Last spring, I came across the website for Trinity Forest Adventure Park (TFAP), an aerial adventure course in Dallas. I planned to learn more about it last summer, but with our trips to Iceland and Greece and everything in between, I completely forgot about it. This summer, we are staying close to home and decided to make a trip here for Father’s Day.
I went online to www.trinitytreetops.com and made a reservation for General Admission for 10:30 am on Father’s Day. I felt that would give us time for a blast at the park and a good lunch before heading home.
On Father’s day, we set out from our home in North Texas around 9:30 am and were at the TFAP just around 10:20 am. There were a few people waiting to be signed in. When our turn came up, we gave our name and number in party and the staffer at the desk looked confused. She had a few names listed for the 10:30 time slot but none belonged to ours. So I whipped out my cell phone, and confidently looked up my email confirmation from TFAP, sure that there had been a mistake on their end. Imagine my dismay when I found I had made the reservation for June 16th, the previous day, instead of for the 17th.
The staffer must have felt sorry for me. She said she would find out if there was an opening available for us that morning, even though we, technically, were a day late. After discussing with her colleague, she told us an opening was available for the noon slot.
Each ticket is valid for three hours on the course. A noon time reservation meant, we would have to hang around for another 1.5 hrs, before starting a three-hour session. It would make our morning very rushed and expose us to the heat of the afternoon, something we wished to escape. After a few minutes of back and forth, we decided to call it quits for that day and asked the staff if they could accommodate us for the following Sunday. A quick weather forecast check showed 0% chance of rain, so we agreed upon the 10:30 am spot for June 24th.
So far so good, our money wasn’t laid waste and we went on to have a great and relaxed Father’s Day lunch in Highland Park Village at Lounge 31. The Spanish style architecture, the relaxed, lounge-like atmosphere and tons of light in the building, all added to a great meal. We chose the Pumpkin pasta as well as the garganelli and were happy with our choices! An unexpected twist on Father’s Day plans, but it all worked out in the end.
Fast forward to today, we made a second trip to TFAP and had a wonderful time.
Trinity Forest Adventure Park is located close to the Great Trinity Forest. The course and elements are all laid out under a dense canopy of trees, with courses for all ages and difficulties, starting from age 4 on the children’s course and 6 and above for the rest. Courses are color coded based on increasing elevation and difficulty from Yellow, Green (two different courses), Blue (two different courses) and Black which is the highest difficulty and tallest elevation.
All courses are self guided. There is an option to hire a private guide for $75, but I didn’t see the need for it. Once check-in is completed, waivers signed and restrooms used, the staff starts the harnessing process. Each person is suited up with a harness with a trolley, safety clips, a hard hat and belay gloves. Then the group is led to the actual TFAP course area where a Ground School session takes place. The staffer first goes over park rules and regulations, then gives a quick session on how to handle the equipment correctly, how to stay clipped all the time, how to use the trolley for ziplining, etc. There is a small area for demonstration where participants can get their feet wet.
Once we were done with this, we were taken to the stairs that lead to the courses. I was a bit nervous at the time since I wasn’t certain I would remember all the safety instructions. But one look at the kids and I felt a bit silly. They were all excited and raring to go! The Yellow course was a bit backlogged when we got on (it’s the easiest and least difficult), so the kids chose to do the Green #1 first. Over the course of the next hour, we learnt to clip on and off and use our trolley as we tackled wobbling bridges, cargo nets, tire swings and ziplines. The kids stayed way ahead of us, but they called out often to check on us! Drat! We must be getting older!
All the courses except Blue #2 and Black lead all the way to the ground at the end of each one. The latter two use a pulley system to lower the thrill seekers. Children can be supervised from the ground by an adult on some courses, whereas in others, they have to be accompanied by an adult. The ground area had several picnic tables. We saw several families bring snacks and water bottles. We did not carry any food except bananas that we ate just before starting the course. There were water stations that had ice-cold water to quench our thirst. The dense canopy above ensured that we were exposed to the heat and sunlight for only short seconds.
During round two, the children decided to do Blue #1 while we chose to do Green #2. This course was on higher elevation, perhaps about 15-20 feet of the ground. The two most challenging obstacles here were the tightropes. Holding onto one galvanized cable above and trying to maintain your balance as you walk about 10-12 feet across on another steel cable with the ground far beneath you is quite an experience. I was a bit frazzled the first time, choosing to look at Mr. JJ’s calm face instead of down below. The second time around was better (or maybe I had figured out a better way and learnt be calmer). The ziplining was fun. While on this course, we saw an older kid on Blue #2 who was stuck in the middle of a zipline. He could not maneuver himself either way and we had to yell for the staff to come and assist him (any participant can stop the course at any time and get off safely with help from a staffer).
By the time we finished round 2, it was nearly 12:15 pm. By then, my arms were a little sore, legs a little weak and we all were sweating immensely. We had just over an hour left and chose to do Blue #1. The kids decided to relax a bit and do Green #2. To get to Blue #1, you have to pull yourself up on steps sunk onto a tall pole. It was a bit crazy but better than the wobbling ladder to get to Blue #2. Thank Heavens for small mercies!
Blue #1 was a greater challenge, as expected. It involved elements at a higher level, lots of cargo nets, balance beams, wobbling beams, two (longer and lopsided) tightropes and finally, longer ziplining elements. As the course evolved, we got better at balancing. By the end of the three courses, we were pros at clipping on and off, using the trolley and generally being comfortable several feet up in the air. I felt a bit like the American Ninja Warrior minus all the glory.
Two things that really helped our experience today, at least from my perspective: 1) there were few people at our start time. This helped me settle down and “learn the ropes”, so to speak. 2) The fact that we have had a regular work-out schedule for the last year or so. I felt this made a huge impact in our being able to enjoy ourselves today. This park is all about stamina, upper body power, stability and balance. I think I would not have successfully made it through the course last year when I wasn’t as regular with my workouts.
At the end of Round 3, we were done for the day with about 20 mins left on the clock, but Sonny JJ decided to spend that time doing the Yellow course. While watching him, we saw some kids finish elements on the Black course. They were hanging upside down, trying to get across the tightrope to the other platform. No way would I have been able to do that. Sonny and Missy JJ would like to go back and finish Blue #2 and Black one day soon.
I am so glad we decided to visit TFAP. We had a great time answering the challenge of the courses, conquering our anxieties and generally having a good time. What I liked better was that it was easily accessible from North Texas. It’s also very close to the Trinity River Audubon Center, which is a great place to spend a day visiting. Even though the course is self guided, it’s well constructed with safety in mind. If one follows the safety instructions closely, there should be little chance of injury. I also liked that the staffers watched us from the grounds closely, ready to help or remind. In one instance, Mr. JJ got onto an element before I had completed it and a staffer called out, asking him to wait.
While I do plan to return, I know my chances of completing a Black course is slim. But if TFAP allows me to hang out with the kids and have a good time, why not?
After a good (almost) 3 hours spent on the courses today, my family and I have come up with a list of tips for anyone planning to visit TFAP in the near future:
- This may not be the best option for people with fear of heights.
- Make online reservations, it save $5 per ticket and also allows you to complete waivers, thus saving time.
- The entry is for a 3 hour time period, which includes harnessing and Ground School.
- There are no restrooms in the park, so be sure to use the ones near the office. They are clean and well maintained.
- It’s best to leave all valuables in the car, there is a small cubby available to store items at the park but they do not have locks. Padlocks are available for purchase.
- It’s best to tie up hair and wear no dangling jewelry.
- Go Pro rentals with SD card are available.
- Helmets have a small mount for Go Pro, if you own one.
- Close toed shoes are a must.
- You can carry water and some snacks for a picnic in between courses (tables are available).
- Bring sunscreen lotion and bug spray (luckily, we weren’t hassled by insects, although the possibility exists).
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting, breathable clothes.
- I suggest choosing an earlier time slot, we had all the courses to ourselves with our time slot. By the time we left, the park was more crowded.
- The canopy provides excellent shade from the sun.
- Pay a lot of attention during the Ground School because you’re on your own during the rope course.