Humans have been obsessed with flight since they’ve first walked the Earth. From Orville and Wilbur Wright piloting the first powered airplane to modern day base jumpers, there’s something in our DNA that makes us want to experience the sensation of flight, which is where zip lines come in. We may not be able to fly on our own, but we can feel as if we are, especially when taking on some of the word’s most thrilling zip lines.
Heavenly Mountain Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California (Nearby Hotels)
Heavenly Mountain Resort is famous as one of the world’s most amazing winter playgrounds, attracting skiers and boarders from around the world to its more than 4800 acres of skiable terrain, but one of its biggest thrills can’t be had on a pair of skis or a board, it’s the incredible Blue Streak zip line. Among the longest and fastest in the country, it stretches for more than 3,300-feet in length, and has a fast, steep descent with a 525-foot vertical drop that matches that of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, allowing riders to hit breakneck speeds on the way down while soaking up sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Peak, and Mt. Tallac. The recently installed Hot Shot Zip Line reaches top speeds of 40 miles per hour and propels riders down 1,000 feet of mountainside terrain. The resort offers many other activities as well, including a mountain coaster and a scenic gondola ride.
EcoZip Flying Fox Adventures, Auckland, New Zealand (Nearby Hotels)
New Zealand is home to some of the most stunning scenery on the planet, and what better way to take it in than from a zip line? After taking a ferry through the Hauraki Gulf, EcoZip will pick you up and bring you to the side-by-side zip lines that stretch through the native bush on spectacular Waiheke island where you’ll soar through the fauna and flora. The three unique, flying fox zip lines are all 656 feet long (200 meters), that allow you to fly side-by-side with a friend, for an especially fun shared experience. Afterward, the adventure includes a tour of the island and its golden beaches, vineyards and olive groves, as well as short guided nature walk through a pristine, pre-European native forest.
ZipRider at Icy Strait Point, Icy Strait Point, Alaska (Nearby Hotels)
Located in the cruise ship destination of Icy Point, a private island exclusively used by the commercial cruise lines that traverse Alaska’s Inside Passage, the world’s longest zip line ride spans nearly 5,500 feet, but only takes 90 seconds to complete, with riders experiencing the chill in the air at 65 miles per hour. It’s so fast because it’s extremely vertical, with the top towering 1,320 feet above the base. It also gives riders the chance to soak up the amazing view 300 feet above the Alaskan tundra, though it’s built more for exhilaration rather than nature exploration. Three side-by-side cables allow riders to race to the bottom – and when they’re finished, Icy Strait Point offers a range of excursions for visitors, from Native dance performances to bear viewing and whale watching.
Jaguar Cave Zip line, Belize (Nearby Hotels)
The zip line at Jaguar Cave starts out with a short hike through the thick jungle, where you’ll be dwarfed by towering cohune palms before arriving at a limestone cliff which serves as the launchpad to the zip line. Riders then soar 500 feet across the jungle, feeling the rush while taking in a bird’s eye view of a cavernous opening to one of the Mayas’ ancient ceremonial caves. You’ll cross Mayan caves, zipping under the jungle canopy, between the stalactites and stalagmites and through the open-air caves of Jaguar Cave. But that’s not all, as there is another leg to the journey that includes floating into a chamber to explore the sacred underworld of the Maya just before embarking on a unique hike through a narrow passage, emerging in front of a “frozen waterfall” column that signals the end of the fascinating subterranean adventure.
Zip 2000, Sun City, South Africa (Nearby Hotels)
The Zip 2000 is the world’s fastest zip line. Riders race to the bottom on a heart-pound one-and-a-quarter mile long flight at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, flying over the dormant volcano and grasslands of Sun City while taking in views of the Palace of the Lost City, the Valley of the Waves and the area’s golf courses. Speeds average 75 mph, though they’ve been clocked as high as 114 mph. Both solo and tandem slides are available, allowing you to share the excitement and the terror if you prefer. Everyone from the very young (you need to be at least 12), to those with lots of life experience (the oldest so far to ride was an 84-year-old Scottish woman), have enjoyed it, as it’s less daunting than doing something like bungee jumping, with no free falling involved, rather a freeing, flying feel.
Arenal Volcano Park, El Castillo, Costa Rica (Nearby Hotels)
Arenal Volcano Park in Costa Rica, home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes up until 2010, offers a wealth of adventure. You can try your hand at canyoneering, soak in soothing natural hot springs or journey through the rainforest on horseback where you’ll mingle with toucans, monkeys, armadillos and sloths. But there may be no more thrilling way to experience the park’s ever-evolving landscape than on the two-and-a-half hour zip line tour with Costa Rica Sky Adventures. Your adventure begins in the open-air chassis of the SkyTram, a gondola that whisks you up to the mountain peak. From there, you’ll see the seven zip lines that stretch over the lush rainforest, ranging from the longest at nearly 2,500 feet to shorter glides at 656 feet. As you make your way down the course, keep an eye out for the occasional colorful toucan and loads of indigenous monkeys.
Flight of the Gibbon, Mae Kampong, Thailand (Nearby Hotels)
While there are numerous zip lines that can be found throughout Thailand, the Flight of the Gibbon is one of the best experiences you can have, as it combines eco-tourism, sustainability, and adventure. Located an hour east of Chiang Mai in Mae Kampong, it’s the oldest and most widely touted of all, boasting a half-mile cable that represents one of Asia’s longest single zip line flights, allowing you to zoom past the jungle, listening to the sounds of the birds and cicadas as you take in the jungle scenery. It’s actually a series of zip lines, with some portions extending about 2,625 feet long, suspended 164 feet above the valley floor. While getting your adrenaline fill, you may even spot exotic wildlife like gibbons and birds. In addition to the sky-high dangling, you can test your bravery while crossing two hanging sky bridges and repelling two descents throughout the course. Afterward, as a reward for your courage, a classic Thai meal is served al fresco.
ZipTrek Eagle Tour, Whistler, British Columbia (Nearby Hotels)
Whistler offers a unique experience in that you can ride a zip line surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks that are covered with snow, or sun-drenched with an endless sea of green. No matter what time of year, this is an unforgettable adventure that’s been rated among the very best zip line rides on Earth. The Ziptrek Eagle Tour will have you flying like an eagle over the breathtaking Fitzsimmons Valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains during a three-hour adventure that includes five zip line courses that are combined with four treetop bridges. The highlight is arguably the line that stretches 2,400 feet, launching from the Olympic Station on Whistler Mountain at an elevation of over 3,200 feet. You’ll even have the option to enhance the experience on some zip lines, riding backward, or starfish, with arms and legs spread open, or even upside down, hanging over the tree tops.
Zipflyer, Kathmandu, Nepal (Nearby Hotels)
One of the most extreme zip lines in the world, High Ground Adventures Zipflyer is well over a mile long, offering ample time admire the view on the two-minute glide down from the Nepalese mountains at an elevation of 5,400 feet. You’ll fly through jaw-dropping vistas, with the Annapurna range ahead and the dense green forest canopy below, soaking up the incredible sense of the ultimate in freedom of excitement at speeds of 70 miles per hour or more. The ZipFlyer Nepal has been ranked among the longest and steepest zip lines on Earth, with a whopping 2,000-foot vertical drop. High Ground Adventures also offers bungee jumping, rafting, paragliding and other activities for an entire day or more of thrills.