In February–when my husband and I were in Thailand–we wanted to go on a jungle canopy tour. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us, and even though I was extremely relieved, I thought, Shoot! There goes our chance for ziplining. Little did I know that Minnesota itself offers its own real live canopy tour. Two to be exact–Towering Pines Canopy Tours at the Gunflint Lodge up by the Boundary Waters and Kerfoot Canopy Tours in the Minnesota River Valley down Highway 169 near Henderson/Belle Plaine.
Lee Kerfoot, outdoor rec enthusiast and owner of Kerfoot Canopy Tours (and son of the Gunflint Lodge/Towering Pines owners) contacted Family Fun Twin Cities for a press tour, and the three of us jumped at the chance! Maybe I should be more honest. Our husbands and Anne were excited for the opportunity. Joy was grateful that she was unable to participate due to her pregnancy, and I was scared to death! We set up our tour, and as we drove closer, I had to take one deep breath after another to calm my thumping heart.
10 miles away from the sight, I got a text from Joy explaining that they had car problems and couldn’t make it. We were all disappointed with the the day’s turn of events. But soon, I wasn’t sad anymore….
I was terrified.
Before I go any further, let me explain. I am deathly afraid of heights, and just thinking about ziplining made my hands and feet sweat. While I knew this was going to be an incredible adventure, I also knew it was going to be one of the hardest things I would ever do.
(Anne here: Gianna’s heart palpitations were in fact making me a little envious! I was excited, but not nervous — a few extra butterflies in my stomach would have been welcome.)
I also want to point out that I was terrified of the anticipation of what was going to happen. There is no reason to be scared. Everything is safe and tested multiple times each month. The sky guides (there are always two with each group) are very professional and calm. There is really no reason to be scared.
Unless you are afraid of heights. Then, there’s plenty to be afraid of. Because you are going to be really high up in the air–like 150 feet or so with your feet dangling in the middle of space. (Anne again: Soaring over the gorge, in my opinion, is the best part. Make sure to keep your eyes open!)
Most importantly, I want you to know that I still sweat bullets remembering my adventure in the Minnesota River Valley one Sunday in September, but I can’t wait to do it again!
Kerfoot Canopy Tours offers a 2 1/2 hour tour that’s a mile of zipline fun on 14 lines. There is also a 170 ft long suspension bridge (which we learned from our guide Aaron that it’s the make or break point for many people–your heart is beating so hard that you feel like it’s going to leap out of your body!) that leads to a 50 ft tower that sends you out over the gorges.
Other features include two super fast rides. One zipline is a quarter of a mile long–that’s where your guides will teach you how to do the cannonball. Before all this craziness starts though, they take you through ground school to help you get the feel of the lines and how to use your handbrakes. And then before you know it, your adventure has started. (Anne’s bit: Starting out with a few easy rides is the perfect way to settle any nerves — and then the thrills amp up as you go!)
Cameras, phones, keys are not allowed on the tour for safety, but for $20 you can rent a Go Pro Camera and mount it on your helmet. The guides are really good about making sure you get some still shots taken too in the most picturesque overlooks. Then, they upload everything onto a thumbdrive for you to keep. Lee likes to say it’s the best $20 you will ever spend.
Tours take place in all weather except for lightening and high winds. Dress for the weather and make sure to wear your closed toe and heel shoes!
Anyone who is 10 years old or older and weighs between 70 and 250 pounds can go on this adventure. Our oldest children are 9 so we weren’t able to bring them with us. And honestly, this is pretty intense. I don’t know of many ten-year-olds who would be able to last for the whole 2 1/2 hours. It’s a pretty rigorous workout with climbing all the stairs on the tower and holding onto your trolley and calming your pounding heart.
But I know there are adventurous kids out there who would be ready to do this. How perfect would this be to do with your teenager? Whether you just enjoy the thrill together or have a friendly competition of who lands the best at each landing, this would be a great bonding experience for your family. Husbands and wives, uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews, adventuresome grandparents with grandkids. This isn’t something you do everyday!
(Anne’s two cents: The scenery was lovely in September; I can only imagine how gorgeous the course will be once the leaves have turned. Act quick if you want the colors, though — Kerfoot’s busiest season is right around the corner.)
And yet, it’s not that far away. Just an hour south of the Twin Cities. It’s very easy to get to (unless, of course, your van breaks down).
Open: 2014 canopy tours will run through mid-November starting daily at 9am. Winter tours are available by request, and regular spring hours for 2015 will begin in mid-April. Call 952-873-3901 to secure your tour or follow this link to book online.
Rates: Weekends $99/Weekdays $94
Go Pro Camera Rental $20
Tip for Skyguides: Anywhere between $5-$20
Kerfoot Canopy Tours offers Special group rates and packages, too. In fact for $399, Kerfoot and Towering Pines Canopy Tours are offering a season pass to be used between April 2015-November 2015.