Fly in California

for Flight Training and Recreation

Resources

Click on the links below for more information...

AirNav.com

Click on chart to expand

Click for Gravelly Valley, California Forecast

Mendocino National Forest official website for maps and information

Lake Pillsbury Forest Service map

Forest Service map section. Click on chart to expand

Fishsniffer map

Lake Pillsbury Resort and Marina

Fly-in Destination: Gravelly Valley 1Q5

Gravelly Valley and Lake Pillsbury from the SouthGravelly Valley airfield (1Q5) is a gravel strip owned by the US Forest Service, but open to the public. Recently there was an attempt by the Forest Service to close it, but the outcry from pilots and others gave them pause.

Why go to Gravelly Valley? Beautiful scenery, wildlife, solitude, lovely lake, bush flying experience, great campground right next to the strip, hiking trails... Need I go on?

Lake Pillsbury and Gravelly Valley airfield from the South. Airstrip is at the left, on the far side of the lake.

Getting There

Left downwind for runway 19Gravelly Valley is 138 nautical miles NNW of Reid Hillview. The airfield is at the North end of Lake Pillsbury, about 30nm NNW of Lampson (1O2) and about 25nm NNE of Ukiah (UKI). The nearest town is Upper Lake, some 17 miles to the south. The elevation is 1900' the length is 4000'. The surface is poorly maintained gravel, but we had no problems landing and taking off in a Cherokee. Just keep the weight off the nosewheel as much as possible. Runway orientation is 1-19. Runway 1 slopes uphill and terminates at the base of a largish hill. The book indicates landing runway 1 and taking off runway 19. I definitely agree with the taking off on rwy 19, however, since there is frequently a good breeze blowing off the lake, it may be easier to land on runway 19 too.

Photo shows wide left downwind for runway 19

I recommend "dragging" the strip to get a good feel for the conditions, not just the wind, but also any obstructions, wildlife, or other hazards. I would approach over the lake and just offset enough to the right to see the runway. Make at least a couple of runs, one at 500', the other at low level, but high enough to stay over the trees. If you do not feel going too fast, landing on runway 1 may be fine. If it looks fast to you then you have a tailwind and you may consider landing on runway 19. In any case as you are surveying the strip, do pay attention to the hill and make sure you turn and climb before you become one with it. That would be taking nature appreciation just a bit too far!

The Airport

Parking at Gravelly ValleyWhen you have landed safely, taxi across the road at the south end of the runway and park near the eastern edge. You will find there a notice board with useful maps and information. There are no tiedown ropes or stakes.

Parked at the SE edge. Note the runway extending into the picture and the hill at the end. That is why you'll want to taxi to the other end of the runway for takeoff downhill and into the wind, and climb out over the lake.

What's There? Pillsbury Lake and the Mendocino Forest

Ok, so what do you do once you get there? Lake Pillsbury and the surrounding Mendocino National Forest offer swimming, hiking, hill climbing, mountain biking, fishing or just quietly contemplating the scenery. Right next to the south end of the runway is a great campsite, Navy Camp Campground, with individual tent sites, picnic tables, running water, and toilet facilities.

Further around the lake in either direction there are hiking trails and more campgrounds. The Forest Service map shows the locations of several campgrounds. Lake Pillsbury Resort is several miles away on the West side of the lake, and reportedly will pick you up from the airfield. Their phone number is 707-743-1581.

We arrived mid morning after a leisurely flight from Reid Hillview. Instead of strenuous activity, our goal was to sit peacefully by the lake, watch the birds, read a book, have a picnic, and generally relax. A couple of bald eagles were lazily circling above the lake, maybe waiting for a fish to show itself, maybe just relaxing in the thermals. Many bird sounds emanated from the reeds and tall grass. A flock of turkey vultures were looking for lunch too. A variety of waterfowl paddled on the lake, and occasionally a fish jumped. I loved it. Such a contrast from the busy bustling Bay Area, and yet so close by air. A most enjoyable day.