By Emma Castleberry
It might be surprising to learn that ziplining at Navitat Canopy Adventures—a decidedly exhilarating outdoor experience—is accessible for just about anyone, including those who have a fear of heights. “Navitat is truly a unique experience located in an amazing place, and it’s also an experience that almost everyone can do, including those as young as 10 and as old as 90,” says W. Ken Stamps, an owner of Navitat. “Even guests that are afraid of heights feel completely different after the very first zip, most often saying that the experience is so much easier than they anticipated.”
Navitat offers two zipline tours: the Treetop Tour and the Mountaintop Tour. “The Treetop Tour is the more immersive, ecological experience,” says Stamps. “Guests are transported deep in the forest and zip from tree to tree.” This tour includes six tree-to-tree ziplines, two sky bridges, a spiral staircase in a huge tulip poplar, one rappel and two forest hikes. “The Mountaintop Tour, as the name implies, is huge in every way,” says Stamps. “All of the platforms are located on the ground, and guests zip two at a time on side-by-side ziplines with views that rival those from the Blue Ridge Parkway.” The Mountaintop Tour includes three forest hikes and three huge ziplines, some of the longest in the nation, spanning up to 3,600 feet in length.
Navitat was founded in 2010 with a mission to create “a tree-based aerial adventure company unlike anything previously built in the US: a wildly thrilling experience, coupled with a deeply engaging environmental component that would hopefully inspire and educate our guests in unexpected ways,” says Stamps.
To achieve the mission, Stamps knew an amazing location would be key. He found that amazing location in Moody Cove, just 25 minutes north of Asheville in Barnardsville. “It’s an almost magical place,” he says. Enclosed and isolated by three mountain ridges, Moody Cove is 242 acres in area with over 1,200 feet of elevation change. A comprehensive environmental analysis of Moody Cove helped inform Navitat’s tours and the engaging educational program that is essential to Navitat’s mission.
Along with a spectacular location and educational engagement, Navitat focused on achieving world-class design and engineering for the zipline tours. “The topographic characteristics of Moody Cove allowed us to create aerial adventure tours that have been called ‘engineering marvels,’” says Stamps. Steel cables anchored underground in bedrock allow for fast and smooth speeds of up to 65 miles per hour, at heights of up to 350 feet.
Navitat has incorporated state-of-the-art safety systems throughout, including automatic braking systems and harnesses that are customized to Navitat exclusively. In addition to annual inspection and updates for safety technology, an arborist monitors the health of the trees that could impact safety.
Adventure guides, all with a passion for environmental education, are ultimately responsible for the guest experience. The process to become an adventure guide at Navitat is not an easy one. In addition to a solid week of intense technical and safety training, there is a written and practical test, as well as additional weeks of training and mentoring after being hired and monthly refresher trainings. Grant Lewis was hired as a lead adventure guide at Navitat in 2013. “Beyond the fact that zipping at Navitat gives each and every guest a memory of a lifetime, they also get an amazingly entertaining educational experience that is truly unmatched,” he says.
If ziplining still sounds too far out of your comfort zone, Navitat recently launched the RTV Shadow Tour, which is a guided vehicular tour that allows guests to “shadow” a zipline tour from the ground. Traveling on a Rugged-Terrain Vehicle (RTV) with a personal adventure guide, visitors can see the region’s most beautiful views and watch zipliners take off and land at ground platforms.
Whatever adventure one chooses at Navitat, visitors can rest easy knowing the Navitat staff will do everything to ensure a memorable, educational and exciting experience. Navitat wants guests to leave inspired by their experience with the natural world. “Western North Carolina is blessed with mountains, rivers and so much beauty,” says Lewis. “From its inception, Navitat’s mission has always been to thrill, educate and inspire, and I know, wholeheartedly, that we deliver on that promise every single day.”