Alaska is famous for a lot of things; endless wilderness, icy glaciers, wild creatures. Now it’s famous for canopy-jumpers. Zippers, if you will – people who spend their days frolicking among the stands of spruce and cottonwood near the town of Talkeetna, Alaska, a place already famous for a cat-mayor and mountain climbing.
It’s time to zip, people, and the Alaska Travelgram Show team traveled north today to do just that with Denali Zipline Tours.
Ziplining is not new to the Alaska tourism industry, per se; it’s just new to southcentral Alaska, so pardon my extreme enthusiasm as I describe the farthest north zipping experience here, there, or anywhere. Owner Sandra Loomis invited our crew to be one of the first zippers since opening July 8, and without much prodding, off we went.
Talkeetna is a fast 2.5 hours north of Anchorage, making it a manageable day trip for most families. Denali Zipline Tours HQ is located on Main Street, sandwiched between Wildflower Cafe (incredible food, fascinating ambiance), and the historic Talkeetna Roadhouse (breakfast or non-breakfast, conversation, and kitch). All tours begin and end here, with a meet and greet, waiver signing, and transportation to the Operations Base, 3 miles from downtown.
Cottonwood and spruce trees shivered a welcome as our party gathered for “Ground School” in preparation for the Big Zips. In all, 9 zips, 3 suspension bridges, and 1 rappel await guests of Denali Zipline Tours, along with careful supervision and “catching” by incredibly knowledgable staff. Nobody zips without Ground School, proving his or her ability to follow directions, use a hand brake, and properly direct one’s body the correct way. All zippers must weigh at least 90 lbs and be 10 or older – the reason I remained on the ground, today (with actual zipping lasting 2 hours, I wasn’t comfortable leaving 50-lb, 7 year-old AK Kid behind).
It was a great day to zip, though. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s made for some pretty stunning photo ops as the Travelgram Team wound its way through the canopy. Not zipping? Ask staff for an escort along the grubbed-out trails beneath the platforms, getting a completely different view of the incredible work involved to keep a system like this running safely. My guide explained the process: every morning, the entire crew walks the course, ensuring all bolts are tightened and all cables are fast. One staff member zips the cables above, and every single tree is inspected from root to tip; the torque from a day of zippers is tough on these forest giants.
All zips are fantastic, but the grand finale is a 700-foot, over-the-water leap of faith, where reflections are common and guests are, by now, shrieking with delight rather than trepidation. See the smiles? You can have one that wide, too.
Important stuff to know
Cost: The 3-hour Canopy Adventure Tour is $149/pp for adults, $119/pp for kids 10-14. Transportation and all equipment is provided.
Bring/Wear: Closed-toed shoes, long pants/sleeves, bug spray, and your camera. Tie back long hair.
Know the scenario: You will be in the air during the entire experience. When not zipping, you’ll be standing on a narrow platform clipped to a cable, staring at the ground far, far below. A bit nerve-wracking at first? Yes. Insurmountable? Not on your life. In fact, I can think of no better parent-child bonding experience for the tween/teen age group. That said, if you or your child truly afraid of heights, consider this attraction very carefully. Denali Zipline Tour managers can help you make this decision.
If you and your partner/friend/spouse have small kids who will not zip and thus one will remain behind, bring snacks, beverages, more bug spray, and some small toys to keep the kiddos occupied. No facilities other than a pit toilet are provided.
Contact: Reach DZT via their website at www.denaliziplinetours.com, or by phone, 907-733-3988, toll-free 855-733-3488.