Up in the air, free-flying on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast

A gorgeous view of the Tillamook Coast is in front of you. A light wind kisses your face and a red-tailed hawk circles overhead. The pink flagging tied to the wooden post hammered into the earth just moments before begins to dance in the breeze. You grab your lines and pull backward, allowing for the wind to circulate and inflates each nylon chamber filling the garment with mass. You pull back on the ropes, the bright blue parasail fills with air.

 

View of Oceanside and Netarts from a hand glider

View of Oceanside and Netarts from a hand glider

 

You don’t have much time before your gear becomes airborne, so you quickly turn around and run for the edge of the mountainside. With each step you feel your weight gradually leaving the bosom of the soil below. You are airborne, flying like the hawk above the jagged Oregon coastline.

 

The Tillamook Coast has a great many things to do; kayaking the endless river tributaries, horseback riding on the beaches, or maybe booking a sightseeing tour. But for the more adventurous there is the unique option of the free-flight sports of paragliding and hang gliding.

 

Free flight sports are becoming more and more popular and the Tillamook Coast is teeming with aerial opportunity. With six, well-known “airborne spots,” the county plays host to sites that cater to the inexperienced student to the seasoned flying professional. As always make sure you check local weather and wind before you fly, as frequently flyers are forced to abort due to unexpected weather.

 

Coming in for a landing on the beach

Coming in for a landing on the beach

 

Here’s a rundown of the places to go aloft:

 

  • Kilchis: Towering above all the others this site is recommended for experienced free flyers because the LZ (landing zone) is not in view from the launch point. The launch point is at an elevation of 2000’ and takes you down into the Kilchis River drainage.
  • Sollie: Very close to the Kilchis site, this one is much more preferred by area enthusiasts as it is less technical but still not without its challenges. This launch will take you over the Tillamook valley directly over the Wilson River. Check Cascade Paragliding for specific information.
  • Maxwell Mountain: This is a very well-known site along the Tillamook Coast as it plays host to the Oceanside Open, an annual free-flying event featuring awards for flight duration, distance, spot landing and other criteria. The event is usually held in April of each year but be sure to check the website for an updated 2016 schedule.
  • Anderson’s Viewpoint: Another well known launch point as this location is also featured during the Oceanside Open. It’s just south of the entrance to Cape Lookout State Park, about a mile or so. Offering a gorgeous view of Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean, this launch point can be technical due to its proximity to the ocean.
  • Dunes: Around the tiny beach community of Tierra del Mar, just north of Pacific City, this area gets good updrafts of wind blowing against the rather sizeable dunes. Paragliders gain good soaring flights from here.
  • Cape Kiwanda: Free-fliers love this launch point as it is in close proximity to the public parking lot, the Pelican Pub Brewery and Pacific City. Use the North Side of the cape peninsula as driving on the public beach is permitted. The south side, closest to the brewery, is closed from April 1 to September 30 so as not to interfere with Dory fisheries boat launches.

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