My first zipline experience was a single line over Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas. Strapped into harnesses and topped with red helmets, we were taken to the rim of the canyon in an open trailer, the grand views stretched out before us. Arriving at the zipline, we were hooked to guide wires before stepping on to a wooden walkway that bounced with each step and wavered a bit in the wind. As each step took us higher above the rim of the canyon, my heart began to beat harder and faster – my fear of heights nearly causing me to turn back.
What is a zipline? A zipline, also called a zip wire, is a pulley suspended on a stainless steel cable and mounted on an incline. Gravity pulls the rider from the top of the incline to the bottom. It’s a simple concept for such a thrilling ride!
As they gain popularity with families looking for adventure, ziplines are popping up across the world. A quick web search should return results, as will a quick call to the local visitors’ bureau. But is a zipline adventure right for your family? Read on for tips to help you decide.
Not all zips are created equal. From single lines to canopy tours, each zipline experience is unique to its area. Cost will vary for tour length, number of ziplines, location, and group size. Know what to expect both time and cost-wise before you go.
Age and weight limits vary. My youngest was 7 when she rode her first zipline, tandem with me. Later that year she did a canopy tour, solo on the short lines and tandem on the longer ones. Typically zip lines are built to take people between 50 and 275 pounds, but each tour company has their own rules. Check age and weight limits before booking. Also of note: you cannot zipline while pregnant.
Book in advance, but check the cancellation policy. Ziplines are popular activities, so try to book your adventure in advance. Most locations will take a form of payment over the phone, so have a credit card ready. Inquire about the cancellation policy, and know that you may not receive a refund if your cancellation notice is short.
What to wear and what not to wear. All ziplines require close-toed shoes that are securely attached to your feet. If you lose a shoe on a zipline you won’t be finding it any time soon. You will be wearing a harness that circles your legs and abdomen, so wear long pants and a shirt that covers your midsection. If you have long hair, tie it back. Glasses and sunglasses will be held securely by the helmets. But be sure to empty your pockets before you go.
Do bring a camera. Whatever you choose – camera, smartphone or GoPro, be sure you have some sort of strap to keep it attached to your person (see the shoe warning above). Though it is possible to use recording devices while you soar along a zipline, hands-free operation is suggested so you can truly enjoy your ride.
I didn’t turn back from my first zipline adventure, and now actively seek them when we travel. Though I still have a fear of heights, the exhilaration of ziplining far outweighs my phobia. Zooming along a half-mile long zipline in the treetops is the closest I will ever come to flying. And it’s amazing.