bison at NW trek something to do in seattle with kids

Northwest Trek: A Fabulous Seattle Day Trip

Several months ago, we visited Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for the first time. Located in rural Pierce County, Northwest Trek is a fabulous way to meet some of the Northwest’s critters up close and in the animals’ natural habitat — yes, at the same time.

The Tram Tour takes passengers on a 50-minute circular loop through tall grass, evergreen forest and past mountain-fed lakes. The guide kept up the informational, fact-packed patter on our trip, and answered all and any questions — no question was too silly or small. She slowed so we could take photos of bison, bighorn rams and bull elk. Half the fun was watching the tramful of children get so excited at spotting well-camouflaged deer or

Reindeer harem at kid-friendly Northwest Trek in Tacoma
A reindeer harem at Northwest Trek. Really, that’s what it’s called…

The animals are obviously used to visitors; I swear a few posed for the excited toddlers and preschoolers (and photo-taking parents). The tram tour was my favorite part, but the guides make it clear that the tram is not stopping or turning back, so it’s not a good idea for babies, overtired and upset preschoolers or well, claustrophobes.

Once off the tram, we splashed in puddles along the pavement on the Walking Tour. The kids (being kids) often spotted the  creatures faster than adults did, from black bears to turkey vultures.

Walking Tour at NW Trek
Walking Tour at NW Trek

The Cheney Family Discovery Center resembled one of the better National Park visitor centers. Here, kids could touch pelts, compare their armspan to an eagle’s or play with puppets.

Cheney Family Center NW Trek
Measuring up at NW Trek’s Cheney Family Center

I’d like to go back and try the ziplines, which welcome kids from ages 6 and up; we’ll need to make a reservation to try those.

I didn’t love the cafeteria food in the cafeteria, however, and I didn’t love the nonexistent breakfast options. I would bring a lunch, next time, or drive to Tacoma, about 45 minutes away.

It’s not cheap ($18.25 for adults), you’ll often find Northwest Trek deals and coupons, if you keep an eye out. For example, the Chinook Book offers one free youth admission with one paid adult admission.

The story behind Northwest Trek (part of Metro Parks Tacoma) is fascinating and beautiful; read more about Connie Hellyer, the woman who donated the land.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.