Within an old abandoned limestone quarry just north of Ocala, Florida near I-75 is an amazing adventure awaiting you.
The Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tour has the longest, highest, and fastest zip lines in Florida. Boasting nine zip lines and two floating bridges with a fantastic finale of the Super Zip, the Canyons promises a thrilling ride.
Built on a 94-acre tract of land is a treasure trove of natural Florida. Filled with wildlife, the Florida scrub brush offers stunning 360 views of spring fed lakes, limestone cliffs up to 160 feet and natural forest. Truly an eco-tourism destination, The Canyons share a unique view of the quarries, lakes, prairies and pine forests like no other.
Arriving early for my scheduled tour and sitting along the canyon’s edge the view was spectacular. Far in the distance was one of the towers, this will be a wonderful adventure.
The trees surrounding the canyon is filled with birds. Seeing a Belted Kingfisher, an Eastern Towhee and many others, I wished I had my birding gear with me. However, I quickly reminded myself that today was about the zip lines not the birds. Enjoying a peaceful moment before the thrill began I took in the beautiful scenery around me.
Once the full group was together, our guides, Alex and Jonas coached us through donning our harnesses and helmets.There were five of us all together, all girls ranging from the ages of 19 to 65. I marveled at the courage the older ladies had as this was their first zip line ride in their lives. Nervously joking around, we all had one last restroom stop before heading out.
After a safety check, we all loaded into a Kubota tractor to transfer to the beginning of the zip lines.
Stopping along the way, we have a stunning view over another quarry and spring fed lake. Seeing smoke in the distance, I saw a winter Florida forest fire. Our guides, Alex and Jonas had trained with the Florida State Fire College and were due to start as fireman in February. It was encouraging to know that we had such knowledgable guides to keep us safe.
After a quick practice session, we reached our first zip line and were quickly strapped in for our first ride. The lines are presented with degree of difficulty and length. The first two are warm up lines and then the real challenges begin.
We arrived to the third zip line and I started to get concerned as I couldn’t see where we were to land. It was way out there, in the distance, in the trees. That little green speck? That’s Jonas, our first guide.
How fast you go on a line depends on several factors. How the line is built, wind conditions, and your weight. When I got on the lines, I quickly realized that my rides were FAST. Breaking is done by placing pressure with one hand on the line behind the pulley, so I quickly found out that I had to start breaking way before the guide told me to.
They would put their arms out like a bird, and if you’re coming in too fast, they start flapping them. I can’t tell you how many times Jonas had to start flapping his arms when he thought I was coming in too fast. It was part of the thrill though, I knew I was just fine coming in for landing.
Alex was our eco-tourism guide and provided in depth information about topography and nature around us. I must confess that there was so much wonderful information, but I now suffer from zip line amnesia.
This one is called the cut out as they literally had to cut out a section in the cliff for safe passage. This was one of my favorite lines as after breaking from the tree canopy, I crossed over the first canyon with spectacular views of the water and cliffs.
I remember the first time I rode zip lines in 2005 in Costa Rica. Skytrek, in Monteverde has spectacular zip lines. However, the Canyon lines are just as wonderful and are more accessible.
Over the years I’ve been working on overcoming my fear of heights. Petrified when first riding zip lines in Costa Rica, I vowed to overcome my fear. Over the years, with practice on several challenge courses, my fear is gone. For the first time I was able to look around and enjoy the scenery while sailing high in the air.
The tour is fully guided meaning that our guides hook us up to the lines and connect us along the way. We got to just stand there and look pretty. But I digress as the best lines are yet to come. Longest, fastest, highest we go.
Don’t do that Alex…you’re giving me a heart attack!
And a long ride over the lake. See the speck in the middle? That’s a rider.
A short walk on a long pier.
Jonas ensuring a safe landing.
And one rappel down to safe ground
We all arrived safely with the expert, funny and informative help of our guides Alex and Jonas. Even with great fear, they exuded confidence which helped even the most nervous rider in the group to enjoy their tour.
The Canyons Zip Line and Canopy tour in Ocala is truly a class act. With safety most important, and the fully guided lines, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
All photos taken with iPhone 4s with exposure and noise edits in Lightroom. Except for the photos of me, which were taken by The Canyons staff member.