EATONVILLE, Wash: It’s time to get wild with Zip Wild.
A zip line and adventure challenge course unlike any other in the Pacific Northwest opens Saturday at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
Zip Wild combines a series of tree-to-tree zip lines with obstacle-course style challenges such as swinging slatted-step bridges, high wires and suspended cargo nets for a heart-pounding experience among the evergreens.
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful, adrenaline-charged experience that zooms riders through the trees at some 33 feet per second and reaches heights of up to 55 feet – some six stories - above the forest floor.
Zip Wild will ultimately consist of four courses.
Zip Wild will ultimately consist of four courses.
The course opening this week is the second toughest of the four and is open to riders 10 and up.
Three more courses will come on line as soon as they’re completed and receive permits from the state.
They’ll vary from one another in skill and intensity levels to accommodate a wide range of ages, abilities and comfort levels.
The shortest will be the lowest and accommodate children as young as six; the longest will be the highest and fastest, geared toward riders 18 and up.
Each will be physically and mentally challenging. And all - from the smallest to the longest, highest, biggest, baddest – will provide an amazing "Did you see what I just did?" accomplishment.
As the courses get harder, the intensity level is greater, the zips faster and the heights more dizzying.
The course opening this week incorporates a series of exciting and interesting challenges that tie six sections of zip line - or "zips" - together. There are swinging bridges with spaced-apart slats to step across; loosely suspended cargo nets to climb; a tight rope to walk; and a series of fixed and swinging planks to balance on.
Getting on the course is a challenge in itself. Participants must climb a wall to reach the first aerial platform, some 33 feet up.
Riders surge through the sky at an estimated 22 miles an hour. The longest "zip" is about 425 feet - nearly the length of one and a half football fields. The shortest "zip" is about 200 feet.
Together the zips on the course total 2,093 feet –about as long as three-and-a-half Space Needles laid end to end.
All the platforms are high, with the highest spot on the course about 55 feet in the trees.
What sets Zip Wild apart from conventional zip lines are those challenges each rider must conquer before moving on to the next "zip" in the series.
What makes it unique is its woodsy setting at Northwest Trek, where zip liners can hike the nature trails of the zoological park before or after their adventure; take a 50-minute tram ride through the 450-acre free roaming area populated by bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer and a variety of other animals; and see exhibits from bees to bears, badgers to bald eagles, wolves to turkey vultures and all manner of other creatures.
Zip Wild fits in well with Northwest Trek’s mission of conservation, education and recreation, said Deputy Director Dave Ellis.
“Many people who would be attracted by the zip line adventure might not know much about Northwest Trek,” Ellis said. “We believe they’ll experience a full day of enjoyment and recreation while learning about animals native to the Northwest. We know they’ll leave with great memories, a new appreciation of nature and minds full of ways to conserve resources and make a difference in the environment.”
Besides all that, they’ll get fresh air and exercise, which fit squarely into the missions of Northwest Trek and its parent organization, Metro Parks Tacoma, Ellis said.
Zip Wild is laid out through groves of 100-foot-tall Douglas firs and other evergreens. Northwest Trek’s Sweet Water Loop Trail meanders around it, so hikers can see action on the zip lines and their challenges.
The trees on the course were carefully selected by an arborist and course builders for their ability to hold the platforms without damage to the evergreens. Special construction techniques were used to achieve this.
Zip Wild was built and will be operated by Deep Forest Challenge, which has constructed more than 60 aerial obstacle courses across Europe, including France, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Russia and Morocco.
"We are confident the people who try our course will love how it's built through the trees and the level of challenge and excitement it provides," said Deep Forest Challenge course builder Vincent Perier. "There is nothing like it in the United States.”
Reservations are required to secure a spot on the zip line, although there may be "walk on" space available on some days. Reservations must be made online at www.nwtrek.org.
The charge is $39.95 for the course opening Saturday. The zip line price is in addition to general admission or membership to Northwest Trek. Group rates will be offered for parties of 10 or more if they reserve at least one week in advance.
The pricing is competitive with other Northwest zip lines, but no one else offers the wildlife park combination, said Business & Administrative Services Manager Donna M. Powell.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily Sept. 4 through Sept. 30; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.
There are some restrictions for riding Zip Wild, which requires moderate to rigorous physical activity, depending on the course.
- Age: 10 and up
- Height: At least 4 feet, 7 inches tall
- Weight: No more than 275 pounds
- Physical condition: The experience is not for pregnant women, people with back problems or serious medical conditions
- Clothing: Closed-toed shoes are required; dangling jewelry is not permitted; long hair must be tied back. Long pants are recommended.
Northwest Trek, accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is a 723-acre zoological park dedicated to conservation, education and recreation by displaying, interpreting and researching native Northwest wildlife and their natural habitats. The wildlife park is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma and is located 35 miles southeast of Tacoma off State Highway 161. Note to editors: Photographs and B-roll available on request.