We have long been believers that aerial views from above are some of the best views you can get, and zip lining is no exception. We've been zip lining in quite a few different locations over the years. Some of the spots we've zip lined at were the Grand Canyon, the rocky landscapes just outside of Las Vegas, the rainforest of Puerto Rico, Spokane, and even at the Mall of America. One place we hadn't even considered as an option previously was zip lining in the far reaches of northern Minnesota. So, when we spotted zip lining at Towering Pines Canopy Tour on our itinerary for our project with Visit Cook County, we were extremely excited. Flying over the forests of northern Minnesota was going to be a spectacular sight indeed.
Towering Pines Canopy Tour is located at Gunflint Lodge which means it is situated about 43 miles up the Gunflint Trail. The resort is located on the shores of Gunflint Lake; the lake straddles the border between the USA and Canada. At one point during our zip line tour, we were actually able to spot the shores of Canada!
To start off our tour, we were suited up in harnesses, gloves, and helmets. With all of our gear firmly in place, we made our way over to the practice runs to learn all about the safety of the course and how to use the zip lines and gear. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the braking system. Basically, you zip with both hands on the trolley that attaches to the line, and to slow down, you press one hand down on the zip line cable. It's always fascinating to see the different zip line operations around the world-I don't think any of the lines we have been on have used the exact same system. How crazy is that?! One zip line had a brake rope to pull on while others just have different brake pad systems at the end that you run into to stop. We really enjoyed the setup at Towering Pines Canopy Tour because it felt a bit more adventurous as we had more control over our speeds! Of course, there is always a guide at the end of the line to stop you if do you have issues braking, but it was quite the thrill nonetheless. Once the guides felt we had the zip line procedures down on the practice run, we hopped into a side-by-side for a bumpy (but fun!) ride to the beginning of the zip lines.
There are 8 zip lines in total, and throughout the tour we soared past some spectacular scenery. We spotted Lonely Lake, Gunflint Lake, the high cliffs, and the Canadian Shores, all while flying over the forest basin of the Superior National Forest. Most of the trees in the area are 200-year-old white pines, and we were amazed by the views as we zipped from platform to platform. While we were on each of the platforms, our two sky guides would share naturalist and historical information with us, which really added an interesting take on the surrounding lands. Our favorite zip line on the tour was the one where we had to “walk the plank” off the edge of a cliff. Once we made it to the end of the wooden platform, we were able to sit back and fly down one of the longest zip lines of the day. With views of Gunflint Lake, Canada, rocky cliffs, and towering white pines, it was one of the prettiest zip lines we’ve been on. Micah and I were the only participants on our tour, so everything went a bit quicker than normal. Tours normally last about 2 hours, but we were done in around 1.5 hours because we only had four people (us and our two guides) to get from zip line to zip line. There can be up to 10 people per tour though, so plan for a tour to last a little over 2 hours. We had such a fun time zip lining at Towering Pines Canopy Tour. The scenery was absolutely fantastic, the guides were a blast to hang with, and it was the perfect way to get adrenaline flowing through our veins. It’s always amazing when an activity can give you an entirely new perspective of your home state, and it’s one we certainly won’t be forgetting anytime soon!