Zip Your Way Through a Vast North Carolina Canopy

Tim BellZip Your Way Through a Vast North Carolina Canopy

The Gorge Zip Line Canopy Adventure

With mountain peaks, rolling hills and an abundance of waterfalls, North Carolina is a natural choice for zip lines. The nation's first zip line canopy tour opened at Earthshine Mountain Lodge in Lake Toxaway in 1998, and today, the state's 20-plus zip lines include the steepest in the Continental United States.

In a state known for its diverse natural beauty, the zip line experience comes with variations. Summer finds the canopy lush and the breeze inviting. Fall turns the treescape brilliant, and bare branches create dramatic silhouettes in winter. Attractions enliven the schedule with nighttime tours and special events, and some feature additional activities.

Here's a rundown of North Carolina zip line adventures.

The Gorge
Eleven lines extending 6,500 feet, three rappels and a sky bridge. With a drop of 1,100 vertical feet, The Gorge became the steepest zip line in the Continental United States — and one of the fastest — when it opened in May 2013. Set in the Green River Gorge, the 3.5-hour adventure crosses protected game lands and old-growth forests in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The zip line is an expansion of Green River Adventures, which offers guided inflatable kayak trips, whitewater kayak instruction and waterfall and swimming hole adventures.

ZipQuest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure
Eight zip lines, 16 tree platforms, three sky bridges and three spiral staircases in the canopy. Riders coast down lines nearly 1,000 feet long and some as high as 80 feet on a two-hour tour. The varied topography includes Carvers Falls, the largest waterfall in central and eastern North Carolina. For added thrills, try a nighttime ride or the Swing Shot, a high-flying swoosh across the canopy and Carver’s Creek.

Navitat Canopy Adventures
Ten zip lines from 120 to 1,100 feet long, two sky bridges, two rappelling experiences and artfully crafted tree platforms. Soaring through 240 acres in Moody Cove at heights up to 200 feet, riders cross over mountain streams and see 100-year-old hardwoods on the 3.5-hour excursion. Josh Hutcherson and others from The Hunger Games  took the tour during the 2011 filming.

Nantahala Outdoor Center Zipline and Adventure Park
Bryson City
Mountaintop Zipline Tour: Ten zip lines — including one of the longest in the Southeast — and two observation towers on a three-hour guided tour above Nantahala Gorge. Awesome views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Nantahala National Forest await with a half-mile zip 350 feet above Townhouse Creek as a highlight. Adventure Park: Test your limits from 60 feet high. The adventure includes wobbling sky bridges, spider webs, tight ropes and a ride on the Wesser Zip.

Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours
Bryson City
Thirteen zip lines, eight swinging aerial bridges and four tandem zips. The bird’s-eye glide soars through 20 acres on a three-hour tour that takes in varied ecosystems and scenes, including wildlife, wildflowers and Great Smoky Mountain vistas.

Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures
Ten zip lines up to 1,200 feet long, nine treetop platforms, three adventure tower platforms and three sky bridges. This urban adventure, which reaches heights of more than 70 feet, offers spectacular views of the Asheville skyline as well as neighboring mountain ridges. Also check out the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, an aerial obstacle course with 50 unique challenges.

U.S. National Whitewater Center
Multiple options are offered at this major adventure park less than 15 miles from the heart of North Carolina’s largest city. The Canopy Tour, with seven lines, sky bridges, rappel stations and other elements, zips through a canopy of hardwoods along a 90-foot-deep canyon and through a wetlands delta before ending with a rappel-style freefall; twilight tours are offered in the fall. The 1,123-foot Mega Zip flies over sections of Class III and IV whitewater rapids. The Canyon Zip is an out-and-back experience across a canyon on twin zip lines. Related experiences include the Climb 2 Zip, Mega Jump, Canyon Crossing, Canyon Spur, Adventure Course and Ridge Course.

Sky Valley Zip Tours
Blowing Rock
Ten lines covering more than a mile, a swinging bridge and a cliff jump. Not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sky Valley offers a three-hour tour through glorious scenery of mountain ridges and waterfalls.

Screaming Ziplines
Regular tour with six zip lines, running 460 to 800 feet, or an eight-line tour that includes the 2,000-foot Super Zip. The attraction made a name for itself with the Super Zip, the nation's first triple-wide line: Three riders at a time can race their way down the valley at speeds approaching 50 mph. Night tours are offered.

Seven Devils
The Hawk Tour, 1.5 miles on 10 cables up to 1,500 feet, plus a swinging bridge. Soar at heights of more than 150 feet and speeds up to 35 miles per hour through trees and over creeks. For a longer, faster, higher ride, the Eagle Tour covers almost three miles on a nine-cable tour with swing bridge, heights of more than 200 feet and speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

RidgeRunner Ziplines
Twelve lines up to 600 feet and as high as 80 feet above the forest floor. Panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains await at the top of the two-hour tour, which includes a suspension bridge and three short hikes for gaining elevation.

Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tours
Twenty-two cables covering 1.5 miles. The High Course zips along 13 cables and allows a bird's eye view of the forest and wildlife below. The Web Course cris-crosses over a ravine and a meadow. Lantern Tours are also offered, as is a Low Ropes Course with 10 elements.

Richland Creek Zipline and Canopy Tour
Fourteen zip lines measuring up to 1,400 feet, three skywalks and a swinging bridge. The two-hour tour passes Mendenhall Waterfall and reaches the base of Purgatory Mountain. Riders swing through a misted area that suggests the rainforests where zip lines first became popular. The attraction's Halloween event is a favorite.

Earthshine Discovery Center
Lake Toxaway
Seven-stage course with swinging bridge and a 400-foot tandem run. The family adventure resort's Flight Through the Treetops became the nation's first zip line canopy tour when it opened in 1998. The 2.5-hour ride through the Nantahala National Forest crosses a pond and includes a landing in a cargo net. A High Ropes Course and Adventure Course are also available.

The Beanstalk Journey at Catawba Meadows
Fifteen-station zip line/ropes course. Riders make their way from treehouse to treehouse via sky bridges and zip lines on a 2.5-hour tour. Catawba Meadows park, on the Catawba River near Pisgah National Forest, offers a range of other activities. Saturday night zips are offered May through September.

Kersey Valley
High Point
Fourteen lines, 10 sky towers and 17 sky decks. The 2.5-hour tour follows an aviation theme. Riders reach heights of 100 feet as they fly across the attraction's corn maze and into the canopy. A Night Time Flight is available, and the Halloween tour invites a visit to the Spookywoods haunted house.

Boulderline Adventure Programs
Lake Lure
Six zip lines ranging from 400 to 800 feet long. The 1.5- to 2-hour course, near Rumbling Bald Resort, traverses woods and streams. Boulderline is also home to a new kids course, a 32-foot climbing tower and a giant swing that takes riders up to 40 feet high.

Canopy Ridge Farm Zip Line Tours
Lake Lure
Six lines from 500 feet to 1,000 feet. Soar through the lush forests in the Blue Ridge Foothills on a 90-minute tour. Canopy Ridge also offers a kayak tour on the Rocky Broad River.

Xtreeme Challenge
Twin mega zip lines with an Indiana Jones Bridge. Lodge on a private lake offers high- and low-ropes courses for groups of two to 400-plus.

Shallotte River Swamp Park
Ocean Isle Beach
Ten zip line stations, three bridges and more than 1.25 miles of cable pass through 100-year-old cypress trees. The zip line tour lasts at least two hours, as visitors soar above the swamp and get a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife that call the natural habit home — deer, turkeys, raccoons, owls, wild boar and more.


There’s much to see and do in North Carolina, so read on.

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