Going for a walk in the redwoods at Sequoia Park in Eureka now includes a self-guided interpretive walk up. Instead of keeping to the forest floor, you can tour redwoods on suspended walkways with spectacular views in the recently opened Redwood Sky Walk adventure at the Sequoia Park Zoo.

The experience high up in the redwoods is somewhat reminiscent of life among the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi (famously filmed in our county). You’re perched on platforms and bridges, gazing out into the forest and down at the trails and ferns below, taking in the same view as the birds and other creatures that make their home up in the branches. It’s breathtaking.

click to enlarge MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
To get to the Sky Walk, pass through the attractive and efficiently staffed Zoo fee entrance on W Street and turn left to walk past the flamingo pond and enclosed aviary. (Definitely stop to catch a glimpse of the seriously cute red pandas a short distance after the Sky Walk entrance.)

After entering the out-and-back ¼-mile-long Sky Walk gate, you will walk up a slow incline on the wide Ascent Ramp built firmly to terra firma and come to the large 28-foot high Launch Deck platform (it looks similar to a fire lookout tower), before stepping out onto the suspended bridges and platforms that range from 60 to about 100 feet off the ground. Here — or even before you enter the Sky Walk — is where you’ll need to monitor your fear of heights before proceeding. Rest assured, though, the platforms and bridges all have 3.5- to 4-feet-high guardrails that make for a steadying place to grip and because this is not an adventure course, no harnesses and helmets are required.

Strolling the network of suspended walkways high up in swoon-inducingly tall redwood trees will give you a new perspective on these ancient trees and the life forms that reside there. While on the Sky Walk, pause for a moment to look around you into the canopy of these huge trees and listen for the chatter of ravens.

click to enlarge MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
The platforms circling the tree trunks and most of the aerial bridges from one tree to the next are rigid and firmly attached to the trees. But one optional 369-foot-long section between tree platforms is suspended by cables, much like a swinging bridge. The footfalls of walkers on this section create motion — either terribly fun or a little scary, depending on whom you ask. This aptly named Adventure Segment, with its height exposure, motion and flexible surface, is the only part that’s not fully ADA accessible.

Surrounded though you are by the wonder of nature, take a moment to imagine also the creativity needed and challenges faced by workers on the construction crew that installed these aerial walks. Look closely at the construction design and materials, and consider the tree-climbing skills required to do the work … without any safety net below. The Ascent Ramp and Launch Deck are wood structures with concrete foundations. The surface you’re walking is made of Dynaplank — a walkable tread surface that is non-slip (important in our rainy and foggy climate) and highly durable. The posts and handrails on the structure are redwood with metal panels between posts. Fun fact: The ascent ramp is 360 feet, just shy of the height of the tallest known living coastal redwood (~380 feet). Fabricated aluminum makes up the bridges and platforms above, and they feature the same Dynaplank surface for safety up high. The railings are made from cable and metal mesh panels that block as little of the view as possible.

The local company Greenway Partners came up with the initial project designs and the subcontractor team from Synergo (a Tigard, Oregon company that specializes in the design and installation of challenge courses, zip line tours and aerial adventure parks) was hired to do the aerial construction work.

After making your way through the Sky Walk, don’t miss visiting other zoo highlights including the nearby barnyard for the animal petting/feeding area, the river otters at the Watershed Heroes exhibit, close-up looks at a raven, spotted owl and two bald eagles in an enclosure for injured and rescued birds. There’s even a memorial statue of local legend Bill the Chimp. If you’re peckish, the ECOS Café is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You should also check posted updates on what educational activities are being offered and what zoo areas might be closed (due to current pandemic guidelines). Currently face masks are required for everyone over the age of 3. Guests must practice social distancing and frequent hand washing at hand sanitizer stations throughout the zoo is encouraged.

On the way out, consider an earth-bound tour of Sequoia Park, which includes a new playground, a slide built into a massive redwood, walking paths through 60 acres of coast redwood forest (some of which you’ve glimpsed from above) and a pond that often offers a chance to view colorful wood ducks.
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Mark Larson

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