Visiting the Four-Zipline Course at Mountain Creek
Mountain Creek, located in Vernon, New Jersey, is a year-round resort, with ski and snowboard runs during the winter and a water park, mountain bike trails, tree-climbing courses, and, of course, ziplines for the warmer weather.
On our recent visit, mountain bikers were everywhere. They zoomed down the trails in the woods, going up and down wooden ramps at breakneck speeds. It looked like a lot of fun, though our zipline guides admitted that they saw a lot more injured mountain bikers than skiers every year.
It didn't matter. We weren't there for the biking. We wanted to zipline!
Mountain Creek's course consists of four ziplines. The first is at the bottom of the mountain and is only about 200 feet long. It's mainly to get first-timers acclimated to riding a zipline, especially the ending where you hit the brake. As experienced zipliners, we understood that but still found the ride a bit dull.
After all 12 people on our tour finished the first zipline, we took the gondola up 1,040 feet to the top of the mountain. On a clear day, you get a great view of the mountains that exist in the very north of New Jersey and can even spot the monument at imaginatively named High Point State Park (which is the highest point in New Jersey).
At the top of the mountain is where the real fun began.
Mountain Creek is Located in Vernon, New Jersey
The Three Main Ziplines Across a Lake
The three remaining ziplines on the course crisscross a lake and each one brings you a bit closer to the water (but no, you can't dip your feet in. You don't get that close!).
The first line is about 1,500 feet long. I'm not sure how high above the water it is, probably between 100 and 200 feet. The ride is long enough you really get a chance to look around and remind yourself that New Jersey really has some natural beauty.
It was only a short walk to the next line, which was only 750 feet long. It was too short for me to really enjoy. One thing I did like: It brings you the closest to the tree line and I even had some leaves brush against my foot.
The last line was only another short walk away. About 1,300 feet long, it's also the closest to the water. It felt like I was about 20 feet or so above the lake and gave me a very different perspective than the other lines.
After the ziplines, you cross back over the lake on a narrow metal suspension bridge which sways wildly as you walk. I found the bridge scarier than the ziplines!
The tour took about two hours from start to finish.
Mountain Creek Ziplines: the Good and the Bad
Like every adventure, this one also had its pros and cons.
The things I liked about the Mountain Creek zipline course:
1) The location. It's about an hour's drive from New York and easy to get to since it's mostly highway driving. The Skylands region of New Jersey is gorgeous and always worth a visit.
2) The layout of the course. The walking distance between each zipline at the top of the mountain was less than a minute, which was great. One thing that always bothers me about ziplining is that on some courses you really have to hike from one line to the next and, carrying your equipment, it can get quite hot.
3) The price. The cost was $49 a person, less than half of what we've paid at other courses.
The things I didn't like about the Mountain Creek zipline course:
1) The first zipline was so short that it hardly counts as a line. I understand that a number of courses start out with a short one so newcomers can get a feel for ziplining, but 200 feet is just too short to be fun.
2) The harness was more restrictive than at other courses. Mountain Creek's harness has two large sections of materials that go behind your upper legs and creates a kind of seat when you are on the line. I presume it's safer and more comfortable for some riders, but I prefer the less-restrictive harnesses that are similar to what parachutists wear. That kind of harness enables you to do maneuvers like the pencil or the Superman, and even to spin around. Mountain Creek's harness doesn't.
Overall, there was more to like than dislike about Mountain Creek's zipline course, and I would definitely recommend a visit. I think someone who has never been ziplining would find it a fun introduction to the sport.
The Former Site of the Infamous Action Park Amusement Park
Mountain Creek is located on the grounds of the former Action Park, perhaps the most infamous amusement park in the United States.
Action Park opened in the late 1970s with rides that were legendary in their lack of safety. I remember the wave pool was so strong that there would be announcements saying the waves would begin, sending moms and little kids out of the water. The waves were so rough that as a teenager I would get bounced around every time. Wikipedia says two people drowned in the pool, with dozens being pulled to safety every day.
We used to ride these tiny sleds down the alpine slide, and anytime you slipped even a bit you ended up getting scraped on the chutes. It was scary and, unlike modern amusement rides that only pretend to be dangerous, the alpine slide really was dangerous. Sadly, I don't remember the most infamous of the park's rides: the cannonball loop.
Action Park closed in the 1990s after a lot of bad publicity. It reopened for a short while under the same name with different ownership that eventually changed the name to Mountain Creek Waterpark. The new park is nothing like the old Action Park.
To read more about Action Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_Park
Following are two short documentaries on the park, which really have to be seen to understand just how dangerous the place had been.