Navitat Canopy Adventures- Review
Continuing our recent run of “thrill” reviews, we had the good fortune to be able to review a pretty major new Southern California attraction —Navitat Canopy Adventures.
Located in Wrightwood, a little over an hour northeast of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel mountains, Navitat is a new company whose attraction is a course of 10 ziplines through the natural environment, plus 3 suspended bridges, 3 rappels, and 1 set of Sky Stairs, which they bill as the first of its kind anywhere.
The facility just opened July 1st, so everything is brand new. Even so, there are some things out of their control. Our first attempt ended with us being evacuated from the course just after starting, due to nearby lightning strikes. While I don’t hold the weather against them, it was a bummer to drive all the way up there only to have to turn around, so I can’t stress enough to check the weather before you go.
Our second attempt started more smoothly. Each group (maxing out at 8 guests) has two guides at all times. I can’t say enough good things about the guides. They’re professional, competent, friendly, knowledgeable, often funny, and really cool people to be around. Whoever is in charge of staffing should be commended. They help you suit up in elaborate harnesses and helmets, and talk to you during the rather slow drive to the starting point of the course.
The first 3 ziplines are what they called “ground school.” They’re moderately short and moderately fast–really, just to get you used to the process. The later ziplines vary in height, length, and speed. All have a wonderful view and are fun. A couple in particular are so high and/or fast that it’s exhilarating. Even with the long ones though, you’re focused on braking in time and looking ahead to the guide, so you don’t have as much time as you’d like to look around and enjoy the sensation. Then again, it could be five minutes long and you still might not get tired of the feeling of flying through the air.
The bridges are nice and high, so you get more good views. They are narrow but still easy to walk on. The Sky Stairs are only slightly more challenging. The challenge of balancing on the logs that serve as steps is mitigated by the very sturdy rope/cable guide rails, so you’re holding on at all times.
The rappels were a disappointment to me though. They have devices at the top of each rope that control your descending speed. Even if you completely let go of the rope (which I did on purpose), you gently descend to the ground. I think this system was put in place for safety, which I understand, but it’s not a true rappel. I like the feeling of being in control, and I like being able to drop fast if I choose. I can’t fault them for making sure their guests are safe, but I was still left wanting more.
Speaking of safety, everything I saw led me to believe Navitat takes safety very seriously, as they should. Each guest has a redundant cable system, so you are attached to a cable at all times. The guides do all the gear adjustment for you, the cables are very well secured, the harnesses are heavy-duty, and there is a pervasive sense of security. This is no fly-by-night operation. In fact, this is their second course (they have one in North Carolina), so I’m sure they took some lessons learned from there and applied them here.
At one point, I even wondered if the sense of safety was reducing the adrenaline rush you get on the course. There’s something about the feeling about being out of control that really gets your heart going. I never felt like that on the course. Nothing ever felt reckless or dangerous. Which is, of course, a good thing, yet there’s no denying that the feeling of complete security doesn’t add to the thrill factor. In comparison, I went ziplining in Costa Rica 3 years ago. That course seemed safe too, but when comparing the two, Navitat was the clear winner in backup safety. I wonder if that feeling (true or not) of risk made the Costa Rican lines more fun? Then again, it could have just been the sensation of doing it for the first time, through a foreign jungle.
The only real problem I can think of is their transportation. As I mentioned, you drive from the headquarters to the course. Which means you also drive back. They have 3 military vehicles from the 60’s or 70’s, and on the day we were there, 2 of them were broken. This is 2 weeks after they opened, and 2 out of 3 vehicles were already down! Combined with the circuitous route they have to drive, and the vehicle’s low speed, we had to wait an hour on a dirt road after our tour was done just to get a ride back to headquarters. They really need better vehicles, or a backup transportation plan, or something.
This drawback isn’t enough to stop me from recommending it though. I think Navitat can appeal to nearly anyone who’s looking for a local adventure. It’s great to get out of the city and see that we’re actually not so far from forests and mountains after all. It would be good for families (assuming the kids are old enough to fit the harnesses) as well. With their awesome guides and environmentally friendly building practices, Navitat does a good job on focusing on the little things that make it a company to applaud. The first 3 weekends were very busy, and I hope they continue to pull in visitors and become a success. They’re an exciting alternative to the usual city entertainment.
Navitat Canopy Adventures; 6047 Park Dr, San Bernardino National Forest, Wrightwood, CA, 92397. Prices start at $109 for adults, $99 for youth under 18. Tours operate from July 1st through November 30. Call for details 1-855-NAVITAT