SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park

I took my son Patrick, and his buddy, Grant, both 10, to Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Cumming to give it a try.

The boys weren’t really sure what to expect, and I got lots of questions on the ride over about how big the tree was going to be. Turns out, both were a little nervous about the idea, but as they day went on, comments like, “This is hard” or “I’m kind of scared,” started changing over to “This is fun!” and “How do I hang upside down?” My personal favorite: “This makes you feel like James Bond!”

By the end of the day, both boys had maneuvered their ropes over so they could hug the tree, and my son said, “This is making me actually not afraid of heights.”

Our family spent Spring Break checking out two other adventurous options for getting up in the trees: SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park and TreeTop Quest (locations in Dunwoody and Buford).

Challenges like wobbly walkways and tightropes are just as much about agility and balance as they are about overcoming your fear of heights. Or, as my daughter Charlotte, 12, put it, “It’s not how high you are, it’s the lack of handrails!”

Once you get started, there aren’t many escape routes to let you chicken out. But the harnesses ensure you won’t actually fall, so take a deep breath and go – it really does get easier with practice! The zip lines in every course at Tree Top Quest are an awesome reward. A giant net at the Buford location’s SpiderQuest course also lets you experience free falling thrills.

SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park
Park’s Adventure Pass includes admission to SkyHike and other attractions. Adventure Pass: $26.95 ages 12 and older; $20.95 ages 3-11; free younger than 3.,

Locations at Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, 2020 Clean Water Drive, Buford, and at Liane Levetan Park at Brook Run, 4770 N. Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Pricing varies by age, $22-$49 per person; make reservations or call for same-day availability., 770-365-0356.

The Risks of Playing It Safe

Risk is an essential part of play for building physical and emotional strength, researchers are finding. According to a “Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play,” allowing children to assess risk for themselves was a key component in healthy child development. In other words: Parents, back off.

While this might be a nerve-wracking proposition, not allowing kids to engage in risky play can make them more prone to injury, because they haven’t developed important skills like balance, studies suggest. Lauren Reese, a yoga instructor and mom of two in Suwanee, says she’s “all for kids climbing trees,” and is even “perfectly happy with the unsafe way – it’s a very important way for kids to build upper body strength.”

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