Juneau has two zip line options, Alaska Zipline Adventures and Alaska Canopy Adventures. If you come by cruise ship the ship’s excursions may include an option to book through them. You can also book on your own online in advance of your cruise. The Holland America Oosterdam offered an excursion called Alaska’s Ultimate Canopy & Zipline Expedition. This tour went to the Treadmill Mine site, which is out on Douglas Island. Transportation includes a speedboat ride to the island and a drive up a mountain in a 4×4 all terrain vehicle. 10 dual ziplines add up to nearly a mile of cable over the ruins of the old Treadmill gold mine with views of Juneau from the treetops. This course has 2 suspension bridges and rappelling down at the end. Participants wear the sturdy gloves provided and hand brake themselves at the end of each zip.
Our ship just offered the one zipline course through Alaska Canopy Adventures. We booked the other one at Alaska Zipline Adventures online prior to the cruise because one of our traveling companions on that cruise does not like small boats. At the time we went the one we chose cost $20 less than the other place – which cost the same whether booking through the ship or not.
Alaska Zipline Adventures picks up booked tour participants in town near the Mount Roberts tram at a pre-arranged time so transportation out to the site was not a problem even though this was not a ship’s tour. After a scenic van ride to the Eaglecrest Ski Area we all got out of the van and went into the ski lodge. Our driver, Julia, was also one of our zipline guides. We picked up our other guide, Adam, at the lodge where we stopped prior to the tour. They had bins there for any belongings people couldn’t or didn’t want to take along with them through the zipline course. Some items are not allowed and others just get in the way.
Raincoats were provided to anyone who wanted them. Although we lucked out with sunny weather, they suggested wearing the raincoats anyway to prevent getting any tree sap on our own clothes. Everyone did so, which makes people easy to spot for photos as that bright orange coat flies through the green trees. Anyone not hugging a tree probably wouldn’t have gotten sap on their clothes, but better safe than sorry and a lot of other colors blend into the scenery so the raincoats made better pictures.
A short ride in a different van brought us to a trail leading to their suit-up stop where everyone was provided with all the necessary gear. The pulley cable bits that hook onto the ziplines each had an animal name. Mine was Bear which sounds quite sturdy and strong, unlike some of the others like Beaver. They offered a bunny slope zip for anyone who hadn’t tried ziplining before and wanted to try a small one first, but had no takers from our group for that so we all went on to the main course. The guides clipped everyone’s harness to a cable on the tree with instructions never to touch that clip. Before any guests could go the first guide left for the next landing platform where he would catch the incoming zipliners. At each stop the guide who catches people at the far end always went first while the other stayed to clip everyone onto the line at their turn.
Some ziplines we have done had the harness clipped to a continuous line that you follow around the tree and the order people go never changes. This one clipped in fixed places on the tree and the order in which people went changed on each platform, other than the guides who always went first and last.
One by one each participant zipped over, followed by the other guide. They had a braking system on the line so no protective gloves or hand braking was required. They send a little bobber thing out a little ways down the cable on a rope so when the person comes in it slows them down to a near stop making it easier for the guide waiting on the platform to catch them.
On each zip participants have the option to hold the handlebars on their harness or go hands free. We could take off forward or backward from the platforms and could take photos or video on the way across. They preferred heads to stay above feet, but when people opted to lean back or turn upside down they just had to make sure and be upright with their knees up by the time they got to the platform.
Some of the platforms towered over a scenic creek. Each one had a name. Trees in the area are either spruce or hemlock and one platform on a 500+ year old hemlock was called Grandpa Hemlock. The guide said a nearby tree was named Grandma Hemlock. The course included one suspension bridge and a stairway down at the end. At one platform cups of blueberry tea awaited each person as they came in for a landing.
The last zip ends on a low platform with a short stairway to the ground. After the last zipline the guides announced our next activity was axe throwing – at orange and white targets. They wore blue helmets and no raincoats while the rest of us stood there in orange raincoats and white helmets. But they had actual orange and white targets, not the people. In pairs of two each person got 3 chances to sink an axe into the target. Some people did quite well, others (like me) not so much. You didn’t have to be any good at it to have fun though.
The guides (Julia and Adam) took photos throughout the course and at the axe throwing. Back at the lodge they offered granola bars as a snack while playing a slideshow of all the photos they had taken. Of course they offered them for sale as well, along with merchandise in the gift shop there. Even a zip line ends at the gift ship, reminiscent of all the rides at theme parks.
video of zipline and axe throwing
Our parting gift was a green water bottle with their logo on it. Back on the ship we had dinner with a couple who had taken the ship’s zip line excursion to the other place. They had a great time too, and showed us the medal they got as their parting gift.
Whichever course you choose, ziplining in Juneau is a great way to have a good time whether visiting Juneau for the day as a cruise ship passenger or spending a longer time there on a land vacation.