You’ve been researching the different options out there and really need more of an in-depth, hands-on review of the Pioneer Peak playset by Gorilla Playsets. Being that this swing set costs upwards of $3,000+, it’s really important to know what you’re getting yourself into. You’ve come to the right place at the Backyartisan, where we give that insider’s perspective on what to expect with a large backyard playset.
The Backyartisan's Verdict
Below, we will cover the following aspects of the Pioneer Peak. Here are the Backyartisan ratings for each on a 5-star scale. Next to each category, we’ve included the weight we give each category in the overall rating. You’ll note that we give roughly 30% of the weight to the aspects of the playset before use, 45% to the use, and 25% to the value of the purchase. Without further ado, here’s the Backyartisan rating for the Gorilla Pioneer Peak Playset.
Shipping & Receiving
To learn more about the shipping process and freight jargon, you’ll want to check out our article on what to expect when receiving a playset shipment. In general, know that this isn’t as simple as receiving a parcel package and you should continue reading up.
Our Pioneer Peak verdict: In the industry, Gorilla Playsets aren’t known for the simplicity of their inventory. They do not seem to pay much attention to how the boxing can be best designed and end up erring on the side of more cardboard and wrapping.
Trucking Company Appointments
The Pioneer Peak playset delivers via “LTL Freight'' and typically using “Curbside Delivery” - you may pay more for assistance in the delivery process, but any extra services provided by the transportation company could cost $100-300 dollars and the quality of the additional services isn’t always reliable.
Dealing with Pallets
The Pioneer Peak will arrive on a long pallet, generally 10 feet in length and 40 inches wide. Pallets are by far the best way to ship a set of this size. It should be properly secured with tight banding and/or industrial saran wrap to hold all the entire shipment together.
Unboxing and Taking Inventory
The entire playset consists of 15 large boxes. These show all be visible while viewing the pallet, after removing the saran wrap, if any is present. Within those 15 boxes, especially in the slide boxes, there may be upwards of 35 or 40 components and/or hardware kits.
Upon delivery, you’ll want to note any issues, scratches, or missing boxes from the manifest among these 15 larger boxes. Basically the trucking company is responsible for getting those boxes to you, but should there be components, kits, or any smaller boxes missing from the larger box, contact your retailer because the manufacturer probably made the mistake and will send you what you’re missing.
Box Weight and Dimensions
The entire system will weigh right around 1,100 lbs, including the weight of the pallet. The average box weight is roughly 65 lbs. Though most boxes are around 40-70 lbs, the heaviest box on the entire set is 200 lbs, so take note that you’ll want a helper. The length of longest boxes does not exceed the 10’ pallet.
Pioneer Peak playsets only include 1 slide, a thermoformed wave slide that is relatively light and strapped to the top of the shipment.
Installation for Gorilla Playsets is not for the faint of heart, and the Pioneer Peak is no exception. You will want to read up on those directions, and possibly check out our article on preparing to assemble your own playset. If you decide to check out your other options available for installation, I recommend you check out another article we have, where do I find playset installers, to find more information about hiring someone else to handle the process.
Our Pioneer Peak verdict: Again, the Pioneer Peak playset is not really for the first-timer looking to bang something out really easily on the weekend. Given the price and complexity of the system, it is an average installation time, though, which is why I give it 3 stars. It could easily be a 2 or 1-star experience, but I have it a little higher because the instructions are very thorough and well-done.
You will need some pretty standard tools at the ready for this assembly. As you can imagine, you’ll need a cordless drill with Phillips head bit, some drill bits and wrench and sockets of various sizes, a level, hammer, tape measurer, shovel and pliers.
The parts that stick out to me that may not be in standard toolbox is the ⅞” paddle style bit to drill a large or and/or the ½” or 9/16” deep well socks. These are all easy to obtain from a local hardware store.
Ease and Timeframe of Installation
Obviously building a playset of this complexity would take a lot of time to do yourself. The boards are cut to size and have rounded edges as well as pre-drilled holes. Not all holes have been drilled, but most have and the few that you need to drill are for odds and ends, generally to place climbing rocks or slats and the process isn’t complex. The kit comes with the right amount of hardware and most every single detail has been thought through.
Even with all of those items being included, and no real additional materials needed aside from basic tools, the manufacturer still says that this whole process should take 2 people 16-20 hours. That is a solid 2 to 2.5 days of 8-hour work days. Yeah, not the easiest thing to do.
Keep in mind that the manufacturer actually wants to sell these playsets, so they may even be rounding down for the total time you should expect. If this is your first time doing it, I’d allot 3 days with a helper to put the Pioneer Peak together.
Quality of Directions
The instructions for the Pioneer Peak are anywhere from 160-170 pages long, depending upon which roof option you choose. That’s a novel! Now, that does include many diagrams, tables, and charts - and Gorilla has taken many steps to pain-stakingly write out what you should do - but that length of instructions will give you a flavor for the complexity of this system.
Given the length, it should definitely be noted that these directions are really solid. Lots of solid diagrams and obviously written in understandable English by someone who knows the technical aspects of the product.
If you were just to measure the longest distances of the installed Pioneer Peak playset, it would be 24’ long by 23’ wide. Once you consider the 6’ of clearance for running around, swinging on the tire and triple swings, and the area at the bottom of the slide, you really do need a 36’ by 35’ area for this playset.
In terms of clearances and space for children to run around, the slide deck height is 5’ (which means that the wave slide is 10’ long).
Stability & Durability
One of the most important core functions of a playset is its ability to safely hold weight and provide a secure place to climb, cruise, and glide. There are a few primary factors that contribute to the stability of a playset: joints and hardware, crossbeam thickness, and weight restrictions.
Our Pioneer Peak verdict: Gorilla is the premium and heavy duty set on the market. The Pioneer Peak is no exception.
Joints & Hardware
In general, Gorilla is a brand known for the beefiness of their playsets. The joints of the Pioneer Peak are no exception to this rule of thumb. Many of the connection points of the playset use two screws, a large bolt/washer, or even two bolts. Anything less than that is likely an accessory or non-critical joint.
The critical joints of the Pioneer Peak - the deck to the upright posts, the A-frame of the swing posts, etc. - are very well constructed, with many bracing elements. In many cases the braces are more wood, adding to the thickness, but some are also reinforced with metal plates designed specifically for that particular joint. These are weighty plates and really help your playset feel secure.
In terms of hardware, there isn’t much skimping here. The lag screws and carriage bolts that hold up the main structure are upwards of ⅜ inch thick, which is sufficient and sturdy. Personally, I don’t love the #8 wood screws and wish they were slightly thick screws, but that upgrade may pose issues with splitting wood if they went that route, so I understand but wanted to point out my preference. In general, the hardware seems reasonably suited and strong, and all of it is made of galvanized steel.
The Pioneer Peak (and really most Gorilla playsets) uses some pretty heavy duty cedar wood, generally regarded as the most durable wood in the playset industry. The main crossbeams are 4x6 inches and their supporting posts are 4x4 inches, making it a very sturdy and steady system. The main posts are also 4x4 inches. It’ll certainly take multiple people to put together, but you’ll get some long term use out of it.
Outside of these main posts, the weight bearing and support boards are generally 2 inches thick, decking slats are 1.25 inches thick, and roof boards are an inch thick. Again, all have sanded edges, rounding off every corner that makes it smooth to the touch.
Being as there is only one wave slide on the Pioneer Peak, there isn’t much to this section. Gorilla does produce a thick thermoformed slide, but it certainly isn’t the heavy stock of the double-walled, roto-molded slide you’ll find in larger scoop slides. This is 10’ long and extends from a 5’ deck.
Wood Stain & Finish
Gorilla stains and seals all of their playsets in an amber or redwood cedar. Honestly, they get the job done, but not all people like these bright primary colors in their backyard. Not necessarily the look I like. But generally this stain application by Gorilla is smooth and without splotches.
To know how many children your playset will accommodate, you’ll need to know the weight limits. With the joint, crossbeam, and hardware specifications as they are, the weight limits are primarily a calculation of what they can handle. Platforms hold a total weight of 800 lbs. The rope ladder holds up to 75 lbs. Rock walls and climbing ramps hold up to 150 lbs. Monkey bars are designed to hold up to 175 lbs. All slides are limited to 150 lbs.
As for swings, the belt swings have a stationary weight limit of 225 lbs, and a recommended swinging weight maximum of 150 lbs. The trapeze bar in between the 2 belt swings has a weight limit of 125 lbs. Altogether, the maximum swing weight of the three swings is 425 lbs. The tire swing maxes out at 125 lbs.
Do we recommend you exceed this weight? Of course not. But these weights aren’t coming from nowhere, and they really should accommodate a large majority of children.
Does everyone think about the work that needs to be done on a yearly basis for their playset? Not really. But it can be really important to inspect your playset thoroughly as the weather warms up each year and before children really start in on their playing.
The manufacturer recommends re-staining and re-sealing the playset from time to time to protect it from UV rays. A fresh coat should last a couple of years.
Definitely check to make sure your sprinkler system isn’t spraying your wooden elements regularly. You’ll want to pay close attention to possible mold or decay where the posts meet the ground. If you do not have leveling blocks or surfacing material, dew from the grass or sprinklers will cause issues in the long term.
We’ll move now into the play experience for your kids. These playsets are a lot of work, so you’ll really want to know what your children will be enjoying when the playset is assembled.
Our Pioneer Peak verdict: Though the quality is decent on these elements, the number of items are average, maybe even below average, for a playset of this size. The Pioneer Peak is really lacking in slides and accessories, but does have many climbing activities.
Ups, Downs & Acrosses
This is our section that speaks to all things moving atop the playset equipment: climbing, running, and sliding. On the Pioneer Peak, kids will enjoy quite a bit of climbing with a ladder, rock way, rope ladder, and ramp with pull-rope. Lots of great ways to get onto the playset.
Once you’re up on the set, the Pioneer Peak consists of two towers with decks and a swinging clatter bridge between the two towers - that's a pretty solid feature for a 2-deck system.
With only one wave slide, I guess you’ll find most entry points on the Pioneer Peak are one-way going up. Having only one slide on a 2-deck playset isn’t very much at this price point.
The classic requirement of any playset is the swings, and the Pioneer Peak is outfitted well with two swing areas. Gorilla’s most common swing layout is the 3-swing crossbeam that has two belt swings and one trapeze bar with rings. Most every set will have two swings, so the trapeze bar is a nice touch for Gorilla’s standard feature.
The tire swing is actually somewhat rare in the industry and is a very nice addition to the Pioneer Peak. Don’t count that 360-degree spinning out - kids love it and can spend an hour chilling in that one spot. You may want to change the tire out for something more relaxing, like a webbed frame swing.
Social Play Accessories
Have friends over to play and enjoy a handful of activities designed for social interaction. The Pioneer Peak has a few decent items. You’ll find a built-in picnic table for snack time, a sandbox that is contained under the tower with corner seats for comfort, and a tic-tac-toe panel for playing a classic game.
Solo Play Accessories
There are also a couple of features designed for one child so children can still play by themselves and discover or create new stories. With a steering wheel and binoculars, your child can pretend to be at the high sea.
Roof & Kit Options
The wood roof for Gorilla playsets is generally standard across the Gorilla playset roofs. It has a little dormer, small wood faux chimney, and plastic sunbursts, which provide a little flair but don’t offer more of the esthetic. Not a look I love, but seems to be a detail that punches up the set. Beyond the standard, you have other choices for roofs on this playset.
You can choose to pay less for the vinyl tarp roof, which will not last as long as the wood roof and may even require replacements every 2-4 years if you don’t take it down in the winter. It also doesn’t provide the best coverage from angled rain or sunlight and is easily blown around on windy days. Though the weight of the tarp is fine, it’s nowhere close to the level of protection you’d get from the wooden roof, and I’m not sure it’s worth the savings to skip the wood roof, which runs $150 to $300 extra.
Finally, you could upgrade to the Malibu wood roof. I’m not sure where the name comes from because I’d normally think of modern beaches with the name. Instead, the Malibu roof option just adds a few real dormers with plastic windows and a couple of solar powered semi-lanterns. This only replaces the roof on the larger tower. Not many kids are tall enough to take advantage of the added visibility and playsets aren’t normally used at night, so I can’t say I really get this option. Honestly, the upgrade amount just doesn’t seem worth the extra expense.
Now you might also see “treehouse” and “fort” options available on the Pioneer Peak. The treehouse option adds a couple of plastic opening windows to the main tower, which can be a nice touch and is generally eye level of the kids.
The fort option is essentially a tighter layout of the slats on the larger fort, providing a “private” area on that deck by really closing off one side of the tower. You may want that option if you’re more worried about weather or the elements, but I generally pass on this option for safety and visibility concerns.
Price & Value
Okay, brass tacks: are you getting the most bang for your buck? This is what you need to know before going into a purchase of this size.
Our Pioneer Peak verdict: The Pioneer Peak delivers in some really reliable ways, but it’s shy of the 5 stars due to its mix of play elements and an average warranty.
Again, Gorilla does not cut corners in quality. If you did not know, Gorilla Playsets is a brand of Backyard Products, which really specializes in backyard sheds and structures. With that background in mind, you’ll easily recognize some of the same elements in building your playset. In the same way, you’d expect a shed to last over a decade, you can generally depend upon Gorilla Playsets to last a while.
Gorilla doesn’t cut corners on the playset, and the value you get from the pre-cut, sanded, stained, and pre-drilled equipment is pretty high. There is a lot of work and kitting that goes into this product. Overall value for the quality is strong.
The cost of upwards of $3,000 is a big slug. I would say given the play elements involved, most of these dollars are valued at going towards climbing elements and that tire swing. You may find yourself wanting to add other accessories after you’ve purchased the Pioneer Peak swing set. Personally, I’m not sure the savings to downgrade the roof option is worth it, but it’s a good way to save a little money. I’d say for the amount of play you get at that price, this value is average.
In terms of shipping, most retailers build the price into the cost of the product. You should be able to save money if you’re willing to pick it up, but you’ll have to have a pretty sizable trailer for it - remember, this comes on a 10’ pallet. Even if you have “free shipping” do take note that it may cost $300 or more to ship it back for a return and it needs to be in pristine condition. For this shipping cost, Gorilla products are about average.
Given the timeline and complexity of the Pioneer Peak, installation should run you about $750-$1500, depending upon how hard you look for an installer. This is a fairly high cost, but only you can decide about your abilities and what your time is worth.
The warranty backing this up is for 10 years on structural wood components, but doesn’t cover wood rot or decay due to naturally occurring conditions. Also, take note that they may not cover some naturally occurring imperfections in the wood. Normal wear and tear, fading, and discoloration aren’t covered either. You’re really looking at coverage for the defects that hinder the functionality of the item.
For the hardware, plastics, tarps, ropes, and other components, there’s a 1-year warranty. I’m not sure I get that because these items can and will last longer than 1 year, while warranting the longevity of wood is much harder.
It may be that the “imperfections” part of the warranty has enough leniency that there may not actually be covering too much. Also, the warranty doesn’t transfer beyond the original buyer. For the warranty, this seems average at best. Mind you, this is made of really solid materials.
Overall, the Pioneer Peak is a great set and will last you a long time. The experience of purchasing, receiving, and assembling is daunting and you probably will ask yourself if you’re crazy at some point with this playset. That is actually typical in the industry with premium playsets.
If this playset isn’t a total surprise gift, I’d certainly recommend consulting your children on the type of play elements that they’d like to have in a playset because you might find the Pioneer Peak strong in some areas and lacking in others, depending upon what your kids want.
Thanks for reading up on the Backyartisan comprehensive review of the Pioneer Peak by Gorilla Playsets!