Think a visit to Napa / Sonoma has to be all about wine, cheese and antiques? Hell no! Hands down, one of the coolest things I have done in 2012 is ride ziplines through the giant redwoods of Sonoma County. I have always been jealous of my friends who have ridden the famous ziplines of Costa Rica, and until recently, I had no idea I could have my own amazing zipline adventure just a few hours from home.

Ziplines are long cables attached between two objects (usually trees) on an incline. They are designed so the rider can be propelled by gravity between the objects on a free moving pulley attached to a body harness. The rider controls their speed using a hand brake that slows or stops the pulley from moving. The length of the cable and the degree of the incline determines the potential for speed. Ziplining is gaining popularity all over the world, especially in areas known for supporting eco-tourism.

Because I have zero interest in wine, I never thought Napa / Sonoma had much to offer me in terms of activities. I was proven wrong when I discovered Sonoma Canopy Tours nestled deep in the redwoods off the Sonoma County coast. This is one of the longest and highest canopy tours ever constructed, and what you see and experience will amaze you. Ziplining gives you a chance to experience California’s Coastal Redwoods as few people ever have the chance to – from the canopy of some of the most famously tall trees on the planet.  It is a thrill inducing activity that anyone without a fear of heights can participate in. In addition to the intense adrenaline rush you get from sailing through the tops of the trees, you’ll also walk away with a deeper appreciation for the unique eco-system of the redwood forest. It is one of those experiences you will never forget.

The zipline tour lasts about 2 and 1/2 hours from start to finish. In addition to the 7 different ziplines (one of which is over 800’ long!) you also cross 2 sky bridges, an incredible spiral staircase, and an 80’ rappel at the end of the “flight”. This is one of those adventures you can plan at the last minute. It’s close enough to Sacramento that you can drive there and back in one day.  This can be any kind of experience you want. It can be a group adventure, a teambuilding activity, a romantic couple’s experience, a family bonding trip, or something you do alone. You don’t need to bring any equipment or have any prior knowledge about ziplining. The guides take care of everything and give you plenty of practice time on a mini zipline until you feel completely comfortable.

You don’t need to be any kind of athlete to enjoy this “extreme” activity. The group I was part of included men, women, teenagers, senior citizens, singles, and families. Although it takes very little physical effort to participate, you should consider your comfort level with heights. People with heart conditions and pregnant women aren’t permitted to take part in ziplining, and people with recent bone or joint injuries may find the harness uncomfortable. The only physical requirements are that participants have to be at least 10 years old, at least 70 lbs, and a maximum of 250 lbs.

I wish I could describe in words just how beautiful the forest and ravines are, explain what it’s like to see it all in panoramic views from the tops of those incredible trees. I can’t put into words how exhilarating it is to sail through the top of the canopy – it’s like living one of the best flying dreams you ever had.

Reservations are recommended during the summer and on weekends. You can book online at or call 1-888-494-7868.

Words by Lea Bradley

Leave a Reply