How to Hang a Tree Swing

A backyard tree swing hanging from a full-grown mature tree completes a backyard designed for kids to have fun.  The tree swing is a classic simple pleasure for the rider.  Learning how to hang a tree swing in your backyard correctly is important to ensure the safety of those that take a swing from your tree.

There are several important elements to consider to properly hang a tree swing.  The following guide goes into the importance of selecting the right rope, picking the correct tree and location within the tree, and setting up the ropes.

how to hang a tree swing in the backyard

Which Rope to choose for a Backyard Tree Swing

There are several types of rope you can choose for a backyard tree swing.  Depending on the type of swing, expected weights, and length of rope different ropes work better for a tree swing.  The following ropes are the most popular ropes to consider for your backyard tree swing.

  • Polyester

Polyester ropes are perfect for a backyard tree swing. They are very tough and one of the strongest options and with little stretch makes them a top performer. Polyester has a built UV resistance which will help the rope last for a long time out in the elements. They are readily available in different sizes and strengths and even come in various colors.  It is hard to go wrong with a polyester rope for a tree swing.

  • Polypropylene

Polypropylene is the next most common rope for a tree swing.  This rope material is often provided for hanging a tree swing when you purchase a swing kit ready to be assembled.  These ropes have less strength than a polyester line and are a little stiffer.  Therefore, polypropylene ropes are a little more difficult to tie in knots and hold onto with your hands.  Polypropylene does not always have resistance to UV some do and some do not.

  • Nylon

Nylon is a very strong rope material; however, it has one very serious drawback.  Nylon tree swing ropes will stretch a lot.  If your only choice for a rope for a tree swing is nylon it will work, but you will need to hang the swing higher which can make getting in the swing difficult.  Using nylon for a short toddler swing can work in a pinch, but I would highly not recommend using nylon for hanging any backyard tree swing.

  • Natural Manila

Natural manila rope swing can work well for a backyard tree swing.  This rope makes tying knots simple and is easy to hold with minimal stretching.  Natural manila does have a couple of real downsides that you need to be aware of when using it for a tree swing rope.  The natural materials due break down over time and they can degrade even faster when exposed to UV and the rain cycles of wet and dry.  They also require a special knot to keep them from fraying where the other synthetic rope materials you can use heat to prevent frays from occurring at the ends.

If you are hanging a backyard tree swing as a feature for your yard for years to come invest in a quality polyester rope.  Polyester is the best overall rope.  Select the right diameter and weight rating to keep your family safe while enjoying your swing to its fullest potential with a polyester rope.  Selecting a tree swing rope is critical a bad choice here will lead to a big problem down the road.

What Size Rope to Pick for a Tree Swing

When selecting a tree swing rope consider the size in diameter and the strength of the rope.  A smaller diameter in the thickness of the rope can make tying a tight and secure knot.  On the other hand, a thicker diameter rope is easier to hold onto when swinging.  A 5/8 to ¾ inch tree swing rope is the most common size for most swings.  A 1-inch rope is common for some larger swings or when you want to have an easy rope to grab when swinging.

Make sure that the rope strength exceeds the amount of weight that you plan on placing on the swing.   It is wise to always give yourself extra weight.  Plan for the kids to push the swing to the limits when playing with their friends and you can avoid a rope failure injury.

Select the Right Tree

Picking the right tree and perfect branch is the first step in installing your backyard tree swing.  The correct type of tree species and tree limb location makes all the difference in a safe tree swing or an eventual disaster that can lead to a serious injury.  Pick the best tree and even get a second opinion from a friend or neighbor if you are unsure if the swing will be safe where you are planning. Don’t forget to check the tree swing landing zone as well.

When picking a tree for a backyard tree swing you will want to find a mature tree that has well-established limb branches.  Hardwood trees are the best for installing a swing on, the following are a few that are good trees for swings.

Good Tree Species:

  • Beech
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Sycamore

These trees are species that you should avoid when picking a tree for a tree swing.  Softer wood trees and smaller backyard fruit trees do not have reliable branch strength.

Tree Species to Avoid:

  • Poplar
  • Birch
  • Willow
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Most Backyard Fruit Trees

When selecting the right tree make sure that the tree is free of disease and damaging parasites.  Pick a tree that has been taken care of, has a good root system and you are able to continue to maintain and keep the tree well nourished.

Pick the Right Limb

Nothing is ever perfect when selecting a branch for a tree swing.  However, there are several qualities of a good branch and when selecting the right branch for your tree swing these are the things to consider.

  • Height

A branch that is at least 7 feet above the ground is ideal, most swings will function best with additional height.

  • Level

You want a branch that is the most level as possible.  Branches are the sturdiest when they are at a right angle from the tree trunk.

  • Solid Connection

The union between the branch and the tree trunk is disease and damage-free.  This connection is something you will want to frequently observe for any signs of damage on a regular basis when inspecting your backyard tree swing.

  • Size

The right tree limb for a backyard tree swing should be at least 8 inches in thickness.  I recommend picking an even larger tree limb to be extra careful especially if installing one of the larger play swings that are becoming more common.  A tree swing that can hold over 700lbs needs to be installed on a healthy large diameter tree branch.

Survey the Landing Zone

A safe and debris clear landing zone is always important.  If the most ideal tree branch will have the swing running into a fence or rubbing up close to a bush it is not a good location.  Avoid placing a backyard tree swing near a hill or a decline the additional height can cause a serious injury if the swinger jumps or falls off on the downhill side.

Building a soft-landing zone is important.  Aside from removing rocks or hazards, it is wise to ensure a soft-landing zone. Make a tree swing landing zone safe by growing a green lawn or place wood chips or another type of mulch material to create a soft-landing pad.

Steps for Hanging a Tree Swing

There are three common ways to hang a tree swing: 1. Bolting 2. Tying Rope 3. Hangers.  Bolting involves drilling holes in the branch and inserting metal bolts.  Tying rope around the branch consists of tying directly to the branch with a bowline knot. Using predesigned hangers is popular in tree swing kits that come delivered ready to be installed.

Bolting a Swing to a Tree

Bolting a tree swing to a tree branch is a popular method securing a tree swing.  Using the bolting method eliminates the need to know how to tie special knots.  Bolting a tree swing requires a battery-powered drill, ¾ inch drill bit, and bolts that are at least 5/8 of an inch and a sturdy ladder to reach.

If you are hanging a disc swing, a climbing rope, or a tire swing you will only need a single bolt.  Traditional rectangle swings and other double roped swing kits will require two bolts.

Steps for Bolting a Tree Swing

  1. Measure the tree branch diameter so you can purchase bolts that are long enough.
  2. Identify if you need one or two bolts. These should be at least 5/8 inch in diameter and made from stainless or galvanized steel.
  3. Identify your dill location. You will want to drill the holes 3 – 5 feet away from the tree trunk.  If your branch is large enough to give more space from the trunk that is ok.  Further from the trunk will provide a better swinging path and landing zone.  Be sure the branch will still provide enough strength and not bend, closer to the trunk is often the most secure.
  4. Drill the holes from the underside of the tree and slightly larger than the diameter of the bolt.  By making the holes slightly larger it is simple to install.  As an example for a 5/8 inch bolt, you will want to use a ¾ inch drill bit for making the hole.
  5. Push the bolt through the hole and turn the bolt head to properly align the holes with the tree branch.
  6. Place washer and nuts onto the threads of the bolt. Screw these on tightly to the tree branch.
  7. You will want to check this attachment occasionally and make sure there is no cracking. A healthy tree will in time grow over the bolts.
  8. Attach a carabiner to the eye of the bolt to then fix your rope to the branch. You can also use a S-hook or a quick link, but the carabiner seems to be the most common approach nowadays and they are very secure.
  9. Fix your lines to the carabiner with either a knot tied directly to it or slipping a loop into the carabiner.

Tying a Rope Swing to a Tree

Tying a backyard tree swing to the tree requires the least equipment. Hence, all you really need is maybe a ladder.  When tying a bowline knot to the tree branch in the right spot you can hang a tree swing in minutes if you know how to properly tie the knot and measure the height.

Steps for Typing a Tree Swing

  1. Use a quality polyester rope for a tree swing, they are strong, have minimal stretch, and readily available online and in box stores.
  2. Identify the right branch and find a spot 3 – 5 feet away from the tree trunk that will work for the swing.
  3. Use one line for a single rope swing or two separate lines for a double rope tree swing.
  4. Secure the rope on the tree branch using a double bowline knot. Tie the bowline knot and send the knot over the tree branch.
  5. Pull the end through the hole in the bowline knot and pull the rope all the way through it to secure it on the branch.
  6. For a two-line rope swing measure the appropriate distance for the ropes to be apart and repeat the steps to secure the second line.
  7. Attach the ropes at the bottom to the swing with an overhand knot and start enjoying your backyard tree swing.

How to Tie Tree Swing Knots

Learn how to tie the double bowline knot and an overhand knot.  The bowline knot is used to secure a rope for a tree swing to the tree branch.  An overhand knot is used to connect the rope to the swing.

Using Hangers to Attach Swing to a Tree

Many tree swing kits are now including heavy-duty material tree swing hangers.  Tree hangers provide a very secure connection like a bolt without all the extra equipment and potential tree damage.  Most tree hangers are made of heavy-duty polyester with loops for easy installation.  The loops go around the branch to secure to the tree and for connecting to the rope swing via a carabiner.

Before purchasing a set of tree hangers for your backyard swing verify that the weight capacity will exceed the needs of your tree swing.

Steps for Using Tree Hangers for a Tree Swing

  1. Identify the appropriate location on the tree 3 to 5 feet from the trunk.
  2. Loop the tree hanger around and through the premade loop on the end for the branch.
  3. Pull down on the hanger to pull it snuggly around the tree branch.
  4. Connect the lower loop to the tree swing rope with a carabiner
  5. Many tree swings kits that come with heavy-duty hanger straps and pre-configured tree swing ropes will be ready to clip to the carabiner.
  6. Adjust the rope length at the bottom of the swing to set the correct height and secure the swing.
  7. Enjoy your swing all year long or unhook the carabiners from the tree hangers when needed.  Bringing the rope swing and the swing base inside for the winter can help them last longer. The heavy-duty hangers are UV resistant and made from synthetic materials.  They are designed to withstand the harsh rain cycles of wet and dry without degrading.

My Recommendation

Using a heavy-duty hanger is the simplest way to set up a tree swing.  They are very safe and secure and do not cause damage to the tree or require a perfectly tied knot on the branch to work correctly.  This is the best option for most dads looking to set up a backyard tree swing for their kids to enjoy.

Have Fun with Your Backyard Tree Swing

Knowing how to hang a backyard tree swing is a great skill to have.  Setting up a swing when out on a camping trip or on a tree at your favorite deep-water hole can provide your kids from young to old fun adventures.