Bison grazing in Northwest Trek's free-roaming area as Wild Drive tour particpants pass by. Credit: Northwest Trek
It's not every day you get to drive right by a herd of bison grazing in the green grass. This unique experience will soon be available to Seattle-area families when Northwest Trek Wildlife Park reopens May 27 to begin offering its new Wild Drive driving tours experience.
As local families seek safe outings and activities to break up the monotony of quarantine, this is welcome news.
Located in Eatonville, Washington, about 60 miles south of Seattle, Northwest Trek is an animal park known for its free-roaming spaces where Northwest native animals live in their natural habitat. Resident critters include bison, mountain goats, Roosevelt elk, moose, caribou, bighorn sheep and deer. Bears, wolves, foxes, beavers, cougars, bobcats, eagles and many more species also call the park home. Northwest Trek, run by Metro Parks Tacoma, has been closed to the public since March 14.
Wild Drive tours will allow motorists to drive the roadways of Trek's free-roaming area. These winding roadways were previously only accessible through the park's signature narrated tram tour.
“Wild Drive is unlike anything we’ve ever offered at Northwest Trek,” noted Tim Reid, president of the Metro Parks Tacoma board of commissioners, in a statement.
What to know
- The first important thing for families to know about Wild Drive is that you need to book in advance for a specific date and time. Do not just show up at Northwest Trek and expect to be able to drive the tour route.
- Tour dates are open to the general public beginning Wednesday, May 27, and hourly tour departure times run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Tours last about one hour, and families should arrive 15 minutes in advance of their scheduled tour time.
- Tours cost $80 per vehicle and each vehicle requires one ticket. Trek members receive a $10 discount.
- Vehicles must hold members of only one immediate household, with a maximum of eight people. (You cannot bring your 15-passenger van or fill your pickup bed with people; read more about vehicle restrictions in the Wild Drive FAQ.)
- A park naturalist will lead a caravan of visitors in their private cars while narrating a tour over an app so families can learn all about the native species they're viewing (this sounds like it could tick the box on a homeschool science lesson, eh?).
- Drivers should plan to drive very slowly, less than 10 miles per hour, and will slow to a stop at intervals where the best views of the animals are found.
- Visitors cannot get out of their cars, touch or feed the animals, or smoke. Check out the complete list of safety and social-distancing rules on the Wild Drive FAQ.
- Find out more about the animals you can expect to see on the Wild Drive field guide page.
- Outside of the free-roaming area, the rest of Northwest Trek — including other animal exhibits, the Kids' Trek playground and zip tours — remains closed.