Book Cliffs Site Guide

(Carljmarvin) #1

Hi All!

You may have already read my initial guide for the book cliffs…The formatting got munched in the forum update, we have found a reasonable hike up option that makes it a much better site, and we’ve flown some fun XC from here now…so here’s the updated guide!

The book cliffs are not a “brand new” site per say, as I know that other people have flown them before. That being said, I think this launch has some incredible thermalling/XC potential that has been overlooked, and it’s a refreshing break from the plethora of ridge-soaring sites scattered around Grand Junction.

Anyways, first things first: The book cliffs are NOT a beginner ridge soaring site. Their geography is parallel to the diurnal valley winds, and many bowls and spines would create rotor if the wind is even slightly cross.

This is also not somewhere you want to be midsummer unless you’re a total air jedi. This is a desert site and the thermals here can be absolutely nuclear when the valley heats up. If you don’t know how to forecast thermal strength beyond reading the notoriously faulty soaring forecast and aren’t a very current pilot with lots of XC experience below your belt, consider flying elsewhere, especially during the warmer months.

From my experience, the book cliffs are an awesome thermalling site, and could probably be used as a take-off point for some record-breaking XC lines.


There are two options that we have found for accessing the book cliffs: The drive up and the hike up


  • Drive time from LZ to top: about an hour if you drive quickly on dirt roads.

  • Recommended parking spot at the top (after this, the road get very steep and very rough): 39.304374, -108.604539

  • My lifted Subaru was able to get to the recommended parking spot with little trouble. I think a carefully driven stock Subaru-type vehicle could also make it.


  • I believe this route is the only reasonable way to hike up this section of the book cliffs.

  • It is very direct and efficient, (i.e. steep) and has some limited exposure.

  • Driving to the trailhead in its current slightly rutted condition would probably require a Subaru-esque vehicle or better.

  • Parking for hike up option: 39.309154, -108.630888

  • Directions: after parking your car, hike NW and look for a good spot to hop the fence. Once you’re over the fence, follow the area of vegetation and rocks (avoid the dirt piles) up to the collapsed area of the first cliff band. Pick your way through the “sneak” (39.312668, -108.631319) then head to your left and around the corner. Once you’re around the corner, scramble up a few low angle shelves onto the ridgeline. Follow the ridgeline up until you hit the “recommended hike up launch”


39.313107, -108.626539 (recommended for the hike, assuming the wind is in the right direction)

39.307169, -108.614691

39.306307, -108.608384

39.308092, -108.617340

Potential Hazards:

  • Cliff launches

  • Winds “wrapping around” into bowls

    • It’s recommended that you observe the wind direction from on a spine, as cross winds would wrap into a bowl and give you a false “straight in” wind direction when there’s rotor in the bowl
  • Strong valley winds

  • Strong thermal activity

    • This is a desert site. It should be treated with the same respect that Dinosaur, Villa Grove, etc. are treated with.
  • Air traffic/Airspace

    • If you XC to the SE, you will need to be abundantly aware of air traffic and airspace restrictions

      • I’ve heard from locals and pilots that fly into GJT that commuter jets will commonly buzz the book cliffs at around 200’ AGL on approach to GJT airspace. Keep your head on a swivel.

      • Mack also has an active airport. There is not controlled airspace around this airport, but be aware of low-flying private pilots

  • Backcountry site

    • If you end up in trouble out here, prepare yourself for a long wait before help arrives.

Other Thoughts

  • An abundant soaring bird population serve as great thermal markers

  • Winter thermalling potential?

    • On the first day we were there (November 10th), Eric hooked a couple moderate thermals and ended up 1500’ over launch. He did a bit of XC and crossed Hunter canyon before valley winds started getting strong. These cliffs are almost perfectly perpendicular to the sun, even in the winter, which may allow for winter thermalling.


(Hutchinsst) #2

Nice Carl! I’ve been up there many times, but haven’t flown it yet. Re hiking access, if you want a less exposed and eroded route, you can hike the canyon to the west, and it wraps around to the north of the ridge. There is an old road grade that goes due south up to edge of the ridge.

(Carljmarvin) #3

Sweet! good to know! Eric and I tried the same thing in the canyon to the east (Hunter Canyon) the first time we hiked up there, and it turned into a pretty hilarious multi-hour scramble/bushwhack/thrash.

That being said, the route up the front really isn’t too bad. I’m probably slightly desensitized to exposure, but there’s a well established game trail that goes up where we went and the deer/pronghorns have pounded it down nice and flat. You’d have to try pretty hard to fall off the first cliff band as you pass through the “sneak” and go around the back. Felt like 2nd class to me.