Fly in California

for Flight Training and Recreation

Popular Fly-in Destinations in California

The AirNav website, that invaluable resource for flight planning, currently lists over 250 airports in California. Of course, that includes the large, international airports, too, but you have so much more choice in a small plane! We're not going to attempt to list them all, but focus on the ones that are particularly good destinations in their own right, or are useful gateways. Not all airports have towers, fuel or rental cars available, and you should make your own preparations before setting off.

>> See also our suggested Itineraries for Flying Tours

As we add our own information pages, you'll see the Read more > links appear. In the meantime, click on the airport names below to visit the relevant AirNav page.

Around the San Francisco Bay Area

Half Moon Bay (KHAF): Best fish & chip lunch by the beach! Airport right next to Princeton, easy walking distance to excellent choice of restaurants, marina and beach.
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Palo Alto (KPAO): Busy G.A. airport right on the Bay with nice onsite cafe, walkable distance to the Bayshore Wetlands Preserve, a golf course and restaurant next to the airport, or a short walk to Ming's Chinese Restaurant for great dimsum lunch!
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Livermore (KLVK): On the way to the Central Valley. Nice golf course open to the public, or just lunch at Beebe's grill at the clubhouse.

Hayward (KHWD): Great Indian restaurant at the South-west end of the airport, with airplane parking next to it. Easy walk into town with other restaurants etc.

Oakland (KOAK): Two airports in one! The North Field is where general aviation goes. Fun museum on the field.

San Carlos (KSQL): Couple of eateries on the field, but more importantly, there is a fantastic air museum - the Hiller Aircraft Museum.

Concord (KCCR): Hotel and restaurant on the field, Taco Bell and shops across the road.
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South County (E16): Small friendly non-towered airport just south-east of San Jose along highway 101. Nice small museum and workshop - antiques and experimentals.

Hollister (KCVH): Ding-a-ling cafe on the field open every day until 3pm. Weekends you will probably see some warbirds (P51, Sea Fury) flying. Also many antique biplanes. Just outside the airport fence is the Corbin Motorcycle factory - where you get all sorts of leather and fiberglass accessories for your Harley. Corbin's also has the Wizard Cafe for a nice lunch open every day till 2:30.

Watsonville (KWVI): Usually cooler than the San Jose area, Watsonville had a great Mexican restaurant on the field (Zuniga's), but it is closed. There are eating places within walking distance fromn the airport, or you may be able to borrow a car from Oceanaire. Watsonville hosts a major airshow each year on the last weekend in May. Check NOTAMS if planning to go for the show.

Salinas (KSNS): Excellent restaurant on the airport. Friendly controllers. The airport is rarely busy so you can practice working on the crosswing runway easily. Major airshow at end of September each year. Check NOTAMS if planing to go for the airshow. AeroDynamic operates flight training and scenic flights from Salinas. (831) 240-0800 or email us.

Marina (KOAR): Former army airfield for the Ft Ord army base. Pretty deserted, but only a mile from the sandy beaches of Monterey Bay. A good walk but worth it.

Monterey (KMRY): A Class C airfield, but small and friendly. Very nice eatery in the airport terminal. You can come and park on the AeroDynamic Aviation ramp.
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King City (KKIC): Good first cross country destination for student pilots. Sean Tucker's acrobatic school is on the airport. Art deco downtown.
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Northwards

Angwin-Parrett (2O3): Small airfield in the hills above St Helena in Napa Valley. Owned by Pacific Union College, this is much more convient to fly into than the busier Napa County Airport to the south. Rent a car to visit Napa's wine country. On Saturdays there are no services at the airport.
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Gravelly Valley (1Q5): Get away from it all to this gravel airstrip beside Pillsbury Lake in the heart of the Mendocino Forest. Campgrounds and hiking trails. IMPORTANT - checkout required before you fly into this airstrip!
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Lakeport Lampson Field Airport (1O2): A lovely airport some two miles from the town of Lakeport on Clear Lake. There's a restaurant on the airport. Every year there is also a Clear Lake Splash-in for seaplanes, but landplanes can land at Lampson and there's a shuttle into town.
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Napa County (KAPC): At the southern end of Napa Valley, it used to have a nice steakhouse on the airport, Jonesey's. But it is closed. We hope something new opens soon. Meanwhile, you can rent a car and there are services every day till midnight.

Petaluma (O69): Nice grill on the field - enormous burgers. Good pilot shop. Golf course next to airport.

Santa Rosa (KSTS): Lunch at the airport or rent a car to explore Sonoma's wine country. Combine with a flight around Point Reyes for a bird's eye view of the San Andreas faultline, and some wonderful coastal scenery.
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Trinity Center (O86): Land by the shore of a lake. Walk into small town or picnic on the shore. Boat rentals to go splash about the lake. Fabulous scenery!

Central Valley

Harris Ranch (3O8): For that fresh steak lunch, fly into this working ranch and taxi right up to the restaurant. It's popular, as it's right next to Interstate 5.
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Sacramento (KSAC): The State capital makes a fun destination for a day out, with its historic downtown area, and the paddle boats on the river. You'll need to get a car or taxi from the airport.

Willows (KWLW) The primo hundred dollar hamburger is at Willows, California. Nancy's Airport Cafe is a genuine 24/7 truck stop along I-5 between Redding and Sacramento, always has an 18 wheeler idling outside, and you can taxi up and park adjacent to the Cafe. Honest truck stop food done well with good, friendly service. Don't fail to stop if it's mealtime.

Sierra / Gold Country

Auburn (KAUN): Well worth visiting. Has town center right out of the gold rush era. Old courthouse has fascinating museum of gold mining.

Columbia (O22): In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the airport is a 15 minute walk into Columbia, once a gold-rush town, but now a living State Historic Park. Fly in for lunch and a walk around, or stay overnight in one of the old hotels and take in the atmosphere!
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Death Valley (Furnace Creek L06): Interesting to watch the altimeter as you land below sea level, but don't try this one in summer, you'll bake! There is a free shuttle bus between the airport, visitor center, and town, where there are a couple of options for lunch.

Grass Valley / Nevada County Airpark (KGOO):
The closest airport to the west of Donner Pass usually open in the winter, it also is, at 3152', generally unaffected by valley fog. Nearby Grass Valley and Nevada City have a number of cultural events throughout the year such as Cornish (Grass Valley) and Victorian Christmas Celebrations in December, a wild Mardi Gras party and numerous Summer festivals. Bus service from the airport is often available (the local transit district is in the bottom story of the airport admin building, and taxi service or rental cars are available. Generally considered a "mountain airport", it isn't recommended for student pilot cross countries due to challenges when the wind is not calm. Check out the links below:

http://www.grassvalleychamber.com/visitors_and_conventions.aspx
http://www.nevadacitychamber.com/
http://www.nevadacitychamber.com/images/mardi_gras2009.pdf

Groveland (Pine Mountain Lake E45): Pine Mountain Lake airport eatery - the Corsair Cafe has unfortunately closed. It is an airpark community and at weekends residents open their hangars and you may see all sorts of neat aircraft. The small gold mining town of Groveland has retained its "straight out of a Western" look and feel. You shoudl be able to borrow a car to go to Groveland, or just stay and explore the hangars.

Mono Lake (Lee Vining O24): On the eastern side of the Sierra, at the end of the Tioga Pass road, lies Lee Vining airport. Walkable distance into town, and to the Whoa Nellie Deli a short distance up the hill (highly recommended). No services, so if you want to rent a car to explore the area, go to Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Lakes (KMMH): On the eastern side of the Sierra, and near the ski resort of Mammoth, this airport has fuel and rental cars available. Stay several days to explore this fascinating area: Mono Lake, Panum Crater, Bodie ghost town, and the Devil's Postpile National Monument.

Mariposa (KMPI): Closest airport for Yosemite, then you'll need to catch the bus or rent a car.

South Lake Tahoe (KTVL): Ideally situated at the south end of Lake Tahoe for day trips or weekend getaways. Runway altitude is 6000', and in summer density altitude can easily reach 9000'. Check your performance tables, offload some weight, or wait till the day cools down. This is one of the stops on our Mountain Training Checkout.

Truckee (KTRK): North end of Lake Tahoe. Free bus to Northstar resort - sking in winter, hiking in summer. Fascinating old Western town.

Oceanside

Avalon (KAVX): On Catalina Island off the SoCal coast opposite Long Beach - the "airport in the sky". No fuel and closed at night, plus a hefty landing fee, but unlike any other place. Have a bison burger at the airport, or take a ride into Avalon. The whole island was formerly a private playground for the Wrigley (chewing gum) family. Now it is a gorgeous destination for everyone.

Crescent City (KCEC): On the Northern California Lost Coast. It even has an ILS. The town prospered in the heyday of the timber industry. Many nicely preserved Victorian houses. The lower part of town was devastated by a tsunami in 1960 caused by the great Alaskan earthquake. Interesting museum. Some decent art galleries. Wonderful deserted coastline walks.

Eureka (Murray Field KEKA, or O33 Eureka Muni): Eureka Muni is on a sand island just off the city of Eureka, joined to mainland by a bridge. Murray Field has instrument procedures if needed. If an ILS is required Arcata (KACV) is a few miles North. At O33 you can stay on the airfield itself in a beautifully maintained old air force hangar - this place used to host big maritime patrol airships! Eureka is a quaint Victorian town that grew rich on timber and then slowed down into a sleepy artfulness. Great to visit and check out the art galleries, or just walk on the beach.

Monterey (KMRY): See above

Mendocino (Little River KLLR): Mendocino is where Hitchock filmed "The Birds". The place is a wonderfully preserved collection of Victorian houses. Many places to stay, lots of art galleries and nice shops. If unspoilt nature is your thing, only a few minutes walk will see you outside the town on wild beaches, sheer cliffs and the ocean.
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Oceano (L52): Can you say "sandy beach"? Several miles of it? Oceano airport is a few hundred feet from the long stretch of sandy beach that stretches from Pismo to Vandenburg Air Force Base. If you are lucky you may even see a rocket launch. You can even rent ATVs to go playing on the sand. Oceano has a couple of nice friendly places to eat close to the beach, a great fresh-Mex, and you can walk or take the trolley into Pismo which is a fun touristy town. If you are into camping, the airport has a lovely small campground.

Santa Barbara (KSBA): While the airport is officially a Class C airport, they are friendly to small airplanes. The two FBO's have expensive fuel prices and parking fees, but a visit to the city is well worth it. Santa Barbara was rebuilt in the 30's after an earthquake, in retro Spanish style that is charming. There is also the Courthouse which feels like something out of the middle ages, the Mission from the Spanish time and the old Spanish fort. The beach is a classic Souhern California beach - lots of sand, and a fun pier to eat on and watch the sunset.

Shelter Cove (0Q5): Quite the opposite of Santa Barbara - Shelter Cove is to the north of Mendocino, the most northerly piece of the North Pacific tectonic plate to stick out of the ocean. There is no fuel and the airport is closed at night. But the scenery is majestic - with steep cliffs dropping into the sea, and easy access to the ocean. There is a campsite, a great fish and chip place, a bar/restaurant, and several bed and breakfast places. Watch the crosswinds though!

 

There are many other destinations - watch this space as we add more and more.