Everything about zip lining screams exhilaration. Picture yourself standing on a small platform near the top of a tree, safely buckled in and poised to step off into thin air, then hurtling at speeds of 30 mph or more while taking in the beauty that’s whizzing by below (and all around) you. Some places even offer night zipping through lighted canopies.
It’s a thrill that isn’t reserved for hardcore thrill-seekers. In reality, zip lining is a fun and safe outdoor activity for nearly everyone who meets certain age and weight requirements. Most venues offer beginning, intermediate, and advanced options, and all provide hands-on instruction and close-to-the-ground practice areas. Staff will work with first-timers and scaredy-cats until they feel ready.
“A day at our adventure parks is like going to a local ski resort or state park with the additional feature of flying through the trees,” says Jeremy Fishman, vice president of business development and strategy at TreeRunner Adventure Park locations in West Bloomfield and Rochester. “Our glow nights provide a surreal experience in an illuminated forest with various music themes.”
Here are some of the best zip lining destinations in metro Detroit and within a reasonable drive.
Treerunner Adventure Park (West Bloomfield)
The largest aerial adventure park in the Midwest delivers with 14 above-ground courses with varying degrees of difficulty, 45 zip lines, and more than 210 aerial obstacles.
It’s simply a matter of getting to the main platform and choosing a course to complete. All are rated from beginner to expert and combine wooden obstacles with zip lining. There’s always something to climb over, around, or through — or even to swing from — to reach the next platform.
Beginning courses are 10 to 15 feet off the ground, while expert courses are 30 to 40 feet above ground and are reserved for those who are physically fit — and a bit daring. Some courses have as many as 14 obstacles to negotiate.
With travel limited by COVID-19, “going to an adventure park is an excellent opportunity to get out of the house and be active in a socially distanced forest environment,” Fishman says.
Open now. Riders must be at least 6 years old and weigh between 60 and 265 pounds. 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township; 248-419-1550; treerunnerwestbloomfield.com
Treerunner Adventure Park (Rochester)
Nestled in a wooded section of Oakland University, the park features more than 60 obstacles, 12 zip lines, and seven courses with varying degrees of difficulty. Each course is made up of platforms — some 40 feet high — connected by cables, wood, ropes, or zip lines.
The park is newly expanded for 2021. “The Rochester park has two new trails and a new zip line — Golden Grizzly — longer than others in the park at 250 feet,” Fishman says. “There is truly nothing like it.”
Open now. Riders must be at least 7 years old and between 60 and 265 pounds. Located on Oakland University’s campus in Rochester. Use the entrance off Adams Road, just south of Walton Boulevard; treerunnerrochester.com; 248-759-5222
Howell Nature Center
The main zip line here is 20 feet off the ground, 500 feet long, and launches riders from a tree-lined hillside across a glacially formed pond that attracts its share of wildlife.
A seven-zip line Glacier Valley Eco Zip Tour is offered on select days. It features a half-mile of zip lining, a half-mile hike, and encounters with live animals. From 40 feet up, riders can view Tornado Ravine, which shows damage from a tornado that passed through the area in 2003.
Other highlights are Mitchell’s Bowl, a deep impression in the land carved by glaciers, and Glacier Point, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
“Guests that ride our zip line are also given access to our Wild Wonders Wildlife Park, home to over 70 Michigan native wildlife, and Alexandria’s Nature Scape, our natural materials playground and home to our giant Tree House,” Elizabeth Schultz, Howell Nature Center’s community engagement of programs manager, notes.
The center’s zip lines are open to the public only on select weekend dates, which can be found on the park’s website under the events tab.
Open now. Riders must weigh between 60 and 250 pounds. 1005 Triangle Lake Road, Howell; 517-546-0249; firstname.lastname@example.org
Frankenmuth Aerial Park
The park features six courses, all including a combination of zip lines, ladders, bridges, and other climbing obstacles spread throughout acres of forested land.
Courses vary in difficulty, with the most popular being FrankenZip, which includes seven zip lines ranging from 15 to 35 feet.
“We have six very diverse courses, some designed for beginners with shorter zip lines and two are advanced for those looking for longer zip lines and challenge obstacles,” manager Tim Krafft says. “Our glow nights are spectacular, with the park set aglow with color arches, LED sequence lighting, and lasers.”
Changes during the offseason have made easier courses a little easier to complete, while advanced courses have become more challenging.
Advance reservations made through the park’s website are required for entry.
Opens May 22. Riders must be at least 7 years old and between 60 and 265 pounds. 1375 Weiss St., Frankenmuth; 989-284-0201; zipandclimb.com
The Soaring Eagle Zipline at CJ Barrymore’s is nearly 120 feet tall and takes pairs of riders seated side-by-side along a 650-foot line across the 25-acre complex, reaching speeds in excess of 30 mph.
Riders are taken backward to the top of a pole before a latch mechanism is released, sending them soaring back down to the starting point.
“Our zip line is truly unique because of how tall it is and how long — not to mention the overlook is amazing,” CJ Barrymore’s manager Matt Ritter says. “You can see our entire park and the surrounding area. On clear days, downtown Detroit is visible.”
New this year is a camera system that records riders as they experience the Soaring Eagle. Riders can then buy a copy of the video.
Open now. Riders must be at least 42 inches tall to ride with an adult, or 48 inches to ride alone. Maximum combined weight for the two-seater zip line is 450 pounds. The weight limit for individual riders is 280 pounds. 21750 Hall Road, Clinton Township; 586-469-2800; cjbarrymores.com
Camp Dearborn is home to Michigan’s longest continuous zip line (1,436 feet), but it was closed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manager Jason Spiller says he’s hopeful the zip line can reopen this year, but a final determination had not been made at press time.
“Our goal is to operate this great attraction again, but we’re still in the process of making a final decision,” he says. “It’s such a spectacular way to view the surrounding area while flying across a quarter-mile zip line.”
Riders climb a six-story tower before embarking on a 40-second, 35 mph thrill ride over the camp’s swimming lake and its main beach before landing at another beach on the opposite side of the lake.
Opens May 28 (tentative). Riders must be at least 8 years old and between 75 and 280 pounds. 1700 General Motors Road, Milford. Spiller encourages visitors to check campdearborn.com or call 313-943-2076 in early May for updates.