Remember sitting on a park bench as a child and watching squirrels jump playfully from limb to limb, birds soar effortlessly through the treetops? Ever envied their freedom to climb, swing, leap and explore the world from a forest canopy? This week, the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation opened an adventure course that is designed to give families the opportunity to enjoy a bird's eye view of nature and to experience that same sense of freedom.
At the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course, located in upper Creve Coeur Park, visitors can experience the park from the trees, 40 feet off the ground, using harnesses, pulleys and carabineers. The course consists of five sections, each taking visitors higher into the forest canopy. Participants can experience a total of five zip lines, including the skateboard zip line — the only one of its kind in the Midwest — and two zip lines that are each 400 feet long. The course also includes two Tarzan swings, rope ladders and 40 obstacles.
"I think it's great for families to be together ... and it's a great opportunity to get them outside, get the kids away from the computer and the Playstations, and just be a family and enjoy the outdoors," said Kyra Kaltenbronn, manager of program services for St. Louis County Parks and Recreation.
The Treetop Adventure Course is operated and maintained by Go Ape, which also operates treetop courses in public parks in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Indiana. Park officials say the experience will provide older children and teens with a fun afternoon of physical fitness and bring them closer to nature and the outdoors.
What to expect Visitors complete a 30-minute training program prior to their adventure, which includes two practice routes. Although instructors are available throughout the visit and patrol the forest for added safety, they are not stationed at the individual platforms, so it is important to pay close attention during the orientation in order to have a full understanding of the equipment. By the time we completed our training, even my 11-year-old daughter was able to switch out her pulleys with confidence and ease.
That first leap is both the most daunting — and the most freeing. As someone who panics a little over heights, I was a bit put off by the prospect of leaving solid ground. Instructors offer a simple piece of advice: Don't look down. From my experience, the best way to get started is to just close your eyes and jump.
It typically takes two to three hours to complete the course, though you can take as long as you'd like. To make the most of the visit, book a weekday or early morning time when the course tends to be less crowded, and allow yourself plenty of time to explore. Treetop Adventure is open during most weather conditions except lightning and ice. Guests who aren't quite "up" for the adventure can watch the fun from the ground or explore the rest of Creve Coeur Park, which includes a stocked lake, a beach, boat and bicycle rentals, a waterfall and more.
Admission to the Treetop Adventure Course is $55 for adults and $35 for children ages 10 through 17. Participants must be at least 55 inches tall and 10 years of age or older. Wear sneakers or boots, keep hair tied back and leave jewelry at home. Dress to get dirty, particularly on rainy days when the course can get muddy. Gloves are also helpful to prevent rope burns.
The Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course is open daily through Sept. 6, then Thursdays through Mondays Sept. 7 through Nov. 14 and weekends only Nov. 15 through Dec. 8; it will be closed for the winter between Dec. 9 and March 1. For a complete list of hours and to book a "tree time," visit goape.com.
Upper Creve Coeur Park is located at 13236 Streetcar Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63043. Call 1-800-971-8271.