Everything You Need to Know About Go Ape Chicago

Yes, you need to go to Go Ape. It’s a unique experience to enjoy with your kids, spouse, co-workers, friends… really anyone! The first time, I went with my husband when the Go Ape Chicago course opened in Western Springs. It completely turned our day around and we had a blast. The second time, I went with my kids to the Treetop Junior course and it was awesome to see them take on the challenges. My husband and I took our son to the Treetop Adventure course last week because it was the first time he met the age and height requirements and it was just as much fun! So we put together everything you need to know about Go Ape Chicago, from what to wear to what to expect when you get there. There’s even a discount code!

We love zipping down the line at the end of each site!

Location for Go Ape Chicago

Go Ape Chicago is located in Bemis Woods in Western Springs. Enter the forest preserve off Ogden Avenue, between Wolf Road and 294. You will see the big sign for Bemis Woods, flanked by stone on either side. Travel the short drive up to the course, which you will find on the right side. There is ample free parking. Across the street from Go Ape, you will find a covered picnic area, so if you would like to bring a lunch, go for it!

Bemis Woods, Western Springs covered picnic area

Go Ape Chicago is split into two sections: Treetop Adventure for those who are at least 10 years old and 55 inches tall (4’7″) and Treetop Junior for children 6-12 years old, children under 6 need to be over 39 inches tall. Click on the courses below to be taken to the details you are interested in. This article is sponsored by Go Ape, but all opinions are my own.

Go Ape Chicago Treetop Adventure

What to Expect

You will have so much fun climbing, crossing rope bridges, balancing on logs, and then zipping down the lines at the end of each site. It is so exhilarating! There is also an optional opportunity to swing through the trees like Tarzan, which my husband is a big fan of. If you like being outside and taking on physical challenges, you will love Go Ape. I also have to mention that you do not need to be in really good shape to complete the course. I casually work out occasionally (very occasionally) and didn’t find it too difficult or exerting. You just need to enjoy physical activity.

There are five sites that comprise the Go Ape Chicago Treetop Adventure, each building in excitement and height. You complete each of the five sites separately, meaning at the end of each site there is a zip line to the ground and then you begin the next site from there. There are even a few choices between moderate/difficult and extreme challenges. I really like that we could choose what we felt we could handle and were comfortable with.

My husband always chose the extreme challenges.

Keep in mind that when you go with your child, the supervising adult is required to stay one crossing behind them. We sandwiched our son between my husband and me so we could both hang out with him (and take pictures!).

The fifth site ends with an epic 600 foot zip line (that’s two football fields!), which starts 60 feet up in the trees… so get excited! It’s awesome.

The highest point at Go Ape Chicago is 60 feet in the trees!

Time to Allow

Expect about 30 minutes of introduction and instruction, including harness checks, safety guidelines, and practicing the trolley system before you head to the first site. There are five sites that comprise the Treetop Adventure, the first being a practice site that you complete with the instructor. It then takes roughly 2-2 1/2 hours to complete all five sites, but you set the pace, which is why it’s a range.

I recommend that you use the bathroom before starting your Treetop Adventure. There is a building with mens and womens facilities to the west of the course and the staff is happy to point you in the right direction.

Bathrooms at Bemis Woods

What to Wear

When you make your reservation, Go Ape sends you some recommendations on what to wear that are very helpful, such as wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and closed toe, closed heel, fully enclosed shoes. Plan on tying your hair back so it doesn’t get in the way. If the ground is wet, I can imagine you might get a little muddy, but otherwise the only risk you run is getting mulch on your clothes. Please note that the course remains open in all weather conditions, except when it is icy, thundering, or during lightning.

In the spring when the trees don’t have their leaves yet, the sun adds to the warmth. However, during a cool day in the summer, it’s more chilly up in the shade of the trees than you think, so take that into consideration.

I tend to go with t-shirts and lightweight pants, but I get cold. My son and husband opted for shorts and t-shirts.

Gloves are recommended, but not required. I brought a pair of old gardening gloves with me and my husband brought work gloves, which both worked great. Go Ape also sells gloves for $6, which look nice and are not as bulky as gardening gloves can be. Although it’s not necessary to wear gloves, I would recommend it because of the various cables and ropes you will be holding on to and sliding your hands along. I don’t like to chance getting blisters during such a fun experience.

You can take cameras and phones, but I only recommend doing that if they can be safely stowed in a pocket or bag secured close to your body (not a fanny pack, which will be right where your harness is). You don’t want to watch your electronics falling from the top of a tree in the forest! I wore pants with deep, zippered pockets which worked well.

We didn’t feel the need to bring water bottles because there are jugs of room temperature water with cups along the course (at the start of each site). Stay hydrated!

Special Needs

The course requires upper body strength and the ability to climb a rope ladder into the trees. That said, they have had a number of guests participate on Go Ape courses with disabilities. Prior to booking online or arriving at the course, please email info@goape.com to discuss your specific needs and to book your tree time. They also recommend visiting the course prior to your adventure, if possible, to take a tour and speak with their staff about any concerns.

Watching the Treetop Adventure

Anyone not participating is welcome to watch and walk around the forest preserve. There are paths around the course and the area is not restricted to just those who pay. So if friends and family want to come to watch or take pictures of you swinging through the trees, they should!

My parents came to watch the adventure!

Safety at Go Ape

We all felt very safe at the Go Ape Treetop Adventure. A team member secures your harness and teaches you how to use the trolley system in the beginning. You connect to both a trolley system throughout the course and also have another carabiner attached at all times. After practicing with the instructor at the first site, you feel like a pro. There are also team members along the way to double check and answer questions, especially in the beginning when you’re getting used to everything. About halfway through, a team member checked our harnesses and made adjustments again if necessary. I felt very secure with the equipment and confident that I could manage it.

Traversing a cargo net at the Treetop Adventure

Discount Code

Enter Promo Code: KIDSZIP
for 15% Off your booking, good for our Treetop Adventure or Treetop Junior course
Expires June 30th
*Must book your visit between now and June 30th

↑ go to top ↑

Go Ape Chicago Treetop Junior

The Treetop Junior course opening last year (2017) and we were excited that there was an opportunity for younger children to participate!

Age Requirements

Treetop Junior is for children 6-12 years old and children under 6 need to be over 39 inches tall. The Go Ape website recommends one adult per one child under 6 years old, especially on the first visit, and I would agree with that. (Also check the website for adult to child ratio requirements based on age.)

When we did the course last year, I stayed with my then 7 year old throughout our time because while she handled the course great, she needed a little help moving the trolley sometimes and it was nice to hang out together. It was a wonderful experience to share with both of my kids. How cool to see their satisfaction after conquering the obstacles!

There were also younger children doing the course while we were there and they did great. There are staff members at the beginning of each loop, on the ground with words of encouragement and tips, and up at the top of the zip line giving instruction and helping us take the leap when we were ready.

What to Expect

There are three loops that constitute the Treetop Junior course (after completing the practice loop), which end with the same zip line. The first loop is the easiest, with each loop building upon the last. Upon finishing a loop, you zip down the line and walk the path to the next loop.

Doing the practice loops, plus the three regular loops took us about 45 minutes, but admission includes as many loops as you would like for an hour, so we were able to repeat another two loops within our time slot, which was fun. If you need to leave the area to take your kids to the bathroom, no problem. They will subtract your time away, so you don’t lose the full hour of your adventure.

Difference Between Treetop Junior and Treetop Adventure

Treetop Junior is different from the adult Treetop Adventure in a couple ways. First, the cables that the trolleys glide along are lower to accommodate the height of children. They were okay for adults as well, with a few exceptions where I had to bend down a little so the cable didn’t hit my shoulder. The obstacles were pretty much all at the same elevation and all led to the same zip line. So you are not going to higher and higher elevations like the adult course, which was perfect for kids.

What to Wear and Bring

You need to wear closed toe shoes and fitted clothes for safety. I would also add that you don’t want to wear shorts that are really short because it’s more comfortable to have your shorts between your skin and the harness. If the ground is wet, I can imagine you might get a little muddy, but otherwise the only risk you run is getting mulch on your clothes.

Some people brought water bottles, but it really wasn’t necessary because there are plenty of room temperature water jugs and paper cups if you need to take a water break.

The mosquitoes were non-existent when we went, but keep in mind that you are in the woods, so you might want to bring bug spray just in case and leave it by the water jugs. The Treetop Junior area is not so big that you will lose your bug spray.

Special Needs

Go Ape welcomes those with disabilities to enjoy the course. Prior to booking online, please email info@goape.com to discuss your specific needs and to book your tree time. They also recommend visiting the course prior to your adventure, if possible, to take a tour and speak with their staff about any concerns.

Watching the Treetop Adventure

Anyone not participating is welcome to watch and walk around the forest preserve. There are paths around the course and the area is not restricted to just those who pay. So if friends and family want to come to watch or take pictures of you swinging through the trees, they should!

Safety at Go Ape

We were really happy with the safety and interaction with the kids. We were each fitted with a harness and checked in the beginning, checked a second time before the practice loop, and continued to be checked before entering each loop. You are always attached with the trolley system and your carabiner, so you and your kids can feel secure traversing the obstacles.

Discount Code

Enter Promo Code: KIDSZIP
for 15% Off your booking, good for our Treetop Adventure or Treetop Junior course
Expires June 30th
*Must book your visit between now and June 30th

↑ go to top ↑

About the Author

Annie Tandy
Annie loves making great memories with her kids and started Kidlist so she can help others do the same! Besides finding fun and exciting things to do, Annie, her husband, and their kids enjoy caring for their chickens and hanging out with them in the backyard. Click here to read about Annie's chickens and see pictures! She also finds joy in gardening, home improvement projects, knitting, soap making, and painting along with being active in her community, church, and as a board member of the Western Springs Business Association. Click here to follow Annie on Instagram.

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