As I was looking for things to do in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, I found a great ziplining course in the mountains overlooking the lake. “Hey,” I said to my husband. “How’d you like to go ziplining in the tops of the trees overlooking Lake Coeur D’Alene?” He was totally up for that, and I was pretty excited too. How amazing to be sailing through the trees, like a bird?!
I had only previously been on a church camp zipline that was maybe 150 feet long and I was thrilled to try something more adventurous. And only a little nervous. Ziplining with Timberline Adventures would be a lot more than just one 150-ft zip! It’s actually a few hours of ziplining: seven ziplines up to 400 feet above the forest floor, with the longest at 1600 feet long and speeds of up to 50 mph. Plus two long suspension bridges!
Who can go Ziplining?
Nearly everyone 7 years and older and under 260 lbs. If you don’t weigh at least 80 lbs, you may be paired with another lightweight, so you’ll have enough weight and momentum to get to the end of the line! You do not have to be super fit, but should feel comfortable riding in a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) on a bumpy dirt road and then maneuvering with an extra 25 lbs or so of harness, handhold, and carabiners strapped onto you. By maneuvering, I mean walking, climbing a few steps, and standing on platforms. The rest is easy, because you’re just sitting. In the air! In case you’re wondering, I was the oldest in our group (56 years), and I had no problems.
So, what is it like to go Ziplining?
The Timberline Ziplining Adventure begins at their storefront location in the Resort Plaza shops (right next to Coeur D’Alene Resort). The storefront is actually inside the mall — it took us a few minutes to figure that out! There, you will be outfitted with a harness, handhold, and straps with carabiners, plus a helmet. You’ll meet your guides, too. Then a shuttle takes you to the base of the mountain where you transfer to a UTV (a jeep-like vehicle) to go to the top of the ziplining course.
Everyone is strapped into a safety line as soon as you step up onto the first platform, even though it is only a foot or two off the ground. Your “receiving” guide ziplines first and gets set up at the other end and radios that he is ready. Then your “sending” guide gets the first zipliner clipped into the line and lets the receiver know. We received a few instructions as well — like keeping the leg straps of the harness low on your thighs so you can actually sit on them as you ride. And then, you step off the platform and fly! You are not pushed, and there really isn’t a sensation of falling (more like swinging) — and then you are just soaring among the trees.
When you are close to the next platform, you’ll be snagged by a braking mechanism. That allows the receiver to pull you into the landing platform, kind of like an old-fashioned clothesline! It does make a loud sound when it catches, and that startled me the first time. But then I just knew to expect it. There’s a ramp you walk up to reach the platform, still attached to the wire, of course. Then you are unclipped from the overhead wire and clipped into a wire that goes around the tree, so that you can stand on the platform with no worries of falling from it. (Because now you are many feet above the ground!).
Look at this hardware! Doesn’t it make you feel secure?
Here’s one of my husband’s zips from the viewpoint of his GoPro. If you hold onto the handhold, you won’t spin, but as you can see, my husband did spin a little and still had no problem dismounting at the end of the zip.
Here’s what it looks like when the “sending” guide catches up with the group. Notice she used leather gloves to brake herself. But we didn’t need to do that.
More about our Ziplining experience
After about 4 or 5 ziplines and a suspension bridge, we took a short break. But how do you get down from the trees? There’s a special pulley and ropes where you can just hang on and drop about 20 feet or so to the ground. That was kind of fun, too. Of course, you’re still strapped on.
We went to a lookout viewpoint with fantastic views of the valley and Lake Coeur D’Alene. There was a water station there, too, so we could get a drink of water if we needed it.
And then we walked to another set of ziplines, with the final zip being the longest (1600 feet long). It even sailed over a road, and sometimes drivers would beep “hello” at us! Before the longest zip, Emily took some photos of us.
I got my larger camera out and took some photos from the center of the last suspension bridge. What do you think of these views?
And here’s my last zip — proof that I survived with a smile on my face!
You might also be happy to know that the platforms and hardware for the ziplines donn’t harm the trees. A lot of the trees used are Tamarack, which not only have a very hard and durable wood, but are also deciduous with needles that turn yellow in the fall.
About the Ziplining guides:
I was very impressed with the knowledge and skills of the guides we had on our zipline tour. Emily and Cruz were super focused and always aware of where we were, what was happening, and how to keep us safe. They made sure we were ALWAYS attached to a safety line, even when just standing on a platform. Emily and Cruz used radios to communicate to each other as one was “sending” and the other “receiving”. They learned our names and our comfort levels, too. But they were also fun and took the time to get to know each of us a little.
When it came time for me to step off a platform for the first time, I was a little hesitant. Emily assured me it was perfectly okay to have a “healthy respect for heights.” I appreciated that no one made fun of me or rushed me. And Emily and Cruz were right there cheering me on, too! I learned that the Timberline guides receive extensive training and learn how to deal with difficult challenges, too — like how to retrieve someone that doesn’t make it all the way to the next platform. Luckily, that wasn’t necessary with anyone in our group, but it was good to know there’s a plan for that!
All the Practical Stuff:
- Be sure to make reservations. Ziplining is popular and time-slots fill up fast. Each time-slot can only accommodate 9 people. If you’re coming with a larger group, you can split up between adjacent time-slots and only be 30 minutes apart. There are some fun zipline tours that include s’mores or even lunch in a treehouse, too!
- Clearly, it’s better not to be carrying anything with you while ziplining. If you want to bring something, it must be securely attached to you. Wear closed-toe shoes that can’t fall off (athletic shoes are best). You can buy a lanyard for your cell phone for $5 at Timberline. I also brought a larger camera, which I kept in a backpack. I was sure I’d thought of everything, but I ended up losing my exercise tracker when at some point it came unsnapped from my wrist. There are free lockers available at the storefront location.
- Wear comfortable clothing! It was a warm August day when we went ziplining so I was tempted to wear shorts. However, the harness you’ll wear includes leg bands. I was glad I wore capri-length leggings so the harness bands didn’t rub against bare skin.
- For some reason there were a lot of bees flying around the ziplining platforms. No one ever got stung, but if I was allergic to bees, I’d definitely want to have an EpiPen with me.
- Use the restrooms at the shopping plaza before you leave; the next available bathroom is at the end of the course, meaning you’ll have a 2.5-hour wait. And it’s a portable toilet. You’re not on the ground much, so it’s not like you can go hide behind a tree, either!
- And (duh!) you can not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs; it’s important to be healthy and be able to follow the instructions of your guides. There are a lot of precautions put in place to keep you safe, but you do need to exercise care.
I just have to add that this ziplining tour was one of the highlights of my visit to north Idaho. It was exhilarating, and I’ll have memories to last forever! I highly recommend it especially for families with teenagers or young adults. Even empty nesters with a sense of adventure will love it!
As is common in the travel industry, I was invited to join Timberline Adventures for a zipline tour so I could write about my experience and share it with you. My husband paid for his own tour, and we both loved our experience as well as getting to know our guides. Much thanks to Visit Idaho for an awesome adventure!