Traveling for Memorial Day? Take in new views by tree canopy climbing on Lopez Island

Most people are familiar with natural rock climbing. For strong, adventurous people, this consists of a harness and some other climbing gear, special shoes and hand powder as they try to ascend rock structures.

But rock climbing also has a lesser-known forest counterpart: tree climbing. Not like when you were a kid, freely swinging from a low branch after stepping on an even lower branch — this tree climbing looks a lot like rock climbing.

It features a lot of the same equipment, too, such as harnesses, ropes and helmets. But instead of a rock structure, you climb towering old-growth trees for hundreds of feet up. What waits at the top are incomparable views of the forest and what lies beyond.

You can try tree climbing for yourself on Lopez Island and soak up views of the islands and Washington’s waters. AdventureTerra is a climbing company on Lopez Island, about two hours and 15 minutes southwest by car and ferry boat from Bellingham on the Anacortes-Lopez Island ferry.

What’s a tree climbing experience?

There are several course options for varying price points and reservations are required. Beginners can start with the introductory course for $149, which includes a four-hour guided session. Depending on the group, that’s enough time to ascend one to four old growth coastal Douglas fir trees.

For slightly more at $175, beginners can also take the Sunset Canopy Climb. Also four hours long covering the basics, this training starts before sunset, allowing for a unique view. Then you’ll rappel back down using headlamps after dark.

Battery-powered ascenders are available by request, in order to allow people of all ages and abilities the chance to experience the climb and the view.

Tree canopy climbing safety

AdventureTerra’s setup is in compliance with the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation as well as Tree Climber’s International. In fact, its website states that there have been no serious accidents or deaths from recreational tree climbing since its conception in the early 1980s. Just follow the rules and listen to your instructor, and you’ll be fine.

Plus, they’re used to people who are scared of heights. They reportedly want to help people overcome this fear, and recommend their tree climbing over their rock climbing for this purpose.

Dress in clothes you’d work out in, but don’t mind getting sap on. You’ll want to wear pants that cover your ankles and athletic shoes or hiking boots with high socks. Participants are encouraged to bring their own water and snacks for the journey. Everything else necessary will be provided by AdventureTerra.

Kids eight and up can participate, as long as a consent form is signed.