Here’s an idea for a new kind of outdoor adventure: Take a bench that looks like the molded plastic toddler swing at the park, make it big enough for two people, then strap those people in with heavy leather belts, hook the seat to a steel cable, and push it over the edge of a rugged canyon, where rattlesnakes sun themselves. Then let the bench drop about 200 feet at about 100 miles an hour before it bounces back, bungee-style, and is hauled back to the canyon lip.
It’s the newest way to fly in the Pikes Peak region. Called TERROR-dactyl, it’s bringing large crowds to Cave of the Winds, a cave attraction that has been open in the foothills just outside Manitou Springs for more than a century.
TERORR-dactyl is a Colorado-flavored variation on popular amusement park themes, involving free-falling and bungee jumping. The striated landscape of Williams Canyon that forms the exterior walls of Cave of the Winds is attracting an interesting mix of adrenaline seekers drawn by the scenery as well as the thrills.
This one-of-a-kind ride makes grown men scream and women hold on so tight that their knuckles turn purple. The ride itself takes about five minutes, but the preparation is the part that is most nerve-wracking. Once the riders are strapped in, the seat is turned so they are face down for what seems like a long time. Feet dangling, they check out the floor of the canyon below.
The seat is released from the iron platform that looks like an old mining mainframe, and the next few seconds are in free-fall. That is the best part.
Chris Green, a recent TERROR-dactyl rider from Colorado Springs, has been skydiving, and says the initial fall compares to the first moments out of a plane. Others say the whistling wind lets them experience the sensation of flying. It’s a few seconds of freedom for the earthbound.
If TERROR-dactyl mimics, if briefly, the sensation of skydiving, zip lining is more like hang gliding or parasailing. Zip lining originated as a form of transportation centuries ago, but in recent decades, it has become a popular way to play in the United States, and the Colorado Springs area isn't short on these options either:
At Adventures Out West , on the edge of Manitou Springs, zip lines reach in a spider web of cables from one canyon wall to the next. The lines vary from 225 feet to more than 650. And these zip lines require what the company calls a “leap of faith” – you have to summon the courage to leap off the canyon wall under your own power.
Two hours west of Colorado Springs, Captain Zipline bills itself as Colorado’s largest adventure park. Captain Zipline is just outside the small town of Salida, and it offers canyon wall zip lines, with views of petrified travertine spring formations, pinyon pine, and the white water of the Arkansas River.
To the south, Colorado Zipline Tours near Canon City offers 20 zip lines that span more than three miles near the Royal Gorge – one of the deepest canyons in Colorado, that drops 1,250 feet in places. For competitive types, this company even offers a dual, side-by-side 1,002-foot line that allows friends to race to the finish.