For a fun, unique and intimate outdoor wildlife experience with the kids, check out Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. Located six miles outside of Eatonville, WA, Northwest Trek is about 136 miles north of Portland. Open year round, the park’s 725 acres are now home to over 200 animals, all native to the Pacific Northwest. All this land once belonged to David and Connie Hellyer, who donated it 40 years ago to create a free-roaming preserve and education center.
Once inside the park, stop at the main entrance and purchase admission, which includes tokens for a scheduled tram tour. While waiting for our tour my husband Erik, our young son Finn and I walked along paved paths, stopping to see cougars, wolves, bears and other native animals. All are in their own enclosed natural habitats, a safe distance from visitors. Finn really enjoyed the antics of the raccoons, laughing as they jumped and climbed the dozens of conifers and deciduous trees in their enclosed space.
Depending on the schedule of your tram tour, you may have time to pop into the café located near the main entrance. In a large, airy space with carved wood tables and benches, folks can order burgers, sandwiches, kid’s meals and beverages. After lunch we joined a group gathered around one of the park’s keepers to learn about the great horned owl majestically on her leather-encased arm.
Then it was time to walk to the tram station, tokens in hand, for our naturalist-guided tour aboard a roomy bus. You’ll tour inside the park’s free-roaming area on some five miles of paved lanes. These 435 acres are home to a variety of native wildlife. Soon we passed right by herds of bison and elk, mountain goats and even a moose. Just before we returned to the station the guide pointed out a cluster of small houses by Horseshoe Lake, where the Hellyers once lived.
It was late afternoon by the time we bundled into the car and headed home, our cameras filled with colorful images of this memorable day.