When was the last time you climbed a tree in Tahoe? Chances are…never? The spindly, high branches typical of common Tahoe tree species like ponderosa pine or incense cedar don’t lend themselves to monkeying around above ground. Getting sap all over your shorts isn’t that fun, either. The stellar views and fresh air that lurk in the tree canopies of the Tahoe Basin have long been forbidden fruit, enjoyed only by the birds and local arborists who get sappy for a living. Until now!
There’s a new way to play amongst Tahoe’s towering pines at North Tahoe Adventure’s Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park. Located within Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City, this new aerial adventure park blows away that not-a-playground perception of Tahoe trees. The park is comprised of a series of elevated courses perched 10 to 50 feet off the forest floor that link 65 different tree platforms by way of a variety of bridges and zip lines. The courses offer the unforgettable opportunity to scamper across branches like a squirrel and soar between tree trunks like a raptor; this is not your average walk-in-the-woods.
North Tahoe Adventures opened the treetop park in 2012 after 18 months of construction efforts. The facility is undoubtedly North Tahoe Adventure’s crown jewel as it dwarfs the company’s other two adventure amenities — the ropes course at Squaw Valley and the climbing wall inside the Squaw Cable Car building. Tucked in the back of the Granlibakken resort complex just adjacent to the Tahoe Rim Trail, the location of the new treetop park has a history of high angle adventure.
“Granlibakken had a ropes course in this same spot for the last 20 years,” said North Tahoe Adventure President Jesse Desens. “The course was pretty small and not used much. We came in and turned it into something state-of-the-art.”
Desens’ cutting edge description of the park is not hyperbole. The treetop park is the first of its kind in California and features both innovative obstacle designs and safety elements borrowed from European aerial parks.
To accommodate participants aged 5 and up and of all levels of athleticism, the park is split into two different zones. The Flying Squirrel zone is for younger kids and beginner adults, and features three incrementally more challenging courses. The bridges on the Flying Squirrel green course are only 10 feet up, while the most challenging black course features bridges and zip lines connecting trees 40 feet off the ground.
All of the Flying Squirrel courses share the same ingenious safety system that provides foolproof and hands-off total protection from falling. Participants can never come unclipped as the harness is tethered to a trolley that slides fluidly along a steel wire throughout the entire course. Flying Squirrel climbers simply push the trolley out ahead of them as they move.
A little deeper into the forest lay the five Monkey courses. Participants must be able to reach his/her hand to 5 feet 6 inches in order to play on the Monkey courses due to the nature of the safety system and the challenge of the increasingly difficult obstacles.
Maneuvering through the three blue and one black Monkey courses, participants are tasked with a multitude of creative balancing acts including riding a bike on a wire and tiptoeing across a wobbly “wind chime” walkway. Also interspersed throughout the Monkey courses are over 1,000 feet of zip lines.
The safety system on the Monkey courses consists of a dual-magnetic clip system that only allows you to unhook one clip at a time. At the end of each bridge or zip line, climbers must transfer the clips to anchor wires on the tree platform one at a time. The ability to safely access the anchor wires is what mandates the height requirement.
Performing such balancing feats while hanging out at heights may feel perfectly comfortable for some, but for others the same tasks are petrifying. The North Tahoe Adventure guides overseeing the park understand these personal differences and constantly monitor the courses to help inspire confidence or retrieve those who are frozen with fear or having trouble with a park feature.
“Feeling nervous is a basic human reaction to being at height,“ said Treetop Adventure Park guide Craig Garneau. “I never ask people to conquer that fear of heights in just a couple hours at the park. Learning how to manage the fear by working your way up through the courses is the goal.”
The diverse balance movements required by the various bridges also demand more energy than one might expect. After a session at the park, climbers can expect to have broken a sweat, said Desens.
“It’s not a zip line tour,” said Desens, referring to tree canopy tours built strictly with sit-back-and-glide elements. “It’s very active and people are often surprised by how much work it was when they are done.“
Each treetop park session is two and a half hours with the first half hour reserved for learning the safety systems. Once comfortable with the safety protocols, climbers have the rest of the session to lap the courses at their own pace and in whatever order they please. Cost is $45 for adults (13 up) and $35 for children.
“It’s two hours of fun for a very reasonable price,” said Desens.
Match the fun with the fact that it might be the first time you’ve ever hung out way up in the trees around Tahoe, and the treetop park is indeed one of the most unique and best value new experiences to be had in the Sierra region.
Online reservations for the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park are highly recommended. Book online until one hour before the start of the session at northtahoeadventures.com.
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