A Walk in the Montana Treetops

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When I was working on the Montana portion of my Redbook road trips story this spring, I read all about Whitefish Mountain Resort and its “one-of-a-kind” canopy walk. I had no idea what this meant. So what better way to find out than experience it for ourselves?

There’s a huge mountain that towers over the lodge, but you wouldn’t know it from the soupy fog!

As luck would have it, we arrived in Whitefish on the same day the resort opened for summer. I felt sorry for the resort and all the people looking forward to coming out for some summer fun, as it felt—and looked—more like opening day in winter, not summer. I was afraid that our trip would be canceled due to the rain, but Whitefish Mountain Resort has a “rain or shine” policy, so we had a brief training for Walk in the Treetops and learned how to use our carabiners under the safety of a tent and then trudged off into the woods.

There was only one other couple braving the rain—a lovely pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon from Georgia, their accents as thick as syrup. Nicky and Lynn, our guides, were extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in Whitefish, so we spent the first hour or so learning about the various trees and plants and what wildlife eat them. There is even a plant that bears eat to abort their young when there’s a problem with the baby in utero! I had no idea about such things.

Also, how much does the forest look like the setting for Twilight?!

And then we reached the first platform. The best way to describe the process is that it’s a series of seven swinging fences that are strung from treetop to treetop. You clip in and out of each with the two ropes attached to your harness then climb across each.

This trip is definitely not for those with fear of heights—luckily, this is one phobia I don’t have—as the highest platform we stood atop was 70 feet above the ground.

I had no idea how much fun wobbling your way across a swinging bridge could be!

The trip was about three hours round trip, but our fun didn’t end with the Walk in the Treetops.

Whitefish Mountain Resort has a whole host of summer activities from mountain biking to an alpine slide, but we had another thing on the agenda: ziplining!

Now, I’ve been ziplining in quite a few different countries—Canada, Barbados and Cuba to name a few—but this zipline took the cake. There are two options for tours: six ziplines or four. We obviously went for the more intense one, and I’m definitely glad we did! The longest was 1500 feet—a third of a mile!—and the highest was a whopping 300 feet above the ground.

And the fog was so thick in parts you couldn’t see the middle of each run, let alone the end. It definitely added an extra element of adventure to the whole thing!

We had to take the ski lift up to reach the last four. It was really weird to get on and off a lift without skis—in fact, I sort of didn’t know how and almost got stuck as I didn’t hop off in time!

After rafting in Glacier and our day in the treetops, I’d say we were finally figuring out how to spend our rainy days in style.

Have you ever ziplined or walked in the canopy? What was your experience like?


Week 5 Overview: June 12-18

Distance Driven: 644 miles

Total Trip Distance: 4323.6 miles

States Visited: Montana

Gas Used: 67.4 gallons, $251.80

Cheapest Gas: $3.69/gallon; Polson, Montana

Most Expensive Gas: $3.75/gallon; Butte and Whitefish, Montana

Best Gas Mileage: 14 miles/gallon

Worst Gas Mileage: 11.5 miles/gallon

Lodging/Campground Fees: $207

(Week 1 totals; Week 2 totals, Week 3 totals, Week 4 totals)

COMMENTS
  • July 19, 2011

    Ooh, forgot to tell you when I flew to Cali recently I cracked open the Southwest magazine, Spirit, and was absolutely delighted to see your name as the byline for a special article on Tennessee! Of course I had to read it word-for-word. So fun to read 🙂 !!

    Ziplining is on my list of must-dos soon! And this looks fantastic! I am afraid of heights, but I think I’d be okay with being clipped in. So fun!

    • July 19, 2011
      Kristin

      Oh, that’s awesome! I had more people email me about that story and the one I wrote for Southwest the month before on California…and here I thought no one actually read those things! =)

      • July 20, 2011

        Haha, their magazine is awesome! The 40th Anniversary edition and the following one had some absolutely fantastic articles.

  • July 19, 2011

    Holy pants, I want to go to there RIGHT. NOW. This looks like so much fun! I’ve never walked through the canopy OR ziplined, but now are both firmly added to my list of things to do. Thanks for sharing!

  • July 19, 2011

    Did you know Nigel and I went on the alpine slide in Whitefish? It’s true! We also did a few ziplining shots, but those were staged. He did wear a teeny-tiny baby-sized zipline harness though.

    • July 20, 2011
      Kristin

      Ahhhh, I totally remember the zipline shot, but I sort of need to dig around and find that slide shot now. Awwww, Nigel. I bet he (and you!) is having separation anxiety. =(

  • July 19, 2011

    That looks like a blast. I did a similar trek in Costa Rica, though it was much warmer. Crazy weather everywhere this year…

    • July 19, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve started to believe I have some electromagnetic force field surrounded me that brings rain wherever I go. That was the story for six weeks at least, then the tables turned and we were in 95 degree humidity in New England for 12 days!

  • July 19, 2011

    Wow, How did I miss that when I was out there? Oh well, now I have a reason to go back!

  • July 19, 2011

    OMG. THIS IS INCREDIBLE, what an amazing experience. Jealous.

  • July 19, 2011

    WOW!!!!! This is So totally cool!

    I didn’t do a zipline in ZA and wish I had. Next time.

    Love the idea of walking amongst the tree tops in the rain. I once rode in a canopy crane in WA and the crane operator was superb at weaving us in and out of the tree tops.

    • July 19, 2011
      Kristin

      It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! Doesn’t ZA have the longest zipline in the world–something like a mile long?–up near the Garden Route? I think I remember reading that before going last year. Maybe we’ll have to investigate further when we’re back in September!

    • July 19, 2011

      Yes along the Garden Route. You’re going back in Sept? I am jealous. I keep thinking of going back, and then start dreaming of so many other places I want to visit.

      • July 20, 2011
        Kristin

        For Semester at Sea, yes. I haven’t decided what we’ll do there yet–part of me wants to go somewhere new, part of me wants to visit all my favorite spots from the first time to show Scott, who’s never been. Plus, there’s the bit of us only having six days (versus nearly three weeks last time). Decisions, decisions.

  • July 20, 2011
    Ris

    If it weren’t for my crippling fear of heights, this would be an amazing thing to try! I think I’ll just live vicariously through your pictures.

    • July 20, 2011
      Kristin

      Yeah, in that case, you might require a Xanax–or a whole bottle 😉

  • July 20, 2011

    Awesome!

    xox

  • July 20, 2011

    looks like so much fun! we did some ziplining and suspension bridge crossing up in vancouver earlier in the summer. i’m going to have to dig up some photos, but i didn’t bring the camera up top with me b/c i didn’t want it to get too wet. *regret* :/

    • July 22, 2011
      Kristin

      Was that by chance on Grouse Mountain? I did that a few years ago when I was on assignment in Vancouver! Beautiful mountain.

      • July 22, 2011

        yes, exactly! 🙂 they only had three of the five platforms open though.

  • July 20, 2011

    I would so love to do that! Sadly, I have no treetop experience yet.

  • July 21, 2011

    As soon as I saw those treetop pics I thought to myself, “gosh, that looks like Twilight.” Then, I remembered the “Twilight” convos I had during out trip and decided I shouldn’t think such thoughts whilst looking at your page. And then, I saw what you wrote. 🙂 Now I feel better! I think that canopy walk is so cool. We were supposed to do one in Rwanda, but it wasn’t completed at the time. And, that resort — beautiful. Even if it was foggy, that grass just pops. 🙂

    • July 22, 2011
      Kristin

      I was waiting for Edward Cullen to do a flying squirrel leap out of the tree and pounce on one of us! I wouldn’t have minded that one bit, I’M JUST SAYING.

      We were also supposed to do the canopy tour in Rwanda–it was on our itinerary but come to think of it, I never was told why we didn’t do it…

  • July 25, 2011

    What a great experience even on a rainy day! For some reason I’m okay with ziplining, but I dunno about that bridge… the height along with the wobbly part would have gotten to me 😉

  • July 25, 2011

    The bridge looks abnormally frightening. I would be curled up in a fetal position if posed to walk across it.

  • July 25, 2011

    I’m terrified of heights – something I’m actively trying to get over. Although, I think that video made my vertigo just go for a loop sitting here at the cafe. I hope it is better in person.

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      You, of all people, strike me as someone who would not be afraid of anything! I figured you’d laugh in the face of fear! =) I have a feeling you could conquer the heights thing and do the treetop walk at least–the foliage is so thick in parts you don’t even realize you’re really in the treetops!

  • July 25, 2011

    That looks BEYOND badass. I actually think it looks all the more beautiful for the rain and fog. Adding “Traipse through the rainy treetops of Montana” to my bucket list as we speak.

  • July 26, 2011

    I’m afraid of heights but I still love tree top tours, as for the zipline….I did it once and it was fun but not sure if I could do it again.

  • July 26, 2011

    I did the canopy zipline tour in Costa Rica. Lots of fun.

    Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, it looks like you guys made the best of it and enjoyed the adventure.

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