Cascade- One of the Wasatch hike-and-fly crown jewels
Cascade- A speedflyer’s dream
Cascade could be considered the best speedflying site in North America. With approximately 5500 vertical feet of steep, featured terrain and two main landing zones, the possibilities of how to fly Cascade are endlessly enjoyable. Launch faces generally west, into the prevailing winds. The National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City provides accurate, daily winds aloft forecasts. There is an all-star crew of locals to show competent pilots this gem of the Wasatch. One of the primary landing zones is private property and great care should be taken to not jeopardize use of this area as a landing zone. It is highly encouraged to get in touch with the locals before flying here.
The Hike: Getting to launch involves a steep hike. The easiest and most common way to ascend Cascade is to park a car near the intended LZ, then drive up Squaw Peak Road. Take a left and park at The Quarry trailhead. Follow a faint hiking trail, then drop into the main drainage. Ascend the Pole Couloir directly. This is a steep, scree-filled couloir. It is possible for rocks and boulders to be dislodged and roll downhill onto fellow hikers. There is a faint game trail that exits the Pole Couloir to the west, onto the ridge. Ascend the faint trail up the west facing ridge to the summit ridge. Follow the summit ridge north to the summit of Cascade at 10908’. This summit ridge can have snow on it, even in June. Hiking at high altitude tends to be more difficult than lower altitude, due to decreased air density. It can also be fairly chilly. Bringing an extra layer and a headlamp is strongly encouraged.
Launch: Most pilots set up just a very short bit down from the true summit. It is steep, rocky, high altitude, and committing. More than one pilot has snagged lines on the jagged limestone. One side or another of a slight ridge can be chosen, launching NW or SW. Approximately three pilots can set up to launch and fly consecutively, but space is tight. If planning to fly a very small wing, hope to have some wind but less than 10 knots of wind in the forecast. Such a large vertical relief next to a deep canyon demands perfect conditions, and these conditions are best discussed with a local pilot.
Landing zones: There are two main landing zones at the bottom of Cascade. Sidehill landing anywhere is strongly discouraged. The main (west) landing zone is private property, and pilots must understand how to preserve access before landing there. The other landing zone is along Provo Canyon Road at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. It is highly recommended to scope out each landing zone before flying there.
The west landing zone is characterized by a field and a lightly used dirt road that forms a loop in the eastern end of the field. Landing from east to west on the dirt road is a popular option. It is next to high and large power lines, which make it easy to find. This is private property. Do not do anything that would jeopardize its use as a landing zone.
Traversing Cascade to the north, then flying the north face would set a pilot up for landing at the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot. Landing on the side of the road is most encouraged. This is in the bottom of a huge canyon which is known to have high winds in it. The parking lot is dirt and runs east-west. Landing in Provo Canyon is best done with a friend in radio contact to provide live-updates with weather conditions. It is very possible to have light wind conditions at the summit of Cascade and very windy conditions at the bottom of the canyon.
Vertical difference: From launch to the west landing is approximately 5600 vertical feet (1700m). From launch to the north landing in Provo Canyon is approximately 5800 vertical feet (1760m).
Shuttle services: A friendly car-spot before hiking is suggested. Uber or Lyft can also work to get to the Quarry trailhead. No special vehicle is necessary, but if using a ride-share service, tip the drive depending on the condition of the dirt road.
Typical weather: Cascade is typically flown with clear skies and a very light flow aloft. Typically, less than 10kts at 12,000 feet between SW-W-NW or 200º-270º-340º. Understanding how katabatic flow works is critical to landing with forward ground speed. More than one pilot has flown from the top of Cascade in calm conditions, only to land with negative ground speed. Checking out the Salt Lake City soaring forecast and winds aloft forecast on the weather resources page is encouraged. Flying with local pilots is the best way to catch this gem in perfect conditions. Typically, about an hour before sunset provides the best conditions.
Airspace Considerations: None in particular. Operating under FAR 103 is mandatory, as with all paragliding, speedflying, and hang gliding operations.
Property type: Launch is National Forest. West landing zone is private property. North landing zone is a public road.
Rainy Day Activities: Salt Lake City is home to a few wonderful museums and cultural experiences. The Natural History Museum of Utah, Alf Engen Ski Museum, Clark Planetarium, and Utah Museum of Fine Art are all worth a visit. Temple Square is the center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and has free tours of the Tabernacle and other buildings. If the forecast is unflyable for a few days, a trip to some of Utah’s national and state parks might be worth the drive.