I used to associate ziplining with New Zealand, Costa Rica, and other “bucket list” destinations for adventure sports. Surprised to learn that you could zip in Lake Geneva, a laid-back resort town near Chicago, I was eager to do it.
My interest in adventure activities began years ago, but I didn’t get to try ziplining or bridge jumping until a trip to Ecuador in 2013. Ever since experiencing that rush of adrenaline, I’d been hoping to visit a place where I could do it again. I thought I’d have to travel great distances for that to happen, until I heard about Lake Geneva Canopy Tours & Outdoor Adventure Center in Wisconsin.
I was a little surprised that you could zipline in Lake Geneva, a charming town about 80 miles northwest of Chicago. Even though it has long been popular with area residents as a year-round leisure destination, it’s known for more low-key attractions. There’s boating, swimming, and hiking, and the downtown area just off the lake features mom-and-pop shops and casual restaurants. Nothing too extreme.
Lake Geneva Canopy Tours (LGCT), located a few miles outside of downtown, offers a range of outdoor activities you might expect in the area (including hiking and biking), but its flagship attraction is the 2.5 hour-long canopy zipline tour. Following an invitation from LGCT, I didn’t let the Midwest winter dissuade me and headed north. I was joined on the adventure by my friend Francesca of The Working Mom’s Travels.
Our first stop was the welcome center, where the friendly staff handed us waiver forms to sign, weighed each participant (for safety reasons, you must weigh less than 250 lbs to zipline), and directed us across the road to a hilltop garage to meet our guides.
Once there, we were handed equipment, given safety information, and transported in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to a ground school for hands-on instructions on a short zipline. The guides showed us the proper position for flying, how and when to break, how to adjust ourselves should we start twisting as we zip, and the so-called rescue technique needed if you come to a stop before reaching the landing spot.
After a trial run, I was ready for the real thing. Francesca was a little less eager to start once she heard that we would not touch the ground again until the end of the tour. The nature of canopy ziplining is that you go from one treetop platform to another and at times you move through the forest canopy via suspension bridges and spiral staircases. But she was a great sport and soon our whole group, which included two other participants, was off to platform one.
I was thrilled to be “zipping around” again, especially on the 841-foot run called The Beast. It’s the second longest line of the eight featured, the longest being a dual racing zipline at the conclusion of the tour. I looked forward to reaching that one (and possibly racing Francesca), but to my disappointment, it didn’t happen.
After completing six runs, I started to feel weak and light-headed, most likely due to the combination of low temperatures and insufficient hydration (lesson learned for next time). The guides encouraged me to sit down and get some rest, then waited patiently to see if the symptoms would pass. One even gave me her hand-warmers.
I was not able to complete the remaining runs, despite best intentions, and had to be “rescued” from the platform. But I was in good hands. An LGCT staff member, who had been radioed by the guides, promptly showed up in the ATV with an emergency kit and ropes. Within a few minutes, I was back on the ground and on the way to the garage for more rest and a glass of water. (Francesca came with, even though I didn’t want her to leave the tour early. Thanks for being a friend!)
I wish I hadn’t fallen ill, but I was still impressed with the tour – the expansive views of the snow-covered forest, sturdy construction of the platforms and walkways, and professionalism of LGCT employees. Since Lake Geneva is an easy day trip from Chicago, perhaps I’ll get to tackle the longest zipline on another occasion. Who wants to race?
If you go:
- Tours are operated year-round, in all weather, with the exception of lightning and high winds
- Participants must weigh between 70 and 250 lbs and be at least 7 years of age (children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult)
- You cannot zip if you are pregnant, suffer from a heart condition, have arm/leg/back problems that limit your physical ability, or if you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- A signed Waiver of Release is required
- Pricing (as of March 2014): $85/adult, optional $9/person for Digital Photo Package
- The tour lasts approximately 2-2.5 hours. I recommend that you eat a light meal and stay hydrated before ziplining.
- LGCT also offers team-building activities, high ropes, hiking, and biking.
Getting there and links:
Thank you to Lake Geneva Canopy Tours for the tour invitation. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.