In the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of cruising thrills to be had with open water crossings, navigating rapids and whale sightings. There is also another kind of thrill, one that zips through the trees and flies over land, an adventure that can only be experienced at Zip San Juan.
Last fall, I found myself with a handful of adventurous souls waiting by the Friday Harbor Court House to be shuttled to our woodland zip line destination on San Juan Island. Most of us—including me—had never zip lined before, and needless to say, I was both nervous and excited.
Zip Through the Trees With Zip San Juan
The ride to our destination took about 10 minutes, and along the way we passed Mona the camel and Duck Soup Inn, one of my favorite restaurants. Our friendly guides, Ethan, and Sherrie chatted with us about the island, our tour and answered questions.
After a bumpy drive down a dirt road, which Ethan joked was a complimentary back massage, we arrived at our destination. There our guides helped us get suited up for our zip line course which has eight lines with a range from 15 to 50 feet off the ground. To get everyone comfortable, the tour started with instruction and two practice runs, which are lower to the ground and allow guests to get a feel for the zip lines.
The course made a steady progression of height and length, and at one point a 20-foot ladder is climbed. As we traveled from platform to platform, we flew past Douglas firs and red cedars, over protected wetlands, and cheered for each other. Personally, I found the longer runs exhilarating as they allowed my mind to let go and enjoy the freedom of being on the zip line. Also, it gave me more time to watch my tour mates expressions.
The suspension bridge is near the end and for some proved to be more nerve-wracking than the zip line course. After Ethan, I was the first one across and my gut did flip and flop a couple of times. On the last line, we zipped over a lake with resident otters.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first zip lining experience. The guides were perfectly at ease on the course, humorous, and made every effort to ensure everyone felt safe and had fun. On top of that, they complimented each other well. Ethan was young, very witty and shared tons of interesting factoids. Sherrie was closer to my age, and her steady and calm nature made me realize zip lining is ageless fun.
Zip San Juan runs tours April through October based on reservations. Their van picks guests up in two locations: on 1st St. near the Court House, which is a short uphill climb from Friday Harbor Marina, and in front of Hotel de Haro at Roche Harbor. The zip tour runs around 3 hours. Cost: Adult $86, Youth & Senior $76.
Lara Dunning is a member of the Waggoner Cruising Guide team and has made one trip up the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, AK. She is enthusiastic about small town living and you can read more about her discoveries at Small Town Washington. She has been published in The Crossing Guide, Explore Anacortes, Whidbey Island Life Magazine and Waggoner’s Pacific Northwest Boating.