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Francis Peak

Wasatch National Forest

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Farmington, Utah

Revised 01 Feb 2024

Location

N41º 1' 39,03" W111º 50' 17.70"

41.0275, -111.8383

Elev 9154' / 2799m

Ratings & Skills

UPSHPA H3 / P3 (H2/P2 w/instr)

High Altitude, Foot Launch

Radio Comm

Primary . . . . . . . .  447.800

Alternate . . . . . . . . 447-8.25

Emergency . . . . . . 146.560

Access

2WD when dry. Twelve-mile well-maintained dirt service road. Watch for snow fields across roadway thru June. Switchbacks and steep dropoffs.

Known Hazards

Severe rotor likely with north or south flow over ridges. Midday thermic turbulence and strong, shifting upper level winds. Located beneath KSLC Class B airspace.

Site Sensitivites

Launch and road to launch on National Forest land. LZ's are either private property or public school grounds. Do not use Knowlton School LZ during normal school hours. Hess LZ requires prior permission from landowner for each landing. Use caution for construction on pasture south of Hess LZ.

Attention All Users: Francis Peak is a challenging, high-altitude mountain-thermal site. No pilot should fly at this site who is not a current USHPA and UHGPGA member holding the minimum USHPA ratings and skills indicated. Visiting and first-time users should obtain a detailed in-person pre-flight briefing from a local UHGPGA member-pilot with recent flying experience at this site. This briefing should take place at the launch site on the day of the flight. Pilots should also familiarize themselves with the known hazards and site sensitivities described in this guide. As pilot-in-command, you alone are responsible for assessing your fitness for flight, the airworthiness of your glider and equipment, the suitability of the current conditions for launch and recovery, and for continuously monitoring glider position and performance to ensure a safe landing at an approved landing zone. If in doubt, do not launch.

Road Conditions
The FAA and National Guard operate remote radar facilities at Francis Peak, so the road to the top is well-maintained. Even so, the Forest Service closes the road during snow season, with a locked gate at the half-mile point. Expect a dozen or so abrupt switchbacks and some moderate grades. 2WD vehicles should not attempt to cross snow fields, which may lay across the roadway as late as June. The 12-mile drive to the summit takes about 45 minutes, and you'll gain five thousand feet in elevation. 

The Setup

The launch site is along the road 100 feet below the actual peak and its radar installation. There is room to park several vehicles on the east (upslope) side of the road. You will set up and launch from the west side, where the road curves around a natural bowl with unobstructed views all the way to the valley floor. There are no tie-downs in the setup area.

From the road the launch profile slopes gradually at first and then falls off to a slope of 63% for the first 300 feet. Look for light west to west-southwest winds coming off the Great Salt Lake. In stronger breezes, use caution for severe rotors in the lee behind the north-south ridgeline. Pilots report being blown back across the ridge towards Morgan Valley to the east.

In strong lift you will need to avoid climbing into Salt Lake International Airport's Class B airspace, which overlays the entire launch and landing zones beginning at 10,500' MSL. Commercial air traffic, as well as military aircraft from nearby Hill Air Force Base, operate at 11,000 feet and above in this area. Consider remaining below the tops of the radar domes.

Early hang glider pilots are reported to have taped fluorescent shop bulbs to their gliders to detect radar energy from the domes. Whether this was effective or not, the domes are active, and radar energy at close range poses potential health risks. Plan accordingly.

2024 Francis Peak Launch Detail.webp
The Landing Zone

The LZ complex, situated north of the Lagoon park along US 89 where it intersects Shepard Lane in Farmington, consists of two landing sites. A 2.75-acre athletic field at Knowlton School is the primary LZ for paragliders. Just south of this, a 12-acre east-west hayfield known as Hess Farm is the primary LZ for hang gliders.

The Knowlton School LZ is open and level, with firm well-drained turf and few obstructions. Tall stadium light poles surrounding the adjoining baseball fields are clearly marked on the LZ diagram. There are no tie-downs in this LZ. Do not use the Knowlton School LZ during normal school hours. Even after school hours, use caution for children on the fields.

The Hess Farm LZ, comprised of adjoining hayfields each approximately 1700 feet long east-to-west, is suitable for hang glider approaches and landings. A 50-foot tall abandoned grain silo sits in the eastern end of the property, but otherwise the fields are generally free of obstacles. Farm equipment, hay bales and livestock may be present. There are no tie-downs in this LZ. Prior permission from the landowner is required before each landing.

Note: Hess Farm borders an area of residential development. As of February 2024, the hayfields were still open and undeveloped but this could change. Thoroughly scout your intended LZ prior to launch.

2024 Francis Peak LZ Complex.webp

Paragliders arriving over the suburbs from Francis Peak should note the group of three rectangular reservoirs one mile due east of the LZ complex. Crossing the long center reservoir at or above 5160' MSL will allow a recreational paraglider flown at best glide speed in zero-wind, neutral-lift conditions to safely reach the LZ at an altitude of 300 feet. If in doubt, use the open bench area around the reservoirs as a bailout LZ. Hang gliders normally arrive above the Hess Farm LZ with altitude to spare.

2024 Francis Peak Profile View.webp
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