Where to go zip-lining in San Diego (over rhinos!) and beyond

It’s a new year, and the Kelly family is looking for a new adventure.

“Zip-line riding is on my bucket list,” offered my husband.

“I’m on it,” I said.

“Our flight-line Safari is pretty popular,” said Jason of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (760-747-8702; sdzsafaripark.org). “The zip-line is three-quarters of a mile long, 160 feet above the ground, and you get up to speeds of 50 miles per hour. The zip-line also takes you over the Asian field exhibit — you travel over the rhinos.”

Jason noted the zip-line ride was pretty quick. “Your ride lasts around two minutes, but the whole experience takes about an hour. You get your gear and orientation and training on a mini zip-line, like a test run. Then you take a truck up to the upper launch area, where the guide hooks your harness onto a sturdy cable trolley. If you are in a group, each person gets released within a few seconds of each other so you can have the experience together.”

The weight limit is between 130 and 250 pounds. “Also, we ask that you have closed-toe shoes.”

“The cost is $77, but you also must buy a ticket [$40] to get into the Safari Park first,” said Jason. “Right now, we are only running the zip-line on the weekend, so the best thing to do is purchase the zip-line ticket when you come into the park and reserve a time spot.”

It sounded fun, but I knew my guys would want a longer zip-line adventure. I contacted Navitat Zip-line Canopy Adventure in Wrightwood, about 140 miles from San Diego (760-249-9990; navitat.com/wrightwood-ca). Abby Burt told me that the zip-line park “is located on 300 scenic acres in the San Gabriel Mountains. It has a four-season climate and incredible long-range views. What makes Navitat so special is that it is a 100 percent tree-based experience. All the platforms are built up high in the huge pines and fir trees. Our guests get the opportunity to explore hundreds of acres of forestland from a totally unique perspective. We have the highest and fastest zip-lines in Southern California.

“Our tours appeal to people of all ages,” continued Burt, “but we do ask that participants be at least ten years old and between 90 and 250 pounds. We run our tours rain or shine — and zip-lining in the rain can be a blast. However, during the winter season guests can expect to zip-line in the snow. From the snow-covered tree tops you can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.”

I brought our conversation back to those “highest and fastest” zip-lines. “At Navitat, our guests are always clipped into safety lines when off of the ground, and two highly trained guides handle all safety gear for all groups. Redundant safety systems are built into our tour; for example, at Navtiat, you zip-line on two cables instead of one [as is typical at most outfitters]. Guests are taught to brake and steer themselves, but we also have secondary brakes that can be operated by the guides.”

Next, I spoke with Kim, who gave me the details about the two winter tours offered. “For the winter season, we only run tours Friday through Sunday. The first tour is our Zip-line Canopy Tour [$109], which runs three and a half hours. It includes eight zip-lines, four bridges, and one rappel. On that one, the highest zip-line is 300 feet off the ground, and the longest one is 1500 feet. The bridges are considered sky bridges — they are rope bridges in the treetops. With the rappel, you use ropes to lower yourself down from a platform to the ground. The guides are assisting you with this. The Quest Tour [$50] lasts an hour and a half and has four zip-lines and one free-fall rappel. For that, you leap off a platform and experience an eight- to ten-foot free fall, but we use a delay device so by the end you can be lowered slowly to the ground.”

Navitat provides all zip-lining gear but asks that you dress as if you were spending a day on the ski slopes and recommends layers of clothing.

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