Ziplining. I have a fear of heights, so when we decided to do it, I wasn’t entirely sure how well this one would go. Yes, I did go parasailing this summer, but that was decidedly leisurely and therapeutic.
Every year, my boyfriend, Marc, and I have vowed to discover either a new state or a new country. Last year was our first year with all things Kentucky! This year it was Marc’s turn to pick and he wanted to raft the New River in West Virginia. I researched whitewater rafting guide services and found Adventures on the Gorge. This company had fantastic safety ratings and included options like ziplining, and a bridge walk across the gorge (contracted through the only company permitted to take tours). We ended up doing an all-inclusive package that included a basic cabin and meals for the stay.
We booked the trip to arrive early Friday morning in August and depart early Sunday. Only two days to pack in a lot of action-packed adventure, but as luck would have it, the weather (and life) cooperated! 😊
Arriving on Friday morning, we went in to the office and checked in and received the keys to our cabin. We then headed directly to the zipline meet up location. We went on the ziplining tour with a couple and a father with his two children, an older boy and a younger girl. They, as well as our fantastic guides, were all pleasant to zip with. The harness fit snug and I got my helmet (gloves are so so very important, so make sure they fit well!) and off we went!
We got to practice braking on a low wire before actually moving up to the treetops. I struggled in my practice run because my harness slid up and felt uncomfortable. “That’s why we do the practice run,” the guide informed me, and I was in total agreement. I was happy it was sorted out before jumping out of a tree!
We went on the TreeTops Canopy Tour which included 10 ziplines, 5 sky bridges (they felt like swinging bridges), 2 small hikes, and a rappel a the end of the tour.
It’s my understanding (forgive me if this isn’t entirely correct, I was nervous and only partially picked up on everything!) that we started out at the top of a mountain and ziplined slowly down the slope. So the first tree wasn’t very high off the ground … until you ziplined away from it!
Some things I learned in my first zipline:
- Things move very fast. There is a stool to step up to go and a stool for you to step down to come off the line. When it’s your turn to get unhooked, move efficiently and make sure you’re out of the way for the next person.
- The guides hooked and unhooked me and I always felt safe on the line.
- Again, things move fast—so try to take in the sights around you quickly because the views? They’re incredible.
- Handbraking and timing are the most crucial elements of ziplining safely.
The hardest part of the first zip is stepping off. I stood on the stool and was more than a little concerned about stepping off into abyss. I tried not to hesitate and when the guide told me to go, I stepped off into nothing.
The whole first run, I was very concerned about braking. To brake during a zip, you place your right hand on top of the wire and it slows down your speed (hence the importance of gloves). I had learned if you brake too soon, you get stuck on the line and have to pull yourself the rest of the way. If you brake too late, you slam into things. As it turned out, I braked with perfect timing the first run! It would be on later ziplines I would brake too late and too fast…
Braking too soon occurred when I jumped the gun and thought I was coming in too fast. The guides yell out when to initiate a brake and I didn’t wait for the call. Trusting that the guide knows when to stop you is important. I had to turn around and monkey crawl backwards (not unlike Ace Venture in When Nature Calls) until I reached the tree.
I also braked too late (I just didn’t put enough pressure on the line) and hit into the guide with a little more force that intended. The good news is, they caught me, and I didn’t slam into the tree! I did feel bad for running into the guide.
At one point, my harness got a little uncomfortable again and they readjusted it for me. This may happen and say something if it does, it’s so much better to stop and make sure everything is right. We did do a bit of uphill hiking toward the middle of the tour to get to the only rock jump off point. The path was steep in areas, but I pushed through and tried not to give the vertigo time to set in. It was a steep uphill grade for maybe a hundred feet of the five-minute hike.
We reached our destination at the rock jump and I noticed it was starting to look an awful lot like the Blair Witch Woods here …
Marc went first and I have to admit, this was the scariest zipline for me. I have a fear of heights and as long as I’m hooked onto something, it’s usually manageable. However, you had to walk downhill a few steps and then climb onto the large rock before being hooked onto the line.
I went VERY carefully and VERY slowly and apologized to the guide as he was hooking me to the line, explaining I have a fear of heights. He looked at me in surprise and said, “Really? I would have had no idea if you hadn’t said. Usually, I can tell when people are afraid of heights, I wouldn’t have thought you were!” That really made me feel so happy. You see I stated at the start of this blog that I was going to be afraid of doing things, and I promised to persevere and do them anyway. It felt like a huge accomplishment to see that my fear wasn’t holding me back, and that even the guides had no idea!
We also got to walk over two swinging bridges.
This was a wonderful break from the pace of the fast zipline and I got to really take in the scenery (which was gorgeous)! We took some photos on bridge but I held the phone in a death grip—I was so afraid of dropping his phone!
Important tip! Wear shorts with zipper pockets or you will almost certainly lose your belongings.
On the last zip, it was finally time to rappel to the ground. This was the moment I was dreading. If I had thought the first step off was intimidating, rappelling was so much more intense! We got hooked up to the rappelling rope and had to swing around backward, facing the tree trunk with the barest support with your feet and then slowly loosen your grip on the rope until you slide to the ground.
I’ll admit, I did hesitate for a second on this one. And I might’ve asked the guide if she was sure I wouldn’t accidentally plummet straight to the ground. So eventually I descended, and as it turns out, I felt completely supported! I controlled how fast I went (slow, very slow) and I never felt scared after initially swinging around into position. Rappelling was not as bad as it sounded!
At the end of the tour, I felt so satisfied. It was a full half day of ziplining and adventure. I told the little girl (around 7 years old) that she was really brave and I was scared to do it, but I saw her ziplining and rappelling and knew if she could do it, so could I! That kid was incredible! I would never have been able to do that at her age 😊
On the bus ride back to the shelter the guides offered us cans of pop and/or beer. That was such a nice touch! And refreshing after a vigorous morning!
All in all, I would rate the TreeTops Canopy Tour 5 stars out of 5 for a wonderful experience. In terms of accessibility, it rates 3 out of 5 starts. You have to be able to be coordinated, walk on a slightly steep path, and keep your balance on those bouncy swinging bridges!
So, have you ever ziplined? Have you ever heard of or visited Adventures on the Gorge? Are there any fears, concerns, or questions of the unknown I didn’t cover? Comment below and let me know!
See my helpful trip tips below for more information! 😊
Per Person Cost: $ (>25) $$(25-50) $$$(50-100) $$$$(100-200) $$$$$(200+)
There is parking at the shelter where you meet the guides and get your harness and equipment. A bus will take you to and from the ziplining area. Cool drinks after the tour serve as a nice bonus!
TreeTops Canopy Tour: $$$ (This was the one we did!)
Minimum Age: 8 (Minimum weight: 90 lbs. Maximum weight 260 lbs.)
Gravity Zip Lines: $$$
Minimum Age: 12 (Minimum weight: 100 lbs. Maximum weight 260 lbs.)
TimberTrek Adventure Park: $$-$$$
Minimum Age: 6 (Maximum weight 260 lbs.)
MoonTrek TimberTrek at Night: $$
Minimum Age: 6 (Maximum weight 260 lbs.)
Make sure you properly secure your helmet (looking back at the photos I don’t think mine was tight enough!). Pick out gloves that fit your hands well. The resort provides the harness, helmet, and gloves.
Wear tennis shoes or hiking boots.
Never reach up and touch the zipline wire with anything other than your gloved hand!
Make sure to listen, pay attention, and trust the guides when they tell you to brake (and all of their other instructions as well 😊).
Ziplining does have a weight minimum and maximum for participants. This is to ensure safety for the participant: Too low of a weight means you won’t make it across the line and too heavy might compromise the line’s ability to hold you. When we arrived for our tour, a woman was arguing with a guide because her son was 80 lbs. and was too small to meet the minimum weight requirement. I was happy to see that the guide told her they were sorry, but the requirement was there for his safety and they were not willing to make an exception for him. She tried to change their ziplining to our tour, but he was still too underweight. Even after her very angry insistence, the guides held firm that it was not possible and would be unsafe. It was clear that the guides took safety seriously.
Side Note: Also, if you’re a child’s parent? Their safety should come first! I was appalled that anyone would want to risk their son’s well being to go zip lining!
US Dollar: All tours should be booked in advance. Credit card or debit card is accepted.
For more information: https://www.adventuresonthegorge.com/adventures/zip-line-aerial-adventures