We weren’t sure exactly what to expect when we pulled into Ramblewild in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, but we soon found that Ramblewild’s treetop adventure course is more like a visit to the forest moon of Endor than your typical “ropes course.” This is largely due to its ownership by Feronia Forests, an organization dedicated to forest conservation. Their goal is to fight nature deficit disorder; giving kids and adults alike an opportunity to connect with nature, challenge themselves and build self-confidence.
And challenge ourselves we did. Ramblewild is so much more than a Berkshire zipline or canopy tour. Each course features nearly a dozen challenging elements, from walking the plank to zip lining to suspended rockwalls. Poor Glenn, who suffers from a fear of heights, wasn’t sure what we had roped him into.
Open for less than a year, everything at Ramblewild is fresh and new, from the wood cabin lodge to the full body harnesses. Upon arrival we checked in for our three-hour time slot before gathering with our group and heading into the woods for a five to six minute hike through the forest to the equipment shed and course. Along the way our guide talked about the ways that Feronia Forests utilizes the forest, from Ramblewild’s 10 plus acre tree-to-tree aerial adventure course, to educational programs for local schools. The vigorous hike through the hemlocks warmed us up for the adventure ahead, even as the temperature dropped the typical five to ten degrees upon entering the forest.
The first stop on every adventure is gearing up before a short training session and practice course, to make sure everyone is comfortable operating the dual-locking safety system. Having just zip lined in Alabama two days prior, I was an old pro at getting into the harness, but the staff at Ramblewild still checked everyone out to make sure we were safely strapped in. The training session did the job of laying out the rules — no more than two people on a platform and no more than one person on an element at a time. It took a minute to get the hang of the safety system, but throughout the course I found it very easy to use and I was more than happy to know that everyone was always locked in at all times because this smart system won’t unlock both clips at the same time. You must clip in to the next wire before you can unclip off the last. Given that there wasn’t a staff member at each element, this eased my mind, especially when Hannah was ahead of me.
Once you are ready to go, all courses start at the Hub. Unlike zip lining where you have two guides and a group that you move with from tree to tree, at Ramblewild you are really on your own. That doesn’t mean there isn’t someone there to help you, it just means that you will find staff at the Hub and on the ground to provide support and guidance, but there is no one following you around and you are free to take whichever course meets your fancy.
There are a total of eight tree-to-tree aerial courses, which take about 30 to 40 minutes to complete depending on how crowded it is and your skill and comfort level. All the elements are wired onto the trees using pressure — no nails or screws to damage the trees. We couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. 😉 The courses are graded just like ski trails — there are two yellow or beginner courses, two green trails that are slightly more advanced, two blue intermediate courses, one black for advanced Ramblewilders and one double black for true adventurers. Anyone at least seven years old and 55 inches tall can enjoy Ramblewild, but they have to be at least 13 to do a trail by themselves. Kids 7-10 can go on the yellow and green courses with an adult, but you need to be 12 to go on a blue course (much to Hannah’s dismay and my relief), 15 for a black and 16 for the double black course.
We started off on the Fearless Grouse yellow course, which a few of the staff members thought was the easiest (I actually think Lost in Trees was slightly easier). After walking underneath and checking out the elements, Glenn decided to join us and not let his fear keep him from the fun. (Yay!) As you can see from the video, there were so many different elements, each a little different, each challenging in its own way, but none required real strength. It was more about balance, courage and confidence. I had no problem on the elements that had two guide wires to hang on to, but those that had just one center wire gave me pause. I mean, I knew I was hooked in, but did I really want to hang there like a fish dangling on a line if I lost my balance and fell?
My other challenge was getting into the tunnel we had to crawl through to the next tree. There was a six to eight inch gap between the tree platform and the tunnel and I couldn’t quite figure out how to slide across to get going. We had fun though and had a good laugh when we all crash landed in the dirt at the end of the final zip line. Then it was back to the Hub to set off on our second yellow course. Lost in Trees also had a zip line in the middle of the course where you need to stay front facing so you can grab onto the rope on the platform. Otherwise, like me, you’ll end up bouncing off and heading back down the zip and need to get a tow rope from a staff member down below. By the end of the second course, Glenn was so glad to be done that he was literally kissing the ground, but we were proud that he made it through.
Hannah and I moved up to the greens with Trekkers Reach. This course was a blast. Once we got past the challenge of the suspended rock wall (luckily for me they cut some hand holds into the wall — but it was a breeze for my little rock climber), we had fun with some trapeze-like zips to finish up.
We didn’t see any ewoks, but we all had a great time at Ramblewild. I’ll admit that I was a little relieved that our three hours was up because I wasn’t sure if I could have done another course. Glenn was proud that he made it through two courses and it was so nice to go through these challenges as a family. Of course, our little adventurer loved it with barely a second’s hesitation with any of the elements. She can’t wait until she’s 12 to go back to try the blue courses — I have a feeling I know what will be on her next birthday list.
Ramblewild is located at 110 Brodie Mountain Road in Lanesborough, MA, just down the road from Jiminy Peak and about 30 minutes north of Lenox, MA. Daytime adventure tours are $69.00 per adult (check website for current rates.) Even though I can’t imagine doing Ramblewild in the snow, it is open year-round and they also offer twilight and full moon adventure tours.
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Note: Our family was hosted by Ramblewild for purposes of this review. All opinions are our own and we are sure to return.