There are a lot of zoos in the world and, in fact, it’s one of the common attractions in almost every city around the globe. However, the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is not just your ordinary zoo. This attraction in Eatonville, Washington is a cut above the rest and it’s a place that’s perfect especially for families. Here are some of the reasons why the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is different among the many other zoos out there and why you should include it in your Washington itinerary.

For travelers, treks and other leisurely activities are some of the best ways to explore the world and all of its corners. Nothing beats having to walk around forested areas filled with serene wildlife. There are countless treks and natural parks to visit across the United States and in other parts of the world but there are a few notables ones in the northern region of America and right at the heart of Washington. Washington is often synonymous with politics and the White House but if you look closely enough, you’ll see that the state has a lot more to offer aside from historic monuments. One of its best assets is the Northwest Trek.

Locate near the town of Eatonville in Washington, the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is a 723-acre park that attracts countless visitors annually. Since being established as a treasured park in the state, it has since been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It remains to be one of the best hidden gems in Washington and people should definitely  not miss out an opportunity to tour the are.

The entire surrounding area has been around for centuries of course but the park itself was only established in 1971 by founders David and Connie Hellyer. The generous couple donated their vacation property near Eatonville to Metro Parks Tacoma to be used as a wildlife preserve. After a few years of maintenance and safekeeping, the park was officially opened in 1975.

In the following years after its opening, there were several bond issues passed to help pay for a few added amenities and features in the park. In 1982, the park added the snowy owl exhibit which showcased a safe habitat for the dashing snow owls. Then in 1985, the park added the great horned owl exhibit which further improved upon the attractions that showcased the nocturnal birds. Other attractions added include the Cat Country exhibit in 1987, the barn owl exhibit in 1988, the Cheney Discovery Center for children in 1989, the wolf exhibit in 1992, the grizzly bear and black bear exhibit in 1993, the picnic pavilion in 1995 and the coyote/red fox exhibit in 2003. Needless to say, these attractions helped the park solidify its status as one of the best natural spots to visit in Washington.

What made the park’s attraction even more enticing is that it allowed people to see animals like the grizzly bear and the wolf up close and personal. Of course, the park’s management didn’t put the comfort and safeness of the animals before the satisfaction of the park goers. Perhaps this is what makes the park a cut above other natural habitats.

In 2000, Washington voters agreed to increase to a sales tax increase for Point Defiance Zoo, Trek and other Pierce County parks and supplies. The massive tax increase was devoted to developing the park’s amenities as well as helping it procure supplies for the animals and the people working in it. With the help of the increase, the Hellyer Natural History Center was added and this special place is used by students and scientists in the community.

The latest improvements for the park comes in the form of additional acres that were added early in the 2000s. Back in 2005, management expanded the park by an additional 100 acres in the northern border of the park. Additionally, the expansion also helped protect the tram route from residential development and it also helped start extra research and conservation programs. Its most latest expansion was done in 2007 after an extra 7-acre bridge of land was acquired.

What are the operating hours in the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park?

For the safety of the park goers and the animals in the park, it isn’t open 24/7. The time allows the animals to rest and relax after a day’s long job of accommodating visitors. The good thing is that the park’s management has already planned the 2019 schedule so it is pretty easy to schedule a trip. The operating times are as follows.

  • Jan 1 – Mar. 15
    • Fri-Sun: 9:30am – 3pm
    • Mon-Thurs: Closed
    • Open Tue. Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day). Closed Jan. 2-3.
    • Open Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and Feb 28 (Presidents’ Day)
  • Mar. 16 – June 30
    • Mon-Fri: 9:30am – 4pm
    • Sat-Sun: 9:30am – 5pm
    • Open Mon. May 27 (Memorial Day)
  • July 1 – Sept. 3
    • Daily: 9:30am – 6pm
    • Open Thur. July 4 and Mon. Sept. 2 (Labor Day)
  • Sept 4 – 29
    • Mon-Fri: 9:30am – 4pm
    • Sat-Sun: 9:30am – 5pm
  • Sept. 30 – Dec. 25
    • Fri-Sun: 9:30am – 3pm
    • Mon-Thurs: Closed
    • Open Mon. Nov. 11 (Veterans’ Day)
    • Closed Thurs. Nov 28 (Thanksgiving)
    • Closed Dec 24 & 25 (Christmas Eve and Day)
  • Dec. 26-Jan. 1
    • Daily: 9:30am – 3pm
    • Open Wed. Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day).
    • Closed Jan. 2.

What are the rates in the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

With such a grandeur park and amenities, of course entrance to it isn’t free. The park’s management charges people at the entrance and the accrued funds will be devoted for the maintenance and safekeeping of the park. The good thing as the rates are cheap and people are sure to get their bang for the buck.

The general front gate admission tickets start at $11 for kids aged 3 to 4. Kids aged 5 to 12 will be charged $15. Adults will need to pay $23 and seniors aged 65 and up are charged $21. Those aged 2 below get in for free. It is advised to buy tickets online however as the prices are a little bit cheaper at $7.95 for kids aged 3 to 4, $11.95 for kids aged 5 to 12, $19.95 for adults aged 13 to 64 and $17.95 for seniors aged 65 and up. If you are a Pierce County local, you are in luck as there are discounts to be had as well and all you need to do is bring your ID.

The park also offers memberships for those that can’t help but visit the park regularly. This will allow them to enjoy discounts and several other benefits after paying a fee upfront. Some of the amazing benefits include:

  • Free admission to Northwest Trek
  • Discounted admission for friends
  • 20% discount to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
  • 10% discount in gift shop
  • Discounts on programs
  • Free admission to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
  • 10% discount in Zoo gift shop
  • 50% discount on Zoolights admission
  • Discounts and early registration for Zoo Camps

Now that you know all that there is to know about the amazing Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, you should know take a look at some of the things you can do it. You can also find out here why the park is worth visiting if you ever set foot in Washington.

Things that Make Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Unique

There are a lot of zoos in the world and, in fact, it’s one of the common attractions in almost every city around the globe. However, the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is not just your ordinary zoo. This attraction in Eatonville, Washington is a cut above the rest and it’s a place that’s perfect especially for families. Here are some of the reasons why the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is different among the many other zoos out there and why you should include it in your Washington itinerary.

1The animals roam free

Get this close with the zoo’s animals through the tram tours that they offer (Source)

In most zoos, animals are placed in cages. While this is also for the visitors’ and the animals’ safety, it’s no fun for the animals. But in Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, the animals are free to roam around. As a matter of fact, its animals have more than 430 acres of forest, meadows, and lakes for themselves to enjoy. And because of that, you can also get to see them spend their days in areas that mimic their natural habitat and even see them up close as you go on a tram tour around the park.

In case you don’t know yet, the tram tour is a unique way that the Northwest Trek wildlife Park offers to see the wildlife that they have. In this way, you can get all the more closer to the animals in the park and see the breathtaking sights that it has to offer as well. The tram tour lasts for about 50 minutes and is already included in the admission to the park. Don’t worry, though, it’s perfectly safe for everyone.

Here’s a tip: take the tram tour early in the morning. This is because the animals tend to be more active during this time of the day, especially when the weather is warm. If you take the tram tour in the afternoon, the animals are likely taking a nap.

2The animals are not the usual ones you see in most zoos

A moose that you can get to see at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Source)

Another thing that makes the Northwest Trek wildlife Park different among the usual zoos out there is its animals. Most of the time, when we hear the word “zoo,” we would often imagine lions, tigers, zebras, elephants, etc. But the wildlife in Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is different. Here, you will not be able to see tigers, lions, and other common zoo animals. Rather, they have 40 species of native Northwest animals and that includes moose, elk, bison, caribou, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. They also have cougar, bobcat, Canadian lynx, bears, and even gray wolves.

And since these are not the kind of the usual animals that we often see in zoos, you might want to read some things about area animals before your visit. In this way, your kids will understand what they will be seeing so they can enjoy their visit.

3Its flora is unique too

Red columbines, one of the local flowers that you can get to see at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Source)

And again, the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is not your typical zoo because it’s not just about fauna but it also has rich flora as well. But what makes its flora even more unique from other attractions in other cities is that the ferns and plants that you can find here are native northwest plants. As you tour the whole area, you can get to know the native plants that Northwest have such as the great gamas, the red columbine, large-leaved avens pacific starflower, etc.

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4The wildlife park has naturalists

One of the zoo’s keepers who can help you answer your questions about the animals in the area (Source)

For every zoo, of course, they have staff members to guide you along as you tour the whole area. But in Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, they don’t just have staff rather they have naturalists in almost every corner of the park who really have the knowledge of the wildlife that they have in the park. What’s even better is that they will be the ones who will show you around the area. They can give you more information about the animals, their habitat, and so much more trivia. You can also ask them queries so you can learn more. Plus, they are very friendly. The reviews can actually say it all.

northwest trek
One of the park’s naturalists showing the kids around and giving interesting information about the wildlife that the zoo has (Source)

5They have a discovery center

Some of the small creatures that you can get to see at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park’s discovery center (Source)

Another reason why the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is not just your ordinary zoo is that they have a discovery center. Here, they can get to discover a tiny new world and see reptiles such as the rubber boa and gopher snake; amphibians like the banana slug and the Western toad; and so many more tiny creatures. But there’s more to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park’s discovery center than just that. At its discovery center, you can also get to find books, puppets, and educational exhibits that will definitely make your trip more educational. You can also expect to see animal or nature-themed crafts which makes it a nice stop that kids will surely love. Just a tip, though, this area is full of stuff that will make the kids never want to leave so you might want to visit it after you go on a tram tour.

6The kids will enjoy the Kids’ Trek

Children playing and having a lot of fun at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park’s Kids’ Trek (Source)

The Northwest Trek Wildlife Park isn’t just about animals. This one-of-a-kind zoo also offers fun activities for kids with its Kids’ Trek too. Basically, it’s a playground for kids to tweens that has more adventures inspired by nature. Here, they can climb down a tree trunk, hide inside a giant stump, or walk a rope bridge and even interact with other kids. During summer days, they can have a toddler-sized stream to enjoy too. The best part of it is that it’s free for kids to enjoy.

However, note that this area is not open during winter. So if you’re planning to have your kids try this zoo’s attraction, you might want to schedule your visit and avoid the icy or snowy weather.

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7You will love the Zip Wild

A woman trying out the zip line courses (Source)

Of course, the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park also has some adventures to offer for adults and these will surely keep your blood rushing. With the zoo’s Zip Wild attraction, you can get to try out five exciting zip line challenge courses. You will also walk, crawl, clamber, or climb over the barriers between the zip line courses. Every course is different and will surely challenge you physically and mentally. It can be a bit challenging and tiring but it sure is definitely worth the try, especially if you’re looking for some fun and adrenaline-filled activity to do.

However, note that this activity does not come for free, unlike the Kids’ Trek. The Zip Wild’s tickets are not included in the admission. So if you’re planning to try this out, don’t forget to bring some extra cash. Also, this attraction is not open throughout the year. For this season, the Zip Wild is not open yet. However, you can expect that it will open its gates for the adventure seekers next spring. Don’t fret too much, though. The wildlife park still has a lot of things and activities to offer that will still make your visit memorable.

These are just some of the things that make the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park different from all the other zoos out there. There are still a lot of things to love about this place, though. Why not see it for yourself and plan your itinerary now? We’re sure that it’s going to be a fun-filled day for you and your family.

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