Review of Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course in Jefferson Memorial Forest
Go Ape is an aerial adventure course with sixteen locations in the US, one of which is in Jefferson Memorial Forest. Their Louisville course consists of five stations that take about 2-3 hours to complete. Reservations should be made in advance and are limited in number for each time slot.
The minimum age for Go Ape’s Treetop Adventure courses is 10, but children age 10-15 must be supervised (from the obstacles, not from the ground) by an adult. Kids who are 16-17 don’t need adult supervision, but will need a signed waiver. Additionally, there is a minimum height of 4’11” and a maximum weight limit of 285 pounds.
Everyone (kids and adults) wears the same size harness, which is professionally adjusted by Go Ape instructors. The maximum waist size for the harness is 43”, and the maximum thigh size is 28”, but our instructor had no problem adjusting down a harness for my eleven-year-old nephew, who is lean and wiry. The harness has a number of attachments for safety, including two color-coded carabiners, a pulley, and a D-ring.
Before you start the course, there is a mock-up of a cable and a swing and your instructor will show you how to safely connect and disconnect from them. The instructor will also go through the first station with you, to ensure everyone understands how to move safely through the obstacles, but after that you are on your own and the instructors supervise from the ground.
Each station starts with a rope ladder up to a platform and ends with a zipline from a platform back down to the ground, with several platforms and crossings in between. The first station, that you move through with the instructor, is very simple and low to the ground; after that, the rope ladders that start each new station are inside a locked paddock. The paddocks also include a bench, drinking water, and a sign with facts about different types of primates (to go with the Go Ape theme).
Each of the obstacles has a rating (easy, moderate, difficult, or extreme). Once you climb the rope ladder, there’s no going back – you can’t skip an obstacle. However, in several places there will be a choice of two paths: one easier and one harder.
There are many types of crossings between the platforms. Some involve walking along a thin steel cable, or a net. Some have moving platforms to cross. There are also two Tarzan Swings, where you swing from one platform into a cargo net that catches you, then climb from the net up to the nearest platform and continue on.
The course was a lot more strenuous than I expected. At one point I slipped off a difficult crossing, and even though my harness kept me perfectly safe, I had difficulty getting back up on a platform, due to a lack of leverage and upper body strength. Also, because the forest is so hilly, the terrain between the stations was uneven and quite steep in places. Spectators are allowed to watch from the ground, but if you have family members with mobility issues, they might have a difficult time. I wouldn’t recommend the aerial course itself for anyone who is not at least moderately fit.
Go Ape is not a cheap experience. “Baboons” (ages 10-15) are $38, and “Orangutans” (16-17) and “Gorillas” (18+) are $58. However, at the completion of our experience, we were given a certificate that included a 25% off discount on the back. My nephew said it was the most exciting day he’d ever had, so I’m glad we were able to do it, but I do think that 25% off the price would have been more reasonable. Discounts are offered periodically on Groupon.
You must supervise your children (maximum two children per adult) from the obstacles. If you have two 10-15 year old children that have different abilities or comfort levels with heights, consider taking another adult with you so that each child can have one-on-one supervision and go at his/her own pace.
Trust the difficulty ratings on the signs. Even if a crossing doesn’t look like it will be that hard, it will feel different once you get out there. Don’t be surprised if your child has an easier time than you – they’re probably shorter and lighter, and with a lower center of gravity, the obstacles won’t move as much for them.
Consider wearing (or buying at Go Ape) gloves that will protect your hands. If you hold onto the steel cables for balance, they can hurt your hands – mine were still sore hours later.
If you can, leave everything but your keys in your car/trunk, and give the Go Ape staff your keys to hold. Anything that gets dropped from the course may break and/or may not be able to be found. The Go Ape staff have first aid kits (including Epipens) in case of emergency.
Don’t worry about wearing sunglasses – you’re under the trees and it’s fairly shady. However, if you wear prescription lenses, consider putting them on some sort of strap. My face got pretty sweaty due to my exertions, and there were several times when my glasses started to slip off my face.
Go Ape Treetop Adventure course in Jefferson Memorial Forest is generally open from March – December. For more information or to make a reservation visit their website. To learn more about Jefferson Memorial Forest, see our review.
By Guest Contributor: Erika