This strange wooden structure, resembling a cross between a giant birdhouse and a colossal baby mobile, is High Life Adventure Park’s Aerial Challenge Course, located in Seaside Oregon. The course is part of a trend of elevated obstacle courses meant to test participants’ strength and balance, forcing them to complete a series of athletic challenges, while simulating the fear of falling.
High Life Adventure Park in Seaside
The owners of the Aerial Challenge Course, David and Lancey Larson, opened the course in March of 2020 as a companion facility to their High Life Adventures Zip Line Tour in Warrenton. A born thrill seeker, David found his passion early when he built his first zip line at 14, crossing a canyon in his hometown of Astoria Oregon.
When they started offering their own zip line tours in 2012, the couple immediately began noticing a demand for more. People weren’t satisfied with the one experience. They wanted another adventure that they could guide themselves through, so David and Lancey purchased a plot of land in Seaside and created Highland Adventure Park as a way to meet that demand.
Located just off of Highway 101, The Aerial Challenge Course was meant to push people well beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones. Participants can cross a rope bridge or freefall from extreme heights without the actual danger of doing so. It’s a thrilling concept and a unique experience that can only occur in a simulated environment.
The course is also meant to challenge participants’ athletic ability, pushing their bodies to the limits. Many of the obstacles aren’t easy to cross, and there are varying degrees of difficulty to choose from. At its easiest, the course can be completed by children, who are allowed to participate on the lowest levels. At its hardest, the course will test even experienced athletes, forcing them to struggle through, always risking the chance that they’ll fall–of course, the fall is part of the fun. It’ll produce an unrivaled rush of endorphins sure to satisfy any adrenaline junkie.
In an effort to conserve Oregon’s precious coastal forests, High Life Adventure Park was built entirely out of wood milled from the land it stands on. Everything from the lobby to the supporting beams were sourced onsite, meaning no extra trees were cut down, just the ones that came down when they cleared the land.
At first glance, it’s difficult to make sense of the Aerial Challenge Course. It looks like some sort of complex device built from a neverending series of ropes and logs. So how does it work? Is there a rhyme and reason to it, or is it just a random mish-mash of obstacles?
The truth is that it’s a little bit of both. Participants are meant to create their own experience. They’re supposed to feel like there’s a lot to explore, so the course was built to feel random and overwhelming while following an overall pattern.
High Life Adventure Park’s Aerial Challege Course can be broken down into 4 levels, ranging from 20 to 40 feet off the ground. Fortunately, parents don’t have to worry about the heights. There’s a lower level for children ages 4 and up, and there’s always someone to help nearby. Each level is an octagon, jutting out from the main structure in the center and connected by more than thirty platforms. The participant’s goal is to travel from one platform to the next, clearing obstacles, so they can make their way around the octagon.
The course is not easy–well, some of it is, but those who choose to go for the full experience can expect some trouble along the way. There are more than fifty different types of obstacles. There’s swinging logs suspended from ropes, each far enough apart that participants have to jump from one log to the next. There’s tightropes with handholds, log bridges and nets to climb. The list goes on and on. The result is a cross between comical, terrifying and challenging. It’s especially fun for groups, because they get to watch as their friends and family struggle through and inevitably fall. Others will challenge one another to races and show off. The course is fun in different ways for different people, but they all seem to find some enjoyment in it.
High Life Adventure Park markets their course as an athletic challenge, and that is true. But we all know that the fall itself, and the fear of falling, is the real allure. There’s nothing quite like a 40-foot wipeout, especially when you’re trying to maneuver across rain-slicked logs. It’s the suspense and the rush that gets you. Will you lose your balance? Will your muscles give out, and what will it be like when you fall?
High Life Adventure Park has put a lot of effort into simulating the perfect drop. Participants have two options. There’s the TruBlue, a device that adjusts to the weight of the participant, so that both children and adults can experience their fall with the same speed of descent. At the bottom, the rope pulls back, causing them to jump slightly. Then there’s the QuickFlight Free Fall Device. It’s the ultimate thrill, meant to simulate the same sense of weightlessness participants would experience without a rope.
Oregon’s coast isn’t known for having the most hospitable climate. The wind and mist are serious challenges for participants at High Life, especially when they’re trying to balance themselves on a slick log or a wet rope. As if that weren’t enough, participants now have a new natural element to contend with: darkness.
In November of 2021, High Life Adventure Park stocked up on glow sticks and strung up rainbow LEDs, so they could open their doors for Night Climb. It’s an epic, thrill seeking adventure for advanced climbers looking to up their game and add a little simulated danger to their nightlife.
Preparing For Your Trip
Visitors to Seaside will often find themselves gawking as they pass High Life Adventure Park’s Aerial Challenge Course. It’s easy to see why, with its suspended barrels, a kayak, ropes and nets. Children will often beg their parents to stop and let them play. It’s a part of why the course is so popular; everyone wants to get a look, and they’re often willing to pull out their wallets when their kids get excited.
Because the park is so popular, High Life advises visitors to call ahead and make reservations. They don’t mind walk-ins, but they’re far too busy to guarantee openings. It’s not uncommon to see disappointed visitors standing off to the side when they realize there are no open slots, especially during spring break season when Seaside gets flooded with tourists. If you’re planning to visit High Life Adventure Park during spring break, it’s best to reserve a spot 1-2 months in advance. A month should be fine during the off-season, but don’t be surprised if their schedule is full.
What to Expect
When participants arrive at the park, they’ll be greeted by a group of guides who will put them through a basic safety orientation, which they call ground school. Each participant is given a harness and a belay system, meant to stop the rope and keep them from hitting the ground if they fall. Leather utility gloves are sold separately, but they are highly recommended. The ropes can be slippery and hard on the hands.
The guides are stationed at every platform. They are there to advise participants and offer assistance throughout the course. They also enforce the rules and regulate how many participants are maneuvering each obstacle. They’re well-trained in aerial equipment and safety measures. Their presence on the course ensures that everyone makes a safe landing if they fall.
Participants must arrive 30 minutes before their scheduled booking. At the time of writing this, the price of tickets is $69 for ages 7 and up and $39 for ages 4-7. Gift certificates are available for the same price. Each reservation lasts for 2 hours, which is more than enough time to complete orientation and enjoy the experience.
Who can participate?
When High Life Adventure Park Seaside opened, the Aerial Challenge Course was only suitable for children above the age of 8. They now have a section for 4-8 year olds on the lowest level, where kids can be introduced to obstacles in a safe environment with the assistance of their parents and a guide. Children 8-12 must have a parent chaperone accompanying them on the course. They must weigh at least 44 pounds, and they must be able to reach 60″ or higher. For every two children, there must be at least one adult chaperone. Children 13-15 must have at least one adult on the premises. Participants ages 16-17 may participate without an adult present so long as they have written permission from their parents or a legal guardian. All participants must be able to wear the harness according to manufacturers specifications, and anyone weighing over 285 pounds may not pariticipate. The park advises potential participants to contact them with questions about minimum requirements before booking their reservations.
High Life Adventure Park does offer group bookings and discounts. They’re perfect for birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and family reunions. They’re uniquely suited for corporate events because of their teambuilding exercises, which are meant to foster communication, strengthen trust and enhance problem-solving skills.