the shasta sky sailors are the proud pioneers and developers of Hat Creek Rim. We have been directly responsible and involved with every major improvement at the site since 1975. Volunteers from our club and donations from the flying community have made Hat Creek Rim the site it is today. Enjoy!

Four decades ago the desire to consume every foot of ‘vertical descent’ that could be found was in full swing in Shasta County, California. A small group of pilots, barely 20 years old, were spending every weekend scrambling around Northern California to find anyplace we could to launch our ‘state-of-the-art’ Dacron and aluminum Eipper-Formance and Seagull Aircraft Rogallos. We were the Shasta Sky Sailors and we were all addicted to the new sport of hang gliding and the incredible freedom it provided....

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Flying sites like Big Valley Ridge, Black Butte, Haystack, Herd Peak, French Gulch, Shasta Bally, Burney Mountain, Badger Mountain, Bear Mountain, Hat Creek Rim and a host of other scary one-timers were pioneered by eager Sky Sailors who had only one thing in mind; get airborne. These sites became our weekend menu and none of us wanted to miss a single meal. In those days we didn’t gauge flights by the number of miles we flew or who got the highest…it was all about flying like a bird and the glorious and sometimes death defying, 360 degree turn.

Life was more than good, and despite having to learn to run with a ‘Sears swing seat’ strapped tightly to our derrières, we were all thrilled to live at a time when the dream of bird-like flight had become a reality. As time passed and the seventies evolution of gliders continued, certain flying sites provided a better “fix” than others. Like any junkie, we were no longer content with the ordinary, we wanted the best. Of the handful of sites in our area that could satisfy our increasing desire for ‘more airtime’, Hat Creek Rim started emerging as the star. The consistent summer thermal and ridge soaring conditions, along with the nearby campground, store, and restaurant, made this site a local favorite.

Despite the misfortune of finding our original wooden ramp burned and turned to ashes in 1979, we persevered. We moved the launch to a location that didn’t require a ramp or interfere with the nearby Pacific Crest Trail. Unfortunately, this new location was covered with thick brush. Undaunted by a few hundred bushes, we carved a narrow road, setup area, and new launch. Something else occurring around this time was that other pilots, driven by the same desire to fly, were starting to show up from far away and mystical places like the Bay Area, Southern Oregon and Nevada. These ‘strangers’ were always respectful and supportive of the site, and it was a pleasure to fly with others bitten by the same bug.

To accommodate the growing number of visiting pilots we simply expanded the site by cutting more brush. We started hearing of crowded flying sites and site closures in some of the more populated areas and vowed that Hat Creek Rim would always provide a haven for those looking for a place to fly. Even with our oversight back then of excluding the Forest Service from our early “development” of the site (the site sits entirely on National Forest land), they graciously accepted us, recognizing our love for flying and our desire to preserve the site for all to share.

In 1993, our negotiations with the Forest Service led to a major expansion of the site; a second launch and a 3rd LZ two miles further south along the ridge were added. These additions more than doubled the soaring area of the site and improved safety. Some of you might remember the ‘adopt-a-stump’ fundraiser that financed that project. Hundreds of stumps, left over from an earlier forest fire, were adopted by the flying community and cleared, and the birth of a new LZ was complete. In 1996 the site began operating under a USFS Special Use Permit issued jointly to our club and the Redding paragliding club. As a result of this partnership, a real road replaced our primitive path to the main launch area and a huge parking area was constructed there. Cattle guards replaced barbed wire gates into the LZs and continued improvements had a solid foundation to grow on.

Today, remains of our charred ramp are still visible below the original launch site; they’re fond reminders of days now long gone. We still use the same area that we carved from brush way back when, but you wouldn’t recognize it. Gone is the narrow launch, rough access road, dirty little setup area and cramped parking. They've been replaced with an elevated earthen ramp, an access road that a Porsche could use, a huge setup area covered with tons of ground cover to smooth the irregular surfaces and to keep off the red volcanic dirt that clung to our wings, a spacious parking area, and last but not least, our very own porta-potty.

2013 celebrates the first 38 wonder-filled years of flying and adventure at Hat Creek Rim. Because the Rim is located entirely in the Lassen National Forest, it’s open to the public but pilots are encouraged to follow site protocol and be USHPA members. The panoramic views from both launches include breathtaking views of Mt. Shasta, Burney Mountain and Mt. Lassen. The main launch area is a designated stopping place for those following the Lassen Scenic Byway route. Mountain bikers, sightseers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds venture to launch. Many are there to see for themselves the beauty and grace of bird-like flight.

Hat Creek Rim is primarily a late-afternoon and evening ridge and thermal soaring site. The summer months are the most popular and productive times to visit. The majority of users take advantage of the mellowing evening conditions and fly the glass-off, which can last until sunset on many nights. This is especially true for the paragliding community, who can often be seen landing by the evening’s last glimmer of light. The site is most suitable for intermediate pilots with the following special skills; assisted windy cliff launch (AWCL), cliff launch (CL), restricted landing field (RLF) and turbulence (TUR). This suggested skill level is a product of evolution not exclusion. Experienced novice pilots can find the site excellent for adding hours and experience towards their intermediate rating but should only do so with a qualified sponsor helping you. It would be ideal if every level of pilot could safely fly this awesome rim. However, over the last three decades, the majority of calamities and serious close calls witnessed by club members have this founding club suggesting a solid intermediate skill level for flying here.

Some use the site in the very early hours of the morning to hone their skills, and acclimate to the site. But by mid-day (or sooner some days), the air of this volcanic wonderland begins boiling and it’s best to be on the ground wishing you were up there, rather than up in the air wishing you were on the ground. Cross country flights have originated during the peak conditions and generally progress in an easterly or northeasterly direction over some pretty isolated but landable areas. A good driver and detailed maps are a must for those looking for a long cross-country flight. It’s only eighty-eight downwind-miles to Lakeview’s Sugar Hill, a feat yet to be accomplished.

The Hat Creek site is fortunate to have a small store and great café (Fireside Village) and awesome campground (Hereford Ranch Campground and RV Park) right along the access road to launch. The combination of having a place to buy supplies, eat and camp make these places understandably popular with the flying community (the closest gas station is 12 miles away so leave a little gas in the tank to get there). The area also has countless other things to do and see. Swimming, boating, waterskiing, hiking, mountain climbing (Mt. Shasta is grueling and Mt. Lassen pretty easy), biking, spelunking, golfing, sightseeing, dining, RELAXING and trout fishing on famous Hat Creek are there for the enjoyment.If you’re concerned about congestion at the site, don’t be.

Hat Creek if far enough away from any large population base to avoid overcrowding. The three summer holiday weekends and special events bring in a healthy crowd, but the site has more than enough room to handle it, especially for those who use the entire site. During the week and on some weekends you can find yourself completely alone here, free to enjoy an intimate flight by yourself or with a few close friends; the way it was for us 30 years ago. The Shasta Sky Sailors feel justifiably proud of this wonderful site, not only for preserving a great flying site, but also for the great rapport we have with the local residents, the US Forest Service and merchants. We invite you to join us in enjoying the next 4 decades of ‘Family, Food, Fun, and Flyin’ the Glass’ at Hat Creek Rim.

 

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Club Membership Information and Form

This link will open the membership .pdf form. Membership is $12.00 per 12 month period. Our club, former USHPA Chapter 57, has been around for since 1974. We've evolved to primarily care for Hat Creek Rim but our history in Northern California is extensive. Pioneering and flying many, many sites. Join us in our continued work to ensure Hat Creek Rim remains a wonderful place to visit and fly.