Ziplining in the Sonoma Canopy, California

Molly zips into the next platform. (Melanie Radzicki McManus)

Redwoods shouldn’t sway. At least not in my mind, anyway. These enormous, ramrod straight trees grow for centuries, stretching hundreds of feet skyward, while widening and thickening their trunks. Heck, here in northern California you can even drive a car through the trunks of several of these behemoths, they’re that big. So I wasn’t prepared for them to be swaying when I agreed to zipline from tree to tree.

In Your Bucket Because …

  • You can’t beat zipping through redwoods, some of the tallest trees around.
  • You can zip in the morning, and tour wineries in the afternoon.
  • Good for adventurers, families, nature buffs.

It’s too late to back out now. My daughter, Molly, and I, along with a handful of others, are already facing the second line in Sonoma Canopy Tours’ zipline tour through the redwoods (and some Douglas fir). No one except me is the least bit worried about the fact that our narrow, treetop perch is gently moving from side to side in the breeze. In fact, they all seem to be enjoying it, walking right to the platform’s edge and gazing around. Me? I’m giving the tree a full frontal hug.

“Who wants to go next?” asks Andrew, one of our guides.

Ziplining in the Sonoma Canopy. (Melanie Radzicki McManus)

“I’ll go!” I quickly shout.

“Wow, Mom, I didn’t think you’d volunteer to go first,” says Molly, impressed.

Molly must not have heard Andrew say that the tree we’re currently in sways the most. I just want to get off this platform and onto the next, sturdier one ASAP. I step onto the little box perched at the edge so Andrew can clip me into the line. The tree is now really moving back and forth, and I clutch Andrew’s shoulder for support.

You’ll zipline through redwoods during a Sonoma Canopy Tour. (Melanie Radzicki McManus)

“I can’t believe how much more you can feel the swaying just by stepping up on this little box,” I say.

I hear snickers. Looking over my shoulder I see three men in our group pushing the tree trunk, making it pitch farther just to spook me. I quickly push off the box and fly toward the safety of the next tree.

Flying Through the Canopy 

You don’t get many chances to zipline through majestic redwoods, and certainly not here in wine country. Sonoma Canopy Tours is the only zipline in the area, we’re told. And while the redwoods here seem enormous, they’re actually just babies ― a mere 100 years old, not like some of the millennial trees at Muir Woods or Reds National Park.

Our tour runs about two-and-a-half hours, during which time our guides educate us a little on the trees and their environment. We also zip along seven lines, climb one spiral staircase and traverse two sky bridges, one of which Andrew pushes apart to scare me, and the other which lurches wildly up and down because Molly jumps on it. At the last platform, we rappel 60 feet down to the ground. That’s actually the easiest part, because the guides control your speed and don’t let you down very fast.

Back on terra firma, I congratulate myself for having conquered another zipline. And for keeping my eyes open on every one.

Practicalities

  • There are weight restrictions on ziplines, so make sure you’re aware of those before you sign up.
  • Don’t tour wineries right before zipping!
  • Sonoma Canopy Tours is part of the Alliance Redwoods Christian Conference Grounds, and $1 from every trip is donated to an outdoor adventure for at-risk youth. But there’s no proselytizing or anything of the sort during your tour.
  •  Be prepared to tip your tour guide.
  •  You can rent a camera on-site that attaches to your helmet and will film your zips.

About 

Melanie is always looking for her next adventure, whether it's hiking 1,000 kilometers on a Spanish pilgrimage trail or warming her hands over a space heater with Muslim guards at the Dome of the Rock. Melanie has written for publications such as Cooking Light, National Geographic Traveler, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Robb Report and Runner's World, and recently created two travel apps. In 2011, she won a gold Lowell Thomas Award for best environmental tourism article.

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