A new paragliding launch option in Big SurJanuary 14, 2020 5:53 am
Scroll down to go straight to the maps and video.
Paragliding in Big Sur is sort of like sex and pizza
When it’s good, it’s great, when it’s bad… it’s still pretty good! If you have ever launched from the Prewitt Ridge Camping area, also known as Wild Cattle, you know there are some drawbacks:
- It’s a long 45 minute drive from the LZ to launch and requires a lot of coordination. A 7 mile hike is possible but it’s steep and challenging.
- From launch, you can’t see if the LZ is fogged in or not. A dense marine is common, especially in the warmer months.
- You only have tiny glimpses of the water texture. It’s nearly impossible to read what’s going on with the coastal winds until after you launch. With no reliable weather stations nearby, you only have a general idea about the conditions as you head up the mountain.
- Lastly, during most of the flying season, the prevailing wind direction is NNW. Not great for anything but sledders at Wild Cattle.
This new Big Sur launch site addresses all of these issues. Wild Cattle can deliver some epic thermals, and 3-4 hour flights can be achieved there, but that’s a different post.
Plaskett Creek Road: AKA Little Big Sur
Just South of the Plaskett Creek Campground is Plaskett Creek Road. It’s mostly one lane and is a little rough for 2WD cars. My Sienna minivan easily made it up to the 1600 ft. launch known as Little Big Sur. Please comment on the Facebook post if you have a better name for this launch. Beyond that point the road gets pretty rough with deep ruts and blind one-lane turns. It’s 4WD from there on up. I bashed my stock minivan’s front bumper pretty good halfway up. You can also do dispersed camping just about anywhere along that entire ridge line with the exception of a few private properties. See maps below.
The 1600 ft. launch is a good place to stop and take stock of the current conditions. If you have a 2WD car you may want to hike up from here. If the wind was forecasted to be NNW but it feels W here, you may be feeling a rotor from the ridge to the north. Short sled rides are common here due to the relative ease of access.
I have hiked this road from Sand Dollar to the top twice now. At 3.3 miles it is much shorter than the the Wild Cattle hike but it is steep and can be very dusty. Wear a bandana, hat, and bring eye drops to protect yourself from powdery dust stirred up by passing vehicles. Near the top, the shaded roadway opens up into big grassy fields, full exposure, and ocean views. You will see a campsite to your right…
Note: The timelapse at the end of my video was taken from this campsite.
It’s all downhill from here
Go through the campsite and you will find a lightly traveled downhill trail. You’re in tick country now. Follow that trail down about 300 yards and you can’t miss the big open field on your right…
Notice the clear view of the wind lines in the distance. This launch is at about 2200 ft. ASL. On this day the winds were only about 5-7 mph. Thanks to a clear line of site, I was able to see the conditions evolve. I waited a few hours after this picture was taken to time my launch to coincide with the little bit of wind that finally moved in. Steer left shortly after launch to play on this face…
Even with the light winds I was able to graze the lee side of the ridge searching for thermals as you can see in the video. I am confident that winds in the 8-12 range could make a long day of ridge soaring, and thermalling, possible.
On a different day, I launched here with virtually zero wind. Thanks to the huge launch field I got off with over 100 yards to spare before clearing the treetops.
Warning: The big grassy field behind the ridge at Sand Dollar Cove sits in a nasty rotor. More than one pilot have been slammed there. If you choose to land there, get as close as you can to the edge of the ridge or land on the beach.
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