Thrill seekers climb the high ropes course at High Trek Adventures at Paine Field Community Park in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Thrill seekers climb the high ropes course at High Trek Adventures at Paine Field Community Park in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Get your kids climbing at Paine Field’s aerial park this summer

Soon scores of children will stream out of local schools, head home and, as all parents know, promptly start climbing the walls.

Here’s a tip: Send them to High Trek Adventures Aerial Park and Zip Line and have them climb there instead.

Business partners Brad Halbach and Luke Goff opened High Trek Adventures in early May at Paine Field Community Park in Everett. The high ropes course stands 50 feet high and includes more than 60 obstacles, from webbed cargo nets to logs and ladders that act like balance bars, and more than 800 feet of zip line tours that encircle the course.

High Trek is one of the largest ropes courses in the Pacific Northwest, and it looks like a cross between a pirate ship and a giant, multi-level tree fort. On a recent afternoon, young people donned helmets and harness systems, clipped carabiners into overhead cables and headed off in a number of different directions to climb the course.

It can be difficult for many parents to get comfortable with their young ones climbing three stories into the air, using only ropes, planks and their own guile to get them there. Halbach and Goff, both being parents, understand that fear and have purchased what they believe to be the best — and safest — system of locks and harnesses that keep climbers from falling.

The Bornack Smart Safety Belay System locks every participant onto a cable as they ascend the course. As they change positions or direction on the course, they’re not able to unlock the clip until the second lock is clipped into another cable. Visitors can’t completely unlock themselves from the overall system unless they have a key. (High Trek staff are the only ones with keys.)

“I trust this system with my life. And my kids’ lives,” said Halbach, who added that the belay system will accommodate anyone up to 265 pounds. “I have to. We have layer upon layer of protection. The Bornack system isn’t cheap, but we wanted the best.”

The course is friendly for beginners or experienced climbers. There are three levels to explore on High Trek’s Captain’s Course and each is color coded: beginner is green, intermediate is blue and advanced is black. The higher one climbs, the harder the aerial obstacles.

Children 4 and up can explore the lower Cadet’s Course and keep their feet closer to the ground, while children 7 to 10 can explore the full course with an adult accompaniment and yell “Land ho!” from one of the uppermost perches. Halbach said that the latter group can go solo if they meet height requirements and are staff approved.

Besides the different levels to challenge visitors, the High Trek course, unlike other local aerial parks like Adventura in Woodinville and Howlers Peak at Great Wolf Lodge, isn’t a linear course, but rather wide open with a number of intersecting routes to enjoy. Because of a setup that interconnects different elements from the course, nearly 100 visitors can be on the course at once without major backups occurring.

“There are different levels of challenge for different levels of skill,” Halbach said. “People don’t seem to really get stuck behind people because there are so many routes. They can just change direction and move on to the next obstacle.”

An aerial and zip line course wasn’t the longtime friends’ first idea. Having gone to college at the University of Washington and later started an online lighting business together, they initially wanted to create a water park on the island of Maui. They built a point-of-sale system for the business and acquired 75 acres on the Hawaiian island, but found that getting that much water to the site was very difficult.

With that idea set aside, Halbach and his family took a trip to Yellowstone. In West Yellowstone, his family encountered a ropes course and jumped at the opportunity to climb it, from his three children to his mother, who is in her 60s. Halbach said it took up a city block but had a compact footprint, an organic aesthetic and was self-contained. Plus everyone had a great time.

“I saw that and wanted to build it right away,” Halbach said.

Halbach and Goff flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and visited High Gravity Adventures, the manufacturer of the Yellowstone course. Convinced HGA’s course was a good fit, they started to think about where they wanted to build. They considered Chelan and Marymoor Park, but were pleasantly surprised at the welcome they received from the leadership at Snohomish County Parks and Recreation.

The county pointed them in the direction of the Paine Field Community Park and the mostly unused soccer fields that took up its northern half. Goff said the centralized location and open, park-like setting was a good fit for the aerial course.

“It’s really a park inside a park,” said Goff, who added that the partners are looking to build more courses in the future.

Now that school’s out, I’m planning to shut the Xbox off and push my two oldest out to conquer their fears. My son, 9, finished the Howlers Peak course a few years ago, but this would definitely be a step up for him. My daughter recently turned 7 and would definitely need some encouragement getting above the Cadet’s Course.

Halbach recounted a recent visit from a father and son. With a little trepidation and some encouragement from his father, the young boy took to the course and went from being unsure if he wanted to climb the course at all to an aerial junky.

“You could see his attitude totally changing as his confidence grew,” said Halbach, who guided him around the course initially. “Now he wants to host his birthday party here.”

If you go

The High Trek Adventures Aerial Park and Zip Line is located at Paine Field Community Park, 11928 Beverly Park Road, Everett. It offers solo tours for adults from $35 to $80 and juniors and seniors from $22 to $60, and group rates for birthday parties and corporate team building exercises. For more information, visit hightrekeverett.com.

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