses on either side on the south side of the street, go over the fence and up.   There is a pumping station or something 1/3rd of the way up the NW corner.  If you head that way you can catch a trail up to the top.     Click on the map above to see it more clearly. 

.North Face
With a north wind this face can be absolutely epic. I usually walk up far enough to launch, throw something off and then fly while I hike up further to the cross trail about 2/3rds of the way up. With a NE wind, keep hiking up and a little to the left. You'll find a small bowl that faces north east. You'll know you've found it when you see the decorated cross at the top. Great fun here with really punchy lift. There's a huge bowl out in front of you to the east which often collects the north component of the wind allowing you to fly straight out away from the hill a 1000 feet or more.  

East Ridge and NE Bowl (Foamie DS)
If you hike over to the next ridge to the east (either from the middle of the hill, or around from the top), you'll find a massive bowl that collects NE wind and thermals from about 500 foot vertical.    The NE ridge is also a great foamie dynamic soaring spot for ENE winds.   (doesn't work West because of the mountain in front of it, but don't worry there's a west DS ridge).    The ridge is very sharp so is ideal for DS, but also rock covered, which is why you can't fly a crunchie here safely.

Northwest Ridge and Point  (My primary Dynamic Soaring spot)
If you went up the NW corner on the path you'll find yourself on a flat spot on top of the mountain (crunchie LZ).  Walk SW to the point of the ridge (where the photo above says 6727 x).   You can fly a NW, WNW, and West wind from there.     The ridge juts out to the WSW and then turns and runs almost due South.    You can dynamic soar in a NW, WNW and W wind.   To DS the west wind you'll need to walk down the path to the south a little, but the ridge is sharp and I got in 5 minutes of continuous turns there with my Bluto just today (3/20/02).      The hawks love to hand out over this point. 

The North Crunchie LZ
To the East of the ridge on the flat part of the mountain is a roughly triangular area (marked in blue on the image above), that is soft enough to land crunchies.    I've been clearing the area of rocks, so feel free to contribute to that effort as well.     Since the lip of the hill is rounded and the top of the mountain flat, the rotor is well behind the landing area so you can usually just fly in well downwind, throw on the spoilers and/or flaps slow down and settle vertically to the ground over the landing area.   It's a little tight but I can get my 60" Nemesis in there with only spoilerons.     If you can't make the LZ, going down in the bushes somewhere to the NNW is probably you next best option as most of the rest of the mountain has rocks sticking out every 2 or 3 feet. 

Wind conditions in the area can be found from the NREL BMS weather tower over near South Table Mountain (the mesa east of Golden).      (red is wind direction, green is wind speed in mph)

And here's my reviews of some of the other Denver area sites I've been to so far.

The mile long dam at Bear Creek Lake

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Bear Creek Lake Dam Topo
(catches northeast/east and southwest wind, and the bowl at far south end catches north, also can be very nice thermal site with good indicators) has a low angle 120 ft rise that works best with a steady light wind. Advantages: easy access, soft landings, good thermal indicators, lots of room. The far South end of the dam catches North winds (the dam actually faces NE) into a nice bowl.  For whatever reason this is a tremendous thermal spot.   Thermals collect in the housing developements to the NE and are triggered by a little hill in front of the bowl, and sometimes late in the afternoon can just go on and on and on..     The hawks often park over one little point, hang out there until a thermal comes along, and then ride it away.     If you've got the altitude, never be afraid to punch out away from the hill at this spot.   The reward may be catching a boomer.  (See important notes below).
(Update 6/1/02) - I've now DSed my new Miraj twice off the West side of the dam in mild to moderate ENE winds.  I've had limited success DSing the dam before with my foamies, but the Miraj gets cranked up just fine.   It's a 99" glider that weighs 72oz, so that has a lot to do with it.    Anyway, just wanted to say the dam is officially DSable with the right plane and it's pretty good at that.     When a thermal rolls through the separation layer lifts right up.    Just watch that you don't dive too deep because the steep part of the dam isn't all that tall.   Seems to work best with ENE winds rather than WSW.. I think the rocks on the west side create turbulence that makes it not break cleanly over the east side.
(Update 6/26/02) - Been meaning to mention this.  On the map I show a pathway from the lower parking lot under the dam and then up the draining to the far bottom right.  Don't walk up that drainage.  Either walk across the top of the dam.. OR just go east on Morrison Rd., enter the Fox Hollow golf course and drive the road all the way to the very end.   There's a maintenance lot you can park in, and walk up the draw right to the south end of the dam, or the top of Mt. Carbon.    Much faster going up this way (10 minutes) and it's outside the park.


Mt. Carbon (see important notes below)

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(click to see larger version) and heres another Photo looking west from same spot
Mt. Carbon at Bear Creek Lake Topo
Mt. Carbon is at the south end of that same dam (catches north/northwest wind on main face and northwest/west on the "point") has a 200 ft vertical and if the wind gets strong there it flattens out the lift band on the north face so you need something with penetration or you can get blown back. A 10-15mph breeze up the main face makes for the fattest lift. If you fly the west point of Mt. Carbon the lift band can be pretty punchy but not very wide side to side. Advantages: Moderately easy access, big open north face, soft landings on top for your crunchies.    
1. Do not walk up from the lower lot on the face of the dam, or on the face of Mt. Carbon or we will be kicked out of the park.   
2. Stay to the West of the golf course on top of Mt. Carbon.     We have to play nice with the golf course and that means keeping gliders OFF the course.    That also means, for the most part keeping the gliders out of the airspace directly in front of the course.   Stand and fly primarly to the west of the picnic table.     (See the colored map above for where you can fly and where you can't).  

(Update 3/28/02 - We were banned from the site, then after some folks talked to the Manager of all Lakewood Parks, we were allowed back on, with the above stipulations.    Stay off the golf course please.   Thank you.)

The Power Lines

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The Power Lines topo     
Click here for Photos from the Powerlines provided by Danny Dermer
a mile or so west of McCaslin Blvd on highway 128, (catches west/northwest wind on main face, and north wind over the highway, plus thermals) has barely a 100 ft vertical and it's got a highway on the left, a hole in the lift over the highway, a fence running through the middle, and you have to land crunchies in the grass on the north side of the fence, but you can't walk over there while flying.
The LZ is flat though, and not too bad as long as you say ahead of the rotor.    Advantage is its ultra convenient access and lots of people to fly with. Probably the busiest site in the whole area, which is ironic given how weird it is.   If you want to fly combat, this is the place to go.   If you want to fly something expensive, be careful, as it's a rare day (if the conditions are good) that there isn't combat going on there.    I've seen a couple crunchies get hurt here.
Check out the NREL M2 tower with no less than 6 weather stations directly to the west of the Powerlines (a couple miles west) for current and historical wind plots (that link is direction in red and wind speed in mph in green).

NCAR south face.

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NCAR topo
Wow.. If the wind is blowing up from the southwest you can drive (Table Mesa Blvd to NCAR) right to the top of a slope with 400 ft verticals that becomes very steep at the top. Visibility is a bit tricky side to side because there are trees along the lip but when the wind's cranking up this slope it rocks. Airspace can be a bit busy sometimes as this *is* the place to fly near Boulder if the wind is right. It also catches big thermal and upslope from the housing developments and the plains below. Advantages: ease of access, big slope. Can find out the wind and weather at this slope here:
NCAR Mesa weather
I did catch sparks off my transmitter one day up here, so pay attention to the weather and come down if the sky gets dark.

Lookout Mountain (actually Mt. Zion)

Check out this newer site map for Zion.

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(Click on the image to see a larger/clearer version with more context.)

Mt. Zion Topo (the squiggly road where it says Mt. Zion on the map)
Ok, first the warning.    This is a serious place to fly.     Don't come up here and screw around.  Why?   Because this is where the paragliders and hang gliders fly from.   They actually happen to like seeing a high performance glider out roaming around the sky showing them where the thermals are.   Paragliders don't fly very fast so most R/C gliders will easily outfly them.    BUT, they'll only put up with us as long as we fly safely and considerately, and I consider it my duty to show them where the lift is from time to time, even if I'm into zipping around near the slope.    The first person you hit a PG/HG in the air, or the first car you hit on the road (we fly from the road usually), could be the last ever.   DON'T get us kicked out of this airspace.   We also generally discourage the use of electrics up here because they're not allowed on Jeffco Open Space, and there's a risk of fire.    I had real serious doubts about putting the info up here about this site, but I can't in good conscience leave it out.     Also, if flying on 72Mhz be sure to go up to the top most launch point to check frequencies before you fly from anywhere up here.  

Ok, that out of the way.  This is a great place to fly.  To get there, turn onto Lariat Loop Rd. just west of Golden and keep going up until you reach the big "M" (for School of Mines) on the NE corner of the mountain (see the topo map).   Turn around at the M, and drive back to the next pull-out at the North East corner and park there.  On the way up, you'll go through  3 switchbacks and about 2 blind right turns after that, there's a pulloff on the west side of the road.  Park diagonally (uses less space and you can turn around when you leave).

It's only partly a slope site, and to a large degree a thermal site.   Thermals seem to form from everywhere East of  Golden, get triggered by something.. maybe the highway below, and then there's massive lift up the 1240 foot face of the hill from the highway to the big "M" which is a few feet away from the paraglider launch point.   In a steady 5mph ENE wind you can fly a brick off this hill.    When the thermals come through (often continuously) you can easily disappear a glider.     It's a lot of fun flying with the paragliders, but also a lot of work.    My advice.   NEVER intersect them visually.   We call it the "Blue Sky Rule"  Can fly above them, or below them or turn before you reach them, but don't try to fly in front of, or behind them, unless your glider is 50 feet away and they're 500 feet.     When you're flying from the road, be aware that they're launching right over your head so keep looking up.   E and ENE are the best wind directions, but you can fly ESE and SE if you go around the corner in the road to the south a 100 yards.     NE and NNE can be flown as well, but generally it's better to go back down the road a bit.   Go back down through the 3 switchbacks and 2 right turns past and there's a pullout on the east side of the road.    From that corner it's a  VERY steep dropoff  (Don't crash down there), but the lift can be near vertical.       Even the cliffs, a little to the west have been flown, but they truly are vertical.

Landings are primarily in the grass on the east or north faces (if the lift is to the east, land to the north.  If the lift is to the north, land on the east side).    Plenty of people fly their crunchies here, but
you must be patient with the landing.  

(09/09/03 update) Mt. Zion West.  In a WSW wind the backside of Mt. Zion can be flown.   On the way up you go through 3 180 degree switchbacks.  At the middle of the 3rd, is a 900+ foot drop down to Clear Creek.     Avoid due west winds because of rotors off the mountain directly to the west.  But Clear Creek Canyon runs WSW so if the wind is ripping (and really 25-30mph is best because then the lift outweighs any possible turbulence) this place is just pure vertical lift.  Pretty much foamie territory.    Best LZ is to land on the hillside up and to the south of the road where the hill starts to flatten out.    

Highway 93 West - On the way to Boulder on highway 93, a couple miles south of town, there's  big hill that decends down into the valley that Boulder sits in.  Near the top of that hill is a pullout on the west side facing Eldorado Canyon.  There's a little slope there, that with a west wind is fairly punchy and can be a great place to stop and fly a little quicky.    Here's a page with some photos and videos from the site.      Also.. there's a large ridge that juts out just in front of Eldorado Canyon about a half mile west of this site.    I've been told it's probably the premiere DS site in Colorado.  I haven't flown there yet.   To get to it, park on the east side of the highway at the top of the hill, jump the fence and walk out there (it's Boulder open space land).    From that ridge you can fly West or NE winds. 

Loveland Pass - I flew this a while back and just now am finally getting to an update.   Take highway 6 from near the entrance to Eisenhower Tunnel up to the top of the pass.    Every time I've been there, the wind has either been blowing from the W, WNE, NW hard or not blowing at all.     We usually hike up a few hundred feet and fly east of the highway.    Dress warm, it *will* be cold here even if it's hot in Denver.    Bring lots of water.  Great way to get sick is to get dehydrated after hiking up a few hundred feet, above 12,000 feet.    Here's some photos from one of our trips up there.   In the first photo we're looking across to the slope we usually fly on (about 1/4 of the way up.)     The lift can be just absolutely insane.  The landings can be tricky so bring some foamies and then decide if you want to try putting a crunchie down on top (it's possible).  

So there you have it.  All the places I've flown.   We've been talking about making a trip to the top of Mt. Evans (which has highest paved road in US).  With nearly 50% less oxygen than at sea level, even Zagi flies VERY very fast up there.   A fast foamie like my Bluto should be pretty amazing. 

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