This brand new outdoor adventure opened in July 2011 after construction was completed by Bonsai Design. While we had no idea such an industry existed, we’ve since learned that Bonsai believes in leave (almost) no trace design in the forest, installing platforms in enormous trees and ziplines through the forest without scaring the very trees that are vital to this sport. For example, rather than drill through the trees to install the ziplines, Bonsai Design wraps the lines through wooden blocks that surround the tree trunk, ensuring that the tree lives on for generations to come. Just as Bonsai has extensive experience in the industry, Navitat is hardly a newbie, having operated their Ashville, North Carolina zipline and canopy tour for many years.
Arriving at Navitat is an adventure in itself. You’ll arrive in “downtown” Wrightwood, which consists of just a couple streets in this quiet mountain town. First, they’ll ensure that you meet all of the participant requirements, which limits participation to persons 90 to 250 lbs. and other health restrictions. Just a few minutes later, you’ll be trained on the basics of your equipment, which strap you in with seat-belt like material around your legs, chest, neck and behind to accompany your comfortable red helmet.
- With all of the official business out of the way, you’ll be whisked off to their 300+ acre outdoor adventure site, located just over the Los Angeles County line, in a World War II era vehicle. With only 80 horsepower, we have no idea how it chugged straight up about 7,400 feet above sea level into the San Gabriel Mountains while carrying 10 people in the back. Don’t confuse the San Gabriel Mountains on the south side of Angeles Crest Highway with the San Bernardino Mountains on the north side of highway. The two are separated by the San Andres Fault which runs through Wrightwood, with the San Gabriel Mountains on the Pacific Tectonic Plate and the San Bernardino Mountains on the North American Plate. Whether you remember what mountain you’re on or not, you’ll remember that Navitat takes you up, and gravity takes you down, making this a fun trip whether you ran a marathon last week or just watched the marathon on TV.
Once you reach the top, you’ll hike no more than a few hundred feet to your first, very small zip line. Any fears you had about heights will quickly be erased, or heightened, but either way, you’ll know the course has begun. If you have any fears or questions, the guides are always there to help. One of our guides, James, was a Riverside native that attended high school in Corona. The other guide, Sean, was a transplant from Navitat’s North Carolina location. Both were outdoors specialists by the nature and training.
A few more ziplines away and you’ll be trained to rappel down from the treetop perch that you arrived on via zipline. Beware the slack in the rope, as the drop you’ll take off that perch may be sudden. However, there is little to worry about. The auto-belay will slow you down and drop you to the bottom without any effort, or slow yourself by hand, as is required for one of the drops that goes right between the branches of the very tree you’re repelling from.
A short hike away you’ll wonder why you feared ziplining as you face the first of several suspended sky bridges. While some on the tour were hardly fearful of this element, others had to hold on tightly to calm their nerves, only to grasp even more tightly as the bridges became narrower and less balanced as the trip continued. Not to worry, ensure the guides, these modern bridges are built with numerous, galvanized steel cables. Nonetheless, that rationality is hard to internalize as you look to your left and to your right, only to see the valley more than 100 feet below you.
As adventurers continue on, they quickly realize that the ziplining has just begun. Facing the longest of the zip lines – 1,500 feet- the fear is slowly turning into excitement for many on the trip. With riders reaching speedings of 50 miles an hour, this is quite a rush! However, Navitat doesn’t do just a few ziplines. Rather, they follow this zipline with several more, interspersed with great information about the region and the plants and animals that call it home. The trip lasts about 3.5 hours- a good half day. When you add in the drive time from different parts of the I.E. this is a great half or even full day trip.
Below, we captured perhaps the best zipline at Navitat Wrightwood on video to bring you right into the action.
- Navitat’s unique nature based approach to zipining and canopy adventures has been featured in the NY Times, USA Today, KGGI 99.1 FM and many other sources. Heck, even Conan O’Brien sent his staff over to Navitat Wrightwood to film a bit about making American literature more exciting by allowing it to be read by authors as they ziplined down the course.
A day with Navitat runs $109 per adult and $99 for those under 18, but there are several ways to get discounts by being a local to the Wrightwood area, going on Tuesdays, going with a group of 8 or more, or using code TTDIE for your special Things To Do Inland Empire $10 discount for a weekday trip. After you go once, you can go back again for free if you bring three friends with you. Check their rates and discounts for more information.
They plan to be open until late November and will reopen around April, given the snow that will pervade this mountain region for the winter. They may be doing some special winter tours for those with a real desire for adventure, so check with Navitat for their updated schedule.
Navitat Wrightwood is located at 6047 Park Drive, Wrightwood, CA 92397. (760) 249-9990. For more information, check out navitat.com/wrightwood.