What’s to Love: This site highlights all kinds of adventures. Granted, sometimes the “adventures” are more like cushy vacations or a walks in nearby parks. However, I want the site to feature a little something for every family. Every once in awhile, we kick it up a notch (e.g., Rock Climbing at Smith Rock, Free Riding near Hood River, Hiking Cooper Spur, etc.). The Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure Park (Gaston, Oregon) brings the level of adventure up SEVERAL notches, especially if you venture off 60 feet in the air to try their black course.
I hope I didn’t scare you off! This innovative and fun adventure park is actually several different courses offering something for just about everyone. What is it exactly? It’s basically a series of ropes courses with obstacles and zip-lines thrown in for fun. The courses will test your strength, endurance, balance, dexterity, creativity, and wits. Plus, this is an excellent adventure for the whole family! As of this writing, the business is only 80 days old, and they’ve told me they’ll be adding much more adventure in the near future. Here is a slide show to get a better idea of the various courses.
Kids (who can reach 5 feet with an extended arm) can try their very own aerial course, which stays rather low to the ground. This course offers plenty of excitement for most kids, but they will probably be about done by the third or fourth lap. This course will build confidence and get kids familiar with the equipment. They will even get to learn how to ride the zip-lines, which is always a highlight for most children. Here are a couple of videos of our experiences at Tree to Tree Adventure Park. The first clip is the kids’ course and the second clip highlights some of the orientation and adult elements.
Overall, we had an incredible time here! As far as “adventure” goes, this probably rates in my top 3 adventures I’ve documented in the last 3 years, which is saying a lot. The people who run the show are very friendly and accommodating. They put everyone at ease with a well run orientation program that includes a training video, harness and helmet fitting, and a low-to-the-ground “test course” to ease you into it. Before you can go off on your own, you have to complete a certification loop.
The guides are strict (a good thing), but they don’t go overboard with authority or attitude – they want people to be safe but have a good time as well. If you break rules, you will receive a warning. If you break the rules again, you may be asked to leave the course. If you didn’t understand something, don’t wait to try to figure it out on the course! I stopped and asked the guides questions all the time, even when I was up in the air. They want to help you and make sure you know what you’re doing. If you and or your kids get stuck, they are trained to help you out of a jam.
Caveats: If you have issues with heights, this obviously might not be the right adventure for you or your family.
While the guides do a good job with the orientation and helping on the course, obviously, there is an element of risk involved with this activity. Most would agree that statistically, the car ride to the place is far more dangerous; however, that knowledge will probably not calm your nerves much while dangling on a zip line 30 to 60 feet in the air. If you’re new to this type of adventure, it might be hard to watch your loved ones struggle on the course.
I tried my best to stay focused on what I was doing, which is probably some good advice. Actually, my biggest issues were wait time and the lack of bail-outs. This is a popular destination. The guides are very efficient with the gear and orientation. However, you may be in a group with people who are moving VERY slowly. The people in front of you may even need assistance due to freezing up while clipped into the middle of an element. Potentially, this could lead to some long wait time. I didn’t have that problem on the easier courses, but I did experience some uncomfortable wait time on the black route.
While on the black course, I felt a bit stranded. A woman was struggling and making very little progress in front of me. Ordinarily, I have plenty of patience for this type of stuff. However, I needed to get down to make it back to Portland in time to relieve our babysitter. I felt a bit helpless while my wife shouted up to me. I know it’s probably asking a bit much, but it would be really nice if there was a way to bail-off the routes at the various platforms. I think the biggest problem is: How does one bail off safely? As of right now, you’ll have to complete the course you’re on and use the zip line to get down.
Website: Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure Park
Distance from Portland: Only about 37 miles from Portland via 26. Here is a Google Map. I would avoid the “TV Highway – OR 8,” it’s filled with lights and traffic. Once you get off 26, it’s a beautiful cruise through the country. It took us about 50 minutes to get there on a Sunday afternoon.
Recommended Ages: If a child can reach 5 feet with an extended hand, they can go on the kids’ course. To go on the high course, you must be able to reach 6′ 6″ with your arm extended overhead. Currently, there is no age requirement. Also, they need to have the grip strength to clip in and out of the lines. If kids are feeling uncomfortable or scared, let it go and try another day.
Parental Stress Factor: Most likely, you’ll be stressed a bit. This isn’t a walk in the park! When I saw my son struggling with the clips, it definitely stressed me out a bit. I stood on a platform for about 10 – 15 minutes waiting for my turn, I definitely got a bit stressed. I’m not bothered by heights or the physical challenge, so for the most part, it was fairly low stress day. It’s one of those activities where your stress levels will ebb and flow within a matter of minutes.
Physical Difficulty: If you stay on the beginner course, it’s not too hard for most people. When you start trying the harder courses, it WILL work you big time! The black course had all my muscles firing at the same time just trying to hold on. I was pretty sore the next day! The area around the course and the courses themselves are not handicap-accessible.
Family Fun Factor: High…and I mean that both figuratively and literally. If heights are not an issue and your kids are pretty adventurous, your family will have a blast here! This is definitely one of those activities that you’ll talk about for a long time after you leave the premises. AND, I can almost guarantee that your kids will be begging you to take them back as soon as possible.
Pet Friendly: They have some very nice dogs, but this is not a good place to bring your dogs.
Weather Considerations: Open Memorial Day through Thanksgiving. If it’s raining, the course remains open, and with the tree cover, I wouldn’t think the rain would be a major issue. If it’s rainy season, come prepared with rain gear just in case.
Insider Info: Do NOT wear sandles!!! You’ll need closed-toe shoes. Running shoes/gym shoes work fine – the stiffer the sole the better due to the fact that you’ll be walking on metal cables. Gloves are not a bad idea – you’ll be hanging onto the cables all the time, and it wears a bit on the skin. If you forget gloves, they have them for sale for $2.50/pair. Reservations are not required, but I saw several people get turned away. Best to go with reservations!
Kids and teens who can reach 5 feet but are not tall enough for the other courses are referred to as “tweeners.” On Tuesdays, tweeners can hire a guide (1 on 1) to tour the rest of the aerial adventures. The guides will provide support, encouragement, and the height necessary to clip their safety gear where it needs to go.
Again, I felt the guides did a good job with the orientation. However, it was difficult for my son to hear what he was saying and follow it, especially due to the fact that he had little experience with this type of thing. He was asked to go to the kids’ course right away and jump on. I could tell that he was a bit nervous, so I went with him, and they didn’t have a problem with me hanging around while he got comfortable.
Therefore, as parents, if you’re both planning on going on the course, you may want to take some time to make sure your child feels comfortable on the kids’ course first. Then, you’ll feel much better while on the adult course. After awhile, I could even shout over to my son and wave, so he could see where we were on the course. If you feel your child isn’t catching on, ask the guide to give him/her a bit of 1-1, and I’m sure that will put them at ease.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, but still want your kids to experience the course, the business has hiking trails and Henry Hagg Lake is very close as well.
Family Tips: Bring food and drinks! These folks have a great idea…put a BBQ grill and some picnic benches (with umbrellas!) on the lawn and let your customers do their own cooking. This is one of the best ideas I think I’ve ever seen at a business, especially if you come with friends or other families. Check their website here for special deals! If you don’t bring food, I recommend stopping at McMenamins’ Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.
We kept our toddler at home for this adventure. It’s not a good place for kids that cannot actually do the course. Remember that to do the course, kids have to be able to reach 5 feet with an extended arm (flat-footed with shoes on).
Remember that you may experience traffic jams on the routes. While exit routes would be nice, that’s not how it works right now. Therefore, my biggest family tip is to make sure you have plenty of time to complete the courses, and you may want to talk to your kids about patience and not rushing others or themselves while on the routes.