Spread Your Wings

Aerial adventures await at a number of Michigan zip lines.
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Boyne Highland
Climb, climb, climb at Boyne Highland, then take a long slide down. // Photography Courtesy of Boyne Highlands

Plunging off a platform and dangling 50 feet off the ground while racing downhill, zip line canopy tours are offering outdoor adventurers an ever-greater variety of experiences and a chance to fly through the trees at speeds over 25 miles per hour.

The growth in zip line adventure courses parallels the growth in ecotourism, and today’s zip liners are learning to do flips and fly upside down, along with maneuvering through aerial obstacles. They also race family and friends on dual zip lines while taking in nature and panoramic views. Here’s a look at some of the most popular courses:

TreeRunner West Bloomfield Adventure Park (treerunnerwestbloomfield.com) includes 12 aerial trails with 200 aerial obstacles and 41 zip lines, varying in difficulty, length and height. Rather than zipping down a long canopy line, climbers depart on a self-guided tour through the wooded 8-acre park. “You have to get from tree to tree, but to do that you have to climb through the obstacle,” said Thomas Knuth, TreeRunner’s director of operations. “Every few trees, you get the treat of a zip line.”

Zip lines and adventure courses appeal to all ages and experience levels, from adrenaline junkies to construction workers with a fear of heights to families and school groups, and build confidence, strength and problem-solving skills, Knuth said. TreeRunner has trails for beginners to expert, plus a junior park and smaller parks in Grand Rapids and a new one on the campus of Oakland University.

“Once they get going, everyone is pure smiles… People love going upside down.”
— Erin Ernst

Frankenmuth Aerial Park (zipandclimb.com) features similar aerial obstacles and special glow nights and themed events. Go Ape Treetop Adventure (goape.com) in Washington is another aerial park with suspended obstacles, Tarzan swings and a 600-foot zip line.

Mount Holiday’s Zip Line Adventure (mt-holiday.com) in northern Michigan offers eight unique zip lines, an hourlong zip line adventure tour and a dual zip ride while taking in scenic views of the Traverse City region.

Boyne Mountain (boynemountain.com) and Boyne Highlands (boynehighlands.com) added zip line courses about a decade ago as a year-round attraction. The guided adventure tour takes 2-3 hours and starts with a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain. The second option is a twin zip ride, which lasts between 20 to 45 minutes and begins at the middle of the slope.

Boyne Mountain
Zipline adventures now include learning to fly upside down. // Photography Courtesy of Boyne Mountain

There are seven lines at Boyne Highlands, plus a 100-foot rope bridge, and 10 at Boyne Mountain routed through the trees and across the slopes as zip riders make their way back down. Zip liners fly over skiers in the winter, through lush green trees in the summer and see spectacular colors in the fall.

“It’s really popular,” said Erin Ernst, director of communications. “Every season does offer a little different experience.” The guides also make it fun, encouraging riders and teaching them tricks and flips. “Once they get going, everyone is pure smiles. … People love going upside down,” Ernst said.

Boyne City’s Wildwood Rush (wildwoodrush.com) canopy tour includes 7,000 feet of zip lines, five suspended sky bridges, six tree-top platforms and views of Lake Charlevoix. A 1,200-foot triple racing zip line is the only one of its kind in the Midwest and reaches speeds of over 40 mph.

Across the Mighty Mac, St. Ignace’s Mystery Spot (mysteryspotstignace.com) has two zip lines and other attractions.

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