Hang gliding is one of those activities that is both adrenaline-inducing and surprisingly peaceful all at the same time. There is nothing quite like taking to the skies on a glider, soaring through the air without the whine and buzz of an engine, or even the confines of a cockpit to separate you from the world below. As you would expect, the views are spectacular, and the rush is incredible, making the entire experience an unforgettable one, even for those who have done it multiple times.
While the sport may seem extremely dangerous, it is very safe and a heck of a lot of fun. Commercial pilots undergo hours of training before they ever start to take clients into the air, with most being veterans with hundreds of flights under their belt. Additionally, the glider itself is built to be as safe as possible, making it easy to control during takeoffs, landings, and everything in between.
While it is possible for a hang glider to travel well more than one hundred miles on a single flight, most commercial excursions cover a fraction of that distance. Expect to spend an hour or so in the air and travel just a few miles, with the goal being to provide you with an exhilarating and unforgettable experience.
If you're finally ready to give hang gliding a go, there are many great locations across the U.S. where you can try the sport. As you would expect, some destinations offer a better experience than others. These are our picks for the ten best hang gliding locations across the country.
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Could there possibly be a better place to hang glide than Kitty Hawk? We don't think so! After all, if it was good enough for the Wright brothers, it should be good enough for the rest of us too. There is a certain level of satisfaction and pleasure that comes with hang gliding at the birthplace of flight. The winds here are ideal, and the dunes of the Outer Banks are perfect too. Plus, the city is home to Kitty Hawk Kites, one of the largest hang gliding guides and instructors in the world, helping both beginners and veteran pilots make the most of their Kitty Hawk experience.
La Jolla, California
The West Coast has many excellent hang gliding destinations, but La Jolla takes the top honors. Located just north of San Diego, the place is known for its outstanding weather all year long, not to mention good winds to aid in flight. Take off from the coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and you'll be treated with some epic views of the Black Beach below. You can also skim along next to the towering rock faces, while the waves of the California surf break along the shore. Visit Torrey Pines Gliderport to get your adventure started.
Hang gliding over Hawaii is one of the best experiences imaginable. The weather is almost always great, the winds are gentle and manageable, and the views of the island below are breathtaking. With beaches, volcanoes, jungles, and other impressive terrains to float over, Hawaii is an excellent place to earn to your wings, with Kahului standing out as especially spectacular. There, you'll find plenty of options for taking flight, with several great outfitters standing by to help you get airborne. We recommend Hang Gliding Maui as a top option for those ready to give the sport a try.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to go to a beach to get a great hang gliding experience. Case in point, Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the top destinations in the entire country to enjoy the sport, and it is about as land-locked as a place can be. Of course, it makes up for its lack of an ocean by having plenty of fantastic mountain locations to launch a flight from instead. There also happens to be some outstanding guides in the region, too, helping travelers navigate the challenges of making their first flight. If you're in the area and looking to go hand gliding, be sure to check out Nice Sky Adventures to get your adventure started.
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Tennessee's Lookout Mountain is one of the premier hang gliding spots in the entire south, offering great views, excellent accessibility, and good weather throughout most of the year. It also has a surprisingly good infrastructure to support the sport, making it a beginner-friendly environment with plenty of local pilots to help show newcomers the ropes. Located not far from Chattanooga, the Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the premiere spot for learning and launching, with solo and tandem flights taking place throughout the year.
Much like Salt Lake City, Golden, Colorado features several alpine settings that are perfect for hang gliding. Pilots can take off from a high-mountain environment and glade alone above the Rocky Mountains, taking in the sweeping scenery below. Travelers will soar along above snowcapped peaks, past hidden meadows, and over pristine, glacially-fed lakes. There is nothing quite like seeing Colorado from the air, and a hang glider can make that dream a reality. Contact Hang Glide Colorado to book a tandem flight for your visit.
Sun Valley, Idaho
While Sun Valley is well known as a top-notch ski destination, it also happens to be an excellent place to hang glide too. The mountain environment provides plenty of magnificent scenery to gawk at from above, with Mt. Baldy standing out as an especially fun place to fly. While on the ground, Idaho's stunning landscapes are amazing to look at, but when you get a bird's eye view, they are nothing short of remarkable. Fly Sun Valley has everything you need to get going and can even over guided tandem flights for those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the ride while someone else does all of the work.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco's premier hang-gliding spot is located on top of Mount Tamalpias, which can be found a short drive out of town. From there, pilots can launch their gliders, catch some strong, but manageable winds, and soak up the scenery that is passing bey below. From open grasslands to soaring cliff faces to lush forests, the landscapes surrounding the city are breathtaking, both on the ground and above. Big Air Hang Gliding is an excellent choice for visitors who just want to try a flight, providing tandem options for those you aren't quite ready to take control themselves.
While most of the locations on this list feature high cliffs and mountain tops from which to launch a hang glider, Orlando, Florida, is much closer to sea level and lacks those kinds of geographical features. But, that doesn't keep local pilots from still getting up in the air—and taking visitors with them—they just have to go about it differently. Most use an aerotow system, which uses a powered aircraft to pull the glider up into the sky before detaching it for the flight. In doing so, travelers can get an impressive look at Orlando's iconic theme park destinations and other fun places from the sky. If that sounds like fun, contact Wallaby Ranch to set up a flight.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Ready to take flight above the Atlantic Ocean and glide over the Chesapeake Bay? Virginia Hang Gliding also uses the aerotow method to get its gliders in the air, taking off from a private 25-acre facility. Once in the air, its a pleasant and tranquil experience, with coastlines, forests, and rural Virginia drifting by below.