Located near Eatonville between Mt. Rainier and Olympia is the Northwest Trek wildlife park. The stunning, 725-acre park is home to more than 200 animal species native to the Pacific Northwest. In addition, since 2012, kids and adults have the opportunity to witness the diverse wildlife up close and test themselves on the Zip Wild zip line and challenge courses. We decided to try it several weeks ago with my son Apollo and two friends.
My husband Cameron and I arrived at the park with three 6-year-olds in tow. They skipped their way through the gorgeous park and excitedly pointed out the baby deer that came within a few feet of us, the eagle perched atop a tree branch — so many sights to see. The wildlife and lush forest were breathtaking. When we arrived at the course, we saw a large expanse of forest with multiple zip lines and courses spanning between the trees. The kids squealed with excitement as they chattered about all the different zip lines they might try.
Our guides helped us put on our equipment and then showed us how to loop our safety equipment across the various ropes. The kids practiced stringing their carabiners along on a rope near the ground. Once participants are hooked into the course, they can’t unhook themselves, so knowing how to string the carabiners over the ropes was an important skill.
The zip line courses at Northwest Trek range from easy to extreme, with the age minimum of 6 years and older for the Super Kid Course (which we did), 8 and older for the Discovery Course, 10 and older for the Adventure Course and 18 and older for the Sensation Course. The Super Kid Course is a relatively low-to-the-ground circuit with two sections of zip lines and nine challenges. The highest point on the course is 5.5 feet. My husband and I eyed the other courses with some envy.
I watched our group of three kids climb onto the platform that was near my height with some trepidation. Each child has a very unique temperament. There’s sweet little Madeline, who is observant and thoughtful beyond her 6 years, but also cautious with a tendency to be anxious in new situations. Madeline led the way in our little troop, followed by the less-cautious Becca and Apollo, two kids whose adventurous shenanigans have left my heart pounding and my voice hoarse from yelling out warnings on more than one occasion. With our unique mixture of personalities, from cautious to impulsive, I wondered how our group would fare on the course.
The kids merrily balanced their way across net bridges, logs and tightropes. There were plenty of handholds so even the least-balanced among us was able to manage without too much effort. We made our way slowly, as only three people were allowed per platform and cautious Madeline was leading the way. I’m glad our pace was slower, as it allowed us to take in the magnificent scenery.
There was no shortage of giggles. Then, we reached the first of the two ziplines. It was one of the more intimidating parts of our course. I watched Madeline stare anxiously as tears welled in her eyes. Then, Apollo and Becca joined her side on the platform and patiently explained to her how fun and easy it would be. Our guide arrived and tried to coax her into swinging down the line, but she stood frozen on the platform. Finally (with permission from the guide) My husband made his way to the platform and held her up while she dangled her feet. Then, he let her back on the platform. They tried again, and this time he let her go while she soared through the air. Success!
The rest of the course was a breeze. When we approached the second zipline, Madeline swung herself across the line with the confidence of Tarzan. As we all removed our gear, I watched her proudly give her friends high fives as they congratulated her on being so brave. It was incredibly sweet. I’ve since heard the kids recount the “awesome zip line” they did and I’ve witnessed the confidence it gave all of them. The kids excitedly exclaimed that they wanted to go again, but we were short on time because we had to catch the tram to tour the rest of the park.
I highly recommend the zip line course for any parent interested in helping their child build confidence and have a fun time. I was worried about taking a more cautious child along, but it ended up being a positive experience for her. The course was challenging enough to push them out of their comfort zone, but not terrifying in a traumatic sense. I can’t wait till the kids turn 8 — I’d love to try out the Discovery Course with them.
Riding the tram following the zip line course was an amazing adventure in itself that I could probably spend a few thousand words describing. We saw bison, mountain goats, deer, elk and more. They came so close to the tram we could have touched them (and we might have tried if it wasn’t against the rules). Our tour guide Troy was terrific, describing each plant and creature with tremendous detail and enthusiasm. The tram tour is included with park admission. It was the perfect way to wrap up our adventure.
If you go ...
Where: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville
Cost: Park admission prices vary by age, and hours vary by date. Be sure to check their website for details. The admission price includes access to the park, tram tour and parking. Zip line fees vary by each course. The Super Kid Course costs $19.95 per child, and $9.95 per accompanying legal guardian. Prices increase with the difficulty of each course. You can find all course prices online.
Info: Visit NWTrek.org or call 360-832-6117 to make reservations for a zipline adventure.
Zip Wild course requirements:
- Reservations are required and limited to 15 participants in 60-minute blocks.
- Minimum age is 6 years old. Proof of age, such as passport or birth certificate, may be requested for all children when checking in.
- Ages 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian for the length of the course.
- Due to restriction on number of people per platform, Northwest Trek requires one parent for a maximum of two children for each Zip Wild experience.
- Minimum height for visitors is 3 feet, 3 inches
- Maximum weight is 275 lbs.
- Fully enclosed and comfortable sporting or hiking shoes required.
- Bring water bottles and pack a meal or plan to eat the Forest Café or Trek Treats concession stand, as kids will likely work up a thirst and appetite on the course. Picnic tables are available.
- Bring a camera that fits in your pocket. The kids had nearly as much fun reviewing the photos as they did doing the challenge course. The scenery and wildlife make for amazing pictures as well.
- Make a trip to the restroom beforehand. Once you’re hooked in, you need to finish the entire course to unlatch yourself.