Go Ape Treetop Junior at Bemis Woods

Website: Go Ape Chicago

Social media: Go Ape USA on Facebook, @GoApeUSA on Twitter, and @GoApeUSA on Instagram

Location: Bemis Woods, 1100 Ogden Avenue, Western Springs

Phone: 800-971-8271

Hours: Open April through November. Hours can vary; it’s best to book your adventure online. 

Admission: $28 per person. 

Specials: Sign up for the Go Ape email newsletter to receive news and discounts.

Parking: Free parking in the forest preserve lot.

Bathrooms: There are bathrooms nearby. They are forest preserve bathrooms, so they are a bit rustic. There’s toilet paper and sinks, but no handsoap.

Nursing area: There’s not a designated nursing area, but there are picnic tables to sit at in the area.

Handicapped/stroller accessibility: Go Ape’s adventures are not handicapped or stroller accessible for participants. Strollers and wheelchairs could be used to observe, but it may be a bit bumpy.

Food: There is no food available at Go Ape. There are several picnic tables and lots of room for picnics at the forest preserve. Water is available at the base of the course.

Amenities: Storage of small items (keys, cell phones, etc) is available in the Go Ape office.

Activities: Go Ape offers two adventure courses in the treetops of Bemis Woods, the Treetop Adventure and Treetop Junior. We visited Treetop Junior.

We paid: We were invited to visit Go Ape on the opening day of Treetop Junior and our experience was complimentary. It would have cost approximately $112 for the four of us ($28 per person).

Our experience:

I’ve been very interested in the Go Ape experience for a while (in fact, I included Go Ape Treetop Adventure in my book), but this was our first opportunity to try it out. The Treetop Adventure is for adults and children ages 10 and over, so we weren’t able to bring the kids, so I was very excited to learn that Go Ape was opening a Treetop Junior course.

Cooper, Dexter, Campbell, and I arrived about 30 minutes before our scheduled time to be sure we had time to sign the waivers and get prepared for our adventure.

Even Campbell was over the 3 feet, 3 inch requirement to participate in the Go Ape course, so we were all able to do the course. In fact, kids over 6 years old can do the course alone, with an adult supervising from the ground. Because Campbell is under 6 he needed to have me with him on the course.

After signing releases the staff suggested we take a bathroom break before we put our harnesses on. There are harnesses of different sizes for kids and adults, and the harnesses go around your waist and through your legs. The staff at Go Ape adjusts the harness to make sure it’s properly fitted to keep you safe.

After harnessing up, it was training time. There’s a small training course were the staff shows you how to properly use the safety equipment. Attached to each harness is a rope and trolley. The trolley attaches to the safety lines that run through the entire course. In the training course you’ll see how to slide your trolley onto the safety line and move it safely along the safety line as you go through the course. Since I was supervising Campbell on the course, we were trained together so I could practice handling his trolley and mine as we went.

I’ll confess to being afraid of heights and therefore very wary about safety on the course before we arrived. Once we were harnessed up and had a chance to operate the trolley I was very confident that the kids and I would be safe on the course.

If you’re concerned about safety, this is a good read about it.

After the safety training it was time to hit the course. There are three separate courses at Go Ape Junior so we started with the first. Each course has an employee working at the starting point to assist you and make sure you get your trolley on the safety line. It’s as simple as sliding the trolley on and going. Safety lines are continuous through the course, so once your trolley is on it can’t come off until the end of the course. There’s no need to switch to different safety lines or ever worry about being detached.

As I said, I’m afraid of heights. In this case, I knew the fear was irrational – the course seemed to be very safe and I knew I could rely on the equipment to keep us safe. Cooper and Dexter started the course (because they ran ahead) with Campbell behind them, and me behind Campbell.

Cooper and Dexter flew through the course, staying far ahead of me and Campbell. Campbell has shorter legs and was a little more timid so it took him a little longer to cross the bridges. I thought I would be terrified on the bridges, and that having the kids with me would make it even scarier, but it wasn’t too bad. I knew logically that the kids were safe and I was safe, and focusing on watching them and helping Campbell kept me from looking down too much and letting the irrational panic set in. I actually enjoyed it!

The safety line is about four feet above the bridges; the trolley you’re attached to rolls along most of it as you walk, but there are portions of the safety line where you may need to guide it through, and if you’re walking with a young child, guide theirs through as well. There were a couple places where I had a little difficulty trying to help Campbell, balance on the bridge, and control our trolleys, but never fell or felt in danger.

The courses consist of a variety of bridges – some wooden, some rope, and in several different configurations. Some are fairly solid, while others are meant to swing a sway a bit. The first course is the easiest, while the second and third are a little more challenging, with wooden platforms that swing or are set farther apart so you have to take bigger steps to cross them.

Each course is separate, so after completing one you slide your trolley off the safety line and you have the opportunity to take a break (water is available at the bottom of the course), and then you just slide your trolley onto the safety line of the course you want to navigate next.

Each of the courses end with the zipline, which was the highlight of the day for Cooper and Dexter. There’s a Go Ape employee stationed at the top of the zipline to give directions to each participant. Dexter was excited, but a little hesitant to actually step off the platform. He actually asked the Go Ape employee to push him off (he laughed, but said he couldn’t do that)! Eventually he went for it and loved it. I warned Cooper to just go without thinking and he did! Campbell wanted to go on the zipline, but after several minutes of encouragement he decided he was too scared to go for it. The employee was able to move the trolleys around allowing the people behind us to use the zipline while we went down the stairs.

Each climber has one hour of climbing time, which is plenty of time to do all three courses if you aren’t too hesitant. Campbell and I only made it through the first one (minus the zipline), and then he decided he wanted to spend the rest of the time watching other people instead of doing more climbing.

Success! We completed adventure and the kids were thrilled (Campbell too, even though he wouldn’t smile for the camera). They immediately started asking when we could come back and do it again.

Dexter made a beeline for this sign as soon as he saw it. “Mom! This was the best day ever!”

Tips for your visit: I forgot the sunscreen, but the area is pretty shaded so it wasn’t really an issue. It is the forest preserve though, so it was pretty buggy. I’d definitely recommend bug spray. Also, check yourself and your children for ticks after your visit. We did find one tick on Dexter after our visit, but we were able to remove it without a problem.

Thanks to Go Ape for giving us the opportunity to try out the course! We can’t wait to come back!

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