Evening glassoffs with stunning Gore Range views.
Williams | Azure | Junction Butte | Yarmony
P2+ / H2+
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.
The Upper Launch is most popular with hang gliders and mornings. The Lower Launch is better for the evenings. The Dinosaur can be good if winds are too north for the lower launch. See the details below.
Williams is subject to strong valley winds that last past sunset. Parawaiting is common here. Ideal Wind Range (for all launches): HG 3-12mph max 25. PG 3-10mph max 15. MW 3-15mph max 18.
Launch and Landing Map
Williams Upper Launch
Approximately six miles up the Williams Peak road at 10,400', the upper launch is the largest and most scenic. Facing south to southwest, this gradual and grassy slope is ideal for newer pilots and earlier morning flights (the lower launch is more common in the afternoon). 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.
Williams Lower Launch
Located approximately 3.7 miles up the Williams Peak road at 9450', the lower launch is accessed via a short (~5 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 smaller, with enough room to lay out and launch 1-2 gliders 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 Launch
The Dinosaur (8930') 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.
The Practice Hill
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.
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.
Specific site hazards are listed below in launches.
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.
A general range of winds for Williams is 3 to 15 mph.
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.
Upper Launch to Main LZ: 5:1, Postage Stamp: 7:1, Bailout: 5:1
Lower Launch to Main LZ: 5:1, Postage Stamp: 6:1, Bailout: 4:1
Dinosaur Launch to Main LZ: N/A, Postage Stamp: 7:1, Bailout: 3:1