It used to be that you’d have to travel to Central America to strap yourself into a harness and soar down a steel wire among the treetops for a canopy tour. But in the past five years, Stateside tour operators have jumped on the popularity of the high-in-the-sky contraptions – zip lines – which have popped up across the country as a way to attract tourists to ski resorts in the offseason and nearly abandoned mining and caving towns.
Zip lines require no previous experience, are environmentally friendly, and are within easy reach of most major cities across the country, making them an ideal, back-to-nature option for a quick summer getaway. (Make sure you check height and weight requirements beforehand.) Here, our picks, which are sure to make you wonder why you ever braved those maddening lines for the rollercoaster in the first place.
Historic Banning Mills: The zip line tours are the main attraction for adventure-hungry guests at this former mill town about 45 minutes west of Atlanta. The Screaming Eagle line is a top draw; at nearly a half-mile long, it enables speeds up to 60 miles an hour and features what staff say is the highest tower in the world, at 300 feet in the air. Reservations are strongly encouraged for the zip line, and if you want to make a weekend out of it, rooms at the B&B – which the website warns is “not the Ritz in the woods” – start at $99/night. www.historicbanningmills.com
Soaring Tree Top Adventures: This Colorado zip line is so remote, you’ll have to take the Durango & Silverton Railroad to reach it. But the extra effort is well worth it: You’ll zip over breathtaking vistas of rivers and aspen trees over 24 different trails. Don’t miss the newly added 1,400-foot zip line, which nearly triples the length of the previous favorite. www.soaringcolorado.com
Xtreme ZipRider: Always wondered what the thrill of the Olympic ski jump is like? No need to even strap on the skis – simply slip into the seat-style harness (which is the brand name behind all ZipRider attractions). The Xtreme whisks you right over Utah Olympic Park’s world-class ski-jumping ramp at what staff say is the steepest (34 percent) grade of any attraction and speeds up to 50 miles per hour. Plus, with multiple lines, you can race your buddy – let the trash talking begin. www.ziprider.com
Moaning Caverns: The star of the show at this tourist attraction/former mining town nestled in northern California is the zip lines. In addition to a 1,500-foot twin line perfect for racing, take your pick of a tandem or a “super” style – in which you go arms out and face-forward like the eponymous hero (though you have to complete another zip prior on the same day). Other activities in the area include spelunking and rappelling. www.caverntours.com
Wildcat Mountain: Nestled within White Mountain National Forest, this popular New England ski resort is fast becoming a summer destination thanks to its ZipRider line, now in its fourth season. Its first year was so popular, another dual line was added the following season. Four side-by-side lines let riders soar a vertigo-inducing 2,100 feet over trails, trees, and the Peabody River. Rides are on a first-come, first-served basis and tickets ($20 for the first ride, $10 for an additional one on the same day) are on sale beginning at 9:30am. www.skiwildcat.com
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