Seattle Hot Air Balloon Rides

Seattle is a beautiful place, and there are many opportunities to see it from the sky. One of the best ways to see all those beautiful hills and mountains is on a hot air balloon ride! In this blog post, we will be discussing hot air balloon rides in the Seattle area. We’ll go into detail about the best places to fly, the best time to ride, and what you can expect from your experience. If you’re thinking of going on a hot air balloon ride or buying one as a gift, then this article is for you!

Hot air balloon rides, in general, are amazing and unlike anything most people have ever experienced. Flying in Seattle is exceptional because our balloon flights occur right in front of the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Rainier.

Hot air balloon ride

Selecting a place to fly

There are three locations hot air balloons fly around Seattle. There are balloon rides North of Seattle in Woodinville and Snohomish, and hot air balloon rides directly in front of Mt. Rainier in Auburn and Enumclaw. All the hot air balloon companies in Seattle have safe pilots, use state-of-the-art hot air balloon equipment, panoramic views, and a great experience. Additionally, all the hot air balloon rides in Washington State have a flight time of an hour and include a post-flight celebration with champagne. The main differences between the balloon companies are:

  • The location
  • The opportunity to watch the sunrise from the sky
  • The age and quality of the champagne
  • Number of passengers

Hot air balloon rides that take place in front of Mt. Rainier

At Seattle Ballooning, we provide hot air balloon rides 5 miles outside of the Mt. Rainier National Forest, just 25 minutes south of downtown Seattle. We often land in Enumclaw and Buckley, Washington. You’ll get an up-close view of Mt. Rainier along with downtown Seattle and the entire Puget Sound from the sky. The other commercial hot air balloon companies around Seattle fly in Snohomish and Woodinville, 60 miles North of Seattle Ballooning’s location. Northern Seattle ballooning locations are pretty but don’t offer the same views of Mt. Rainier.

Hot air balloon in front of MT. Rainier from Mercer Iland
Hot air balloon in the distance from Mercer Island and with Mt. Rainier

Balloon rides that fly over Rivers, Lakes, and see a ton of wildlife

The landscape outside of Seattle is beautiful. It’s filled with rivers, lakes, and wildlife. Typical Seattle Ballooning hot air balloon rides cross either the White River or the Green River. 10-15 times a year, the winds are perfect for traveling over Lake Tapps. Anytime you can experience a body of water from a hot air balloon is a unique experience. If you get the opportunity to fly over Lake Tapps, you’ll feel like a celebrity. 100’s of boats magically appear and follow our route! It’s super fun.

Seeing wildlife from the hot air balloon: Deer, Elk, Eagles, Foxes, fish, and Cougars. Most flights allow us to fly at tree top-down the White or Green River. It’s common for bald eagles to fly around the balloons and for passengers to spot deer and elk. On rare occasions, passengers have snapped photos of foxes, cougars, and hawks grabbing fish right out of the river. Cool right?

Hot air balloon with sun rays in the background flying South of Seattle

Pre-sunrise vs. post sunrise

The time of launch is very important to the quality of the ballooning experience. The best hot air balloon rides in the world take just before sunrise as the weather is good and the winds are calm. In the hot air balloon world, we call this dawn patrol. Dawn patrol is when hot air balloon rides take place early in the morning before sunrise. The balloon carries special lights required for pre-sunrise flights. Hot air balloons launch at first light and are in the air for 20-30 minutes before the sun peeks over the Cascades. Due to the large flying area and consistent winds, Seattle Ballooning can offer this exclusive experience. Other hot air balloon ride operators in and around Seattle typically take off at official sunrise or have to wait until after the sun clears the fog in the valleys they fly in.

Orange, pink, and blue filled sky at sunrise. Valley views of Enumclaw. View from a hot air balloon

Hot air balloon rides serve champagne post-flight

Serving champagne after hot air balloon rides have been a tradition for over 250 years. The practice of serving celebratory champagne after hot air balloon flights began in the late 1700s. When Parisians first saw balloons floating over their city, they were terrified and thought it was some invading army from another country attacking them or a sign of impending doom! They quickly realized these “balloons” weren’t the devil. The French King offered the aeronauts to carry bottles of champagne with the king’s seal from the basket with a rope. After a fantastic flight, you deserve a fantastic glass of champagne to celebrate. That’s why Seattle Ballooning imports high-end aged bubbly directly from France.

Champagne post-flight

Seattle Ballooning can cater to any size group

For customers that would like private experiences, we offer private flights for two, private flights for 4-8 guests, and Private flights for 8-10 guests.

Due to the location to Mt. Rainier, the opportunity to see the sunrise from the sky, and serving high-end champagne, you’ll find as a balloon company, Seattle Ballooning’s standard price slightly higher than competitors. It was kind of like one guy said, ” I may only balloon one time in my life. This is a time you select the company with an extraordinary experience”.

What does the whole balloon flight process look like?

The entire hot air ballooning experience takes right around 3 hours total from pick up to drop off. The flight itself is approximately 60 minutes. You may be wondering what happens for the other 2 hours when you aren’t in the sky.

Process: Hot Air Balloon Inflation

Inflating a hot air balloon takes 30 – 40 minutes. The pilots do a final weather and wind check by releasing a helium balloon. Balloon pilots can watch helium balloons for up to 8 minutes. These pibals (Pilot balls) give pertinent information to the speed and direction of wind aloft. The crew has to pull the balloon off the trailer, connect the envelope to the basket, do a safety check, and cold pack the balloon with air. Two 13hp fans fill the balloon fabric with cool air. This process takes 10-15 minutes. Once the balloon is ready, the pilot will light the burners and warm the air inside the balloon until it is standing up. At that point, passengers will climb aboard, and the pilot will go through a hot air balloon safety briefing.

Hot air balloon inflating before take-off
Hot air balloons inflating prior to takeoff

Hot air balloon landing and pack up

There are two types of hot air balloon landings. Stand up landings and tip over landings. Both types of landings are safe for passengers. Stand-up landings occur when the wind is slow. If the wind is 8-20mph on landing, you may get the opportunity to experience a tip-over landing. On landing, the pilot opens the top of the balloon releasing hot air. Due to the momentum, the basket tips on a 60-degree angle and slides along the ground. As the balloon deflates, the basket will layover on the side. Assuming passengers have followed crew and pilot instructions, everyone will be safely lying on their back. Tip-over landings typically happen more often on hot air balloon rides that take place at sunset. If you have young kids or are worried about a rougher landing, you’ll want to select a sunrise flight. Most sunrise flights finish with a stand-up soft landing.

While passengers are sipping on champagne, the crew will pack up the hot air balloon and load it onto the trailer. That whole process can take up to 30 minutes. It’s pretty impressive watching the crew work!

The drive back

All hot air balloon flights are different, and some travel further than others. The ride back to your vehicle is typically 20-30 minutes. That’s a great time to airdrop photos to your fellow passengers or leave a quick review on our site.

Passengers often ask us about tipping

If you had a great experience, consider tipping your guide and crew in the same manner as you would at a restaurant. The pilot and crew all split tips.

Hot Air Balloon Pilot Eliav C.
About the Author

Chief pilot of Seattle Ballooning. I get the opportunity to provide luxury hot air balloon rides just South of Seattle in front of Mt. Rainier. When you do what you love, it’s not considered work.

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