Aerial Courses — adventurers zip, sway and swoop on carefully designed courses

written by Jennifer Burns Bright

Monkeys aren’t the only ones who can swing from trees. Increasingly popular at resorts and outdoor destinations, “American Ninja”-style aerial courses challenge visitors to sway on zigzaggy wooden bridges set between high platforms, climb rope webs and zip through the sky. Some even dare the fearless to leap to the ground or into water. We’ve selected three of Oregon’s coolest courses—all surrounded by nature in breathtaking areas—to explore on your summer vacation.

Klamath Falls

Crater Lake Zipline

Crater Lake zipine If hiking through the forests or fishing near Crater Lake seems too leisurely, how about zipping through the canopy of pine and fir trees? Just thirty-five minutes from Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake Zipline affords magnificent 360-degree views of Upper Klamath Lake and Mount McLoughlin as riders sail over the treetops. Kids can now climb over their own spider webs and bridge challenges on the new Sasquatch Hollow kids’ four-zipline aerial course, which opened in 2017. For more fun, opt for the Skyak combo package, which includes a kayak trip on Upper Klamath Lake.

The park, surrounded by the Fremont-Winema National Forest, features a UTV ride a mile and a half up the mountain to access nine ziplines. Zippers remain in the tree canopy for the duration, balancing on bridges and rope obstacles before rappelling down to the ground.

Co-owner Jennifer Roe loves the zipline called “Peter Pan,” not because at 1,425 feet it’s reportedly the longest in Oregon, but because “as you’re zipping down, the way the sun falls on the lines makes it seem as if your shadow is chasing you, like Peter Pan’s did in the movie. The guides tell you not to lose it.”


High Life Adventures

Lewis and Clark suffered greatly in 1805 while overwintering at Fort Clatsop in current-day Warrenton. Contemporary travelers find this community south of Astoria much more fun. Near the historic site lies the 30-acre property for High Life Adventures. With eight ziplines that cross through the forest, a 7-acre pond, and an on-site pub and grill, the park was created in 2012 using fallen trees on the property. Dave Larson, who also co-owns an excavation company with his wife, Lancey, laughingly calls himself a “tree-hugging logger” thanks to this eco-conscious strategy.

Zippers speed down a 930-foot cable and can race tandem, but what really tests the mettle is hands-free zipping over the pond, stretching sideways to touch the water … or requesting a dunking by an attendant, who duly adjusts the tension of the line. 

Manager Katie Rummell likes to ride on her favorite element, the Zwing, when she’s not baking bread for the restaurant. An upgrade from the regular package, the Zwing attaches thrill-seekers to a 20-foot bungee-cord-like springy lanyard from an overhead wire and lets them take a free-falling leap from the platform. Bombs away!

Editor’s note: The company is in the midst of building a new aerial adventure park in neighboring Seaside, which is expected to open in July.

Gleneden Beach

Salishan Resort

The 158-acre iconic Pacific Northwest modernist resort built overlooking Siletz Bay and set in the trees by visionary designer John Gray in 1965 was meant to welcome the lush forest indoors through large windows. Gray likely could not have envisioned guests climbing into the trees themselves. A brand new adventure course, opened in April 2019, is the latest project in a major upgrade campaign by new owners (a Southern California-based investment group) who bought the Mid-century marvel in the tiny central coast community of Gleneden Beach in 2017.

In Salishan’s aerial course, adventurers must choose their own path through the park, attacking twenty-one elements from fifteen aerial platforms. Highlights include a 110-foot suspension bridge, a barrel hop using an overhead rope for balance, and a cargo-net crossing.

Initially designed to include ziplines, the resort met resistance from neighbors fearing noise and crowds, so it altered the plans. “As an eco-friendly operation, we took that feedback seriously and altered our plans,” said Salishan’s general manager, Ryan McCarthy.

From “The Crow’s Nest” deck, accessed by a 70-foot ladder secured to a giant Sitka spruce, one can see why. Once in the canopy, climbers can take in the beauty and calm—Siletz Bay, miles of the Pacific, and a seemingly endless summer.

Safety First

For those more cautious than daring, don’t worry. With rigorously tested harness systems that clip each participant to the cables that gird the courses, one’s inner Tarzan can come out and play safely. Trained personnel provide coaching before the activities begin, and monitor progress from platforms along the way. Websites explain everything you’ll need to take and leave behind. Call ahead to reserve and ask about each course’s age, height and weight requirements.

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