Horse Canyon Slope in Washington

Posted by Chris Erikson on Nov 2, 2002

The Horse Canyon site is on the east side of a moderately sloped valley which trends N to S and is located on a scenic pullout from Hwy 97.

Horse Canyon
Copyright Chris Erikson 2002

10 air miles ENE of Cle Elum, situated on Hwy 97

Driving Time:
1:45 from SR520 – I-90 junction in Bellevue

W to NW

Weather Site:

Access: On Hwy 97

Season: Year round

The Horse Canyon site is on the east side of a moderately sloped valley which trends N to S. It is approximately 100-200′ feet below the ridgeline, and is located on a scenic pullout from Hwy 97. Due to it’s low elevation and quick highway access, this site is a favorite for early season trips and late season ones.

Because of  it’s location on the highway, competent flying is called for. Both slope and lift are large enough to make flying out over the valley and away from the road easy and pleasing, but pilots with enough experience and control to avoid the road are necessary. Hwy 97 is popular but not mobbed, so it’s not as quiet as a remote site but is entirely tolerable given the nice flying, sun, and easy access. Expect a few cars every few minutes, that’s about it.

Vertical Relief: 400 feet

Typical Weather:
W to NW winds and light thermal flying, except during high pressure systems when wind swings in from the east, making this slope totally unusable. If high pressure is not present and weather is actually moving across the state, it’s most likely blowing W to NW here. Temps already in mid 60’s by March, and continues into October

In winter this site is very cold, other than that it’s nearly always sunny and dry here spring through fall. If you’re tired of slope waiting at Ebey and taking ferries under cloudy skies, use the same driving time and head east for sun and heat and leave others under the clouds to the west.

Slope Terrain:
Grassy slightly rocky soil on hill with no trees, Hwy 97 is right behind the pilot area.

Unflyable in anything but a W to NW, but that’s mostly what happens. Don’t even bother in east wind. If the wind moves more to the SW, better conditions can be found by moving approximately ¼ mile N along Hwy 97 to another obvious pullout, the slope here has a more southerly aspect.

Lift can be strong but conditions are variable, can be smooth or extremely turbulent. Moderate lift is typical. Wide slope allows good sight lines for long flights parallel to hill.

Landing zone:
landing zone is the gravel parking/pullout area. On the far left is a flat area of grass and sage. Go rounds typically simple and safe.

Walk of Shame:
A few small trees make vegetation a non issue, hill is moderately sloped but loose road fill at top and then sage below. Barbed wire fence line 75 feet below flying site.

Blowback landings will occur on Hwy 97 if close, and on sagey open hill if not.

Camping: None

Road Conditions: Paved highway

Getting There:
Take I-90 E from Seattle to the last Cle Elum exit. Turn R (East) on Hwy 903 after exiting. You should now be on the N side of I-90 heading east. This will change into Hwy 970 as you continue N as if you are going to Swauk/Blewett pass.  Continue about 10 miles to Virden, and watch for signs to Ellensburg, where Hwy 97 turns off and heads E.

Make the right turn onto Hwy 97 at the intersection. In about 1 3/4 miles Bettas Road will exit to the right, stay on 97. Hwy 97 will begin to traverse and climb a big grassy slope, aiming for a small pass with a long pullout just before it on the right, at about 2.5 miles, next to a gravel pit. This is the site.

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