La Bajada Site Guide

Revision: 2023-02-23

Current Conditions

Forecast Conditions



La Bajada is a 570-ft-high ridge soaring and thermal site between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The ridge offers great views on the Rio Grande valley in front, the Cochiti reservoir, and the Jemez mountains. The site is operated under a US Forest Service (USFS) permit. The site is mostly used for ridge soaring flights with a little bit of thermaling. The winter time features smooth ridge soaring conditions. 



Between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM.  (35.56195, -106.22596, 6135 ft)

Driving directions: Take the La Cienega exit 271 off of I-25 near Santa Fe. Follow Entrada La Cienega, then Los Pinos, then Paseo Real until 56C. Take 56C which is a USFS dirt road (NF-24). The road is flat but has some rocks and ruts that can be a problem for low-clearance cars. Wet conditions should be avoided as they degrade the road and increase the risk of getting stuck. Cars can be parked at the top landing area behind launch. No off-road driving.  

WARNING:  4x4 dirt road becomes impassable in monsoons and in winter snows.

Tandem Flights


Two west-facing cliff launches at the top of the mesa. Hang gliding launch is a hundred meters north of the PG launch.  The PG launch is down on a small step below the main rim.  

Best Wind Direction:  SW - WNW

Best Wind Strengths (mph):

La Bajada Ridge Site Looking NW


As for all New Mexico sites, thermal conditions can get very active during the spring and summer. Pilots flying the site should make sure they understand that aspect of New Mexico weather.  Wind speeds can switch to high, gusty winds in sudden unpredictable waves, making evening glass-offs the preferred flying type here.


The cliff edge is uneven, sharp and volcanic. Be cautious of flying too close to the cliff edge and always leave a margin of safety as the wind mass creating lift is not always homogeneous.

Two main risks are correlated to wind speed increase at La Bajada. 


Hang gliders typically launch from the natural ramp indicated on the map. Paragliders launch on a ledge 30 ft below the main ridge on windy days, or from the top of the ridge on light days. The ledge can have a slight wind shadow in SSW winds.

The typical wind flow is southerly and the lift band rapidly decreases as the southern wind component increases. Below 250 degrees, the base wind will need to be above 12 mph for HGs and above 10 mph for PGs to maintain ridge lift. This wind speed requirement increases significantly the further south the wind direction moves. When standing on the HG launch, this wind direction is indicated by the small hill to the north of the Sandia range. If the wind is south of that hill, launching is generally not advised due to lack of lift.

A tie-down exists behind the large juniper to the left of the HG launch for hang-waiting while waiting for conditions to optimize. Multiple tie downs exist at the parking behind the HG launch, though they may be obstructed by grasses in the spring and summer.  Due to the frequency of gusts at the site, a wire crew is highly encouraged when launching HGs in midday conditions.

Hang Glider Launch at La Bajada Ridge


Top Landing

Preferred for all wing types. There are two preferred techniques for top landing.  Top landing areas are indicated on the map.


Bench LZ

PGs (and skilled HGs willing to hike) can land on the “bench” below the launch.  For PG pilots not skilled/confident in top landing the Top LZ and not high enough to make the Back-Top LZ, this is a relatively easy landing option with an easy hike back to launch and parking area. While possible to execute a bench landing in a HG (especially when wind direction is southerly), it is not recommended except by highly skilled pilots.

Bottom Landing

The Cochiti Pueblo land (red line) should be avoided for landings as well as for bottom access as it is considered trespassing. This requirement is part of the permit with the USFS. As a result, do not fly unless it is soarable and a safe top landing or altitude of a minimum of 300 ft over launch is attainable. We ask all pilots to help us keep our permit! However, pilots SHOULD NOT HESITATE to land on the Cochiti Pueblo land when their safety is at risk. Landings on pueblo land shall be reported via email to the SSA ( The SSA will report statistics of outlandings but keep the pilot identities confidential.


If an EMERGENCY Bottom Landing is absolutely necessary, consider the following:  Landing on the Pueblo Land by the village of La Bajada typically has a markedly different wind than the perceived wind at the ridge due to the wind shadow of the air mass passing overhead. Landing there can also be complicated by the lack of wind indicators. Typically the wind speeds at the bottom are either no wind or 3-4 mph coming directly from the prevailing southern direction. If landing due to lack of lift at the ridge (most common situation), anticipate a much more southerly flow than the perceived wind direction experienced at the ridge and align your final approach pointing towards the large white barrel and 10-20 degrees to the north of the Sandia range. If landing due to extreme turbulence (rare), this can be caused by southern winds mixing with a northern flow wrapping around the Jemez mountains. In this case only, anticipate gusts from the north and split the direction, executing a westerly final.

Hang Glider Landing in the Back-Top LZ