How To

Low-skill, High-thrill: Take a Zip Line Ride This Summer

Zip lines are low-skill, high-thrill endeavors.

Take a zip of faith.

After leaping from a wooden tree platform, trepidation (okay, fear in some) is quickly replaced with exhilaration flying into nature’s palette along a thin cable. Soaring near and above tree tops is a high-flying low-skill adrenaline-inducing thrill provided by canopy tours and zip lines through sun, morning mist, rain, and at times even snow.

With gear rooted in rock climbing, even a timid rookie can quickly zip to the front of a guided tour after a flight or two using helmet, harness, carabiners, lanyards, and two-wheeled trolly or pulley. Courses progress from short, low, and fast to longer, higher, and faster.

There are some zip lines where you are actually seated, and might be best for those looking to ease into the pursuit. Others let you regulate the speed with a gloved hand while some are just take off and fly before the stopping system kicks in. Along the way, some tours have you negotiating bridges in the sky and rappelling down tall trees.

No matter the choice, the views are, well, bird’s-eye.

Wherever you fly, make reservations and check height, weight and age restrictions. Don’t wear open-toed footwear. Guides are generally well-skilled at words of encouragement. And it’s okay to hug a tree.

Zip line riders don helmets and harnesses to fly among the tree tops. Here zipsters enter a Pinzgauer for the drive to the top of Wolfe Mountain at Branson Zipline in Branson, Missouri.

Zip line riders don helmets and harnesses to fly among the tree tops. Here zipsters enter a Pinzgauer for the drive to the top of Wolfe Mountain at Branson Zipline in Branson, Missouri.

So fly out of your comfort zone and into a tapestry of foliage. Be sure to check out some of the following zippy destinations across the U.S.:

  • Branson Zipline in Branson, Missouri. Fly through the Ozarks within sight of Highway 65 in the wooded Wolfe Creek Preserve a few miles north of Branson. The headquarters has a mining theme. Zip line riders board a Swiss Army vehicle called a Pinzgauer before their transformation to treetop flyers. Tours, with sky bridges, range from four to 10 lines. The fastest is the Blue Streak. Then’s the Free Fall Xpress that plunges 100 vertical feet. For those who stay grounded, take Safari Dan’s guided nature tour and watch others fly. 
  • Bretton Woods Canopy Tour in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. An absolute delight, the canopy tour showcases some of the most incredible White Mountains scenery from the grand red-roofed Omni Mount Washington Hotel to the mighty Presidential Range. Fly from tree to tree, walk the sky bridges and even rappel down. Tower above it all by being some 165 feet above the ground. Four new longer zip lines replace four shorter lengths. The’s even a racing zip to compete side by side.
  • Berkshire East Canopy Tours in Charlemont, Massachusetts. Hands down, southern New England adrenaline junkies need the Valley Jump tour fix. The incredible ride starts by taking a chairlift to the top where zips increase in length until reaching AKA X1, some 2,300 feet long for a flight over stone walls, ski trails, streams, and more. Then hoot and holler side by side on the even longer X2 going above the treetops. Other tours are available too.
  • Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. Get psyched for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia by experiencing what life’s like for a Nordic ski jumper. Just outside Park City, the Utah Olympic Park was the site of the 2002 ski jumping, luge, and bobsled events. The long and steep Extreme zip line (soar alongside another if you want) actually flies off the K120 Nordic ski jump and reaches speeds of about 50 miles per hour. There’s also a more benign Freestyle zip.
  • Royal Gorge Zipline Tours in Canon City, Colorado. The breathtaking high desert scenery of southern Colorado’s Arkansas River valley await zip riders on Canon City’s two Royal Gorge Zipline Tours. The blue square (hey, Colorado’s got skiing too) classic course features nine zip lines with over a mile in flight including a dual. The newer 11-line double black diamond Extreme courses are highlighted by an incredible third-of-a-mile run. Then there’s the 70-foot rappel down to the ground. Be prepared to do some hiking too.

Images courtesy Branson Zipline

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