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Visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Animals of the Pacific Northwest in natural settings

Two gray wolves at Northwest Trek. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Northwest Trek makes a great day trip from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Located near Eatonville, the park is nestled in a natural setting with a tree-lined drive that makes you feel like you are out in the woods exploring.

The park is easy to navigate, and the large paved trails wind and twist, allowing you to feel as if you are alone. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the park opens (30 minutes if on a weekend). Opt to tour the park first, as most visitors will choose to take the first tram.  

At this time of year, there are not as many visitors, so you will have more opportunities to see the animals. Quiet is the key. The animals are in a natural setting and blend into the foliage easily, making them difficult to see, and they can be skittish. On my visit, I actually saw the red fox for a brief moment.  As I lifted my camera to take a photo, he was gone. Other animals include Canada lynx, bobcats, wolves, a cougar and other animals. There is also a wetlands section with upper viewing areas, where you look down on the animals. The lower viewing areas are at eye level or looking into a den.

The tram ride is a narrated tour that rolls through wooded areas and meadows.  The animals are free-roaming, so the tour is different every time you go. With 435 acres of free-roaming area, there is a lot to see. Look for American bison, Roosevelt elk, moose, bighorn sheep, deer and more. The trip takes about 50 minutes and the driver stops, so you can get plenty of photos.  Northwest Trek also offers some premium experiences including Photo Tours and Keeper Tours. In the fall, usually in September, there are Elk Bugling Tours, which are very popular.

If you have children, plan to stay awhile at Kids' Trek. This unique playground is for toddlers through tweens and is included in the admission price. Sure to be a hit is the construction zone, which allows older children to build forts and other structures. There is a toddler zone with a sand play area. The half-acre playground includes an old-growth tree replica with nets for climbing, three slides, and a meandering stream.

Conveniently located right next to the playground is the Forest Café. Enjoy burgers, sandwiches, salads and kid's meals. Portions are huge. There is also a nice gas fireplace, which gives it a cozy atmosphere.  There are tables right outside that overlook the playground, making it is a pleasant spot to sit when the kids are playing. Northwest Trek also has a sheltered picnic pavilion for groups as well as other picnic tables in the meadow for when the weather is nice.

Insider Tip: If you are visiting the park from JBLM, utilize the East Gate on JBLM and head toward Roy to cut some time off your trip.

Northwest Trek, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 11610 Trek Drive E., Eatonville, 360.832.6117,

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