Looking to escape your house and go on a super fun, kid-friendly adventure in Washington State? Scroll for my full Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Wild Drive review and find out how you can book your experience today!
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I admit, my family has been going pretty stir-crazy during quarantine. My husband is high-risk, so we’ve been extra cautious about only leaving the house for essential activities.
We’re used to spending almost every weekend out and about doing PNW adventures. And we usually travel somewhere every month or two. So, as we’re nearing day 100 of quarantine, we’ve been desperately trying to find out ways to safely get out of the house.
So, when I heard about Northwest Trek offering a brand new experience where families can explore the Northwest Wildlife Park in the safety of their own vehicle, I knew we had to check it out!
Northwest Trek graciously offered us complimentary tickets to experience it, but all opinions are my own.
Where is Northwest Trek Wildlife Park?
Northwest Trek is located in Eatonville, WA about an hour from Seattle. It’s right on the way to Mount Rainier and makes a really fun stop.
What is the Northwest Wildlife Park Wild Drive?
If you’ve been to Northwest Trek before, you’ve probably done their tram ride that takes you through the property. It’s super cool and an easy way to see the animals roaming freely.
The Northwest Trek Wild Drive is a ticketed event and you must purchase a reserved time slot online before you go.
The Wild Drive uses the exact same path that the tram takes, but you’re driving your own vehicle. And you’ll caravan with about 11 other cars (two of which are Northwest Trek vehicles.) They have one at the front to lead the tour and one at the back to pick up anything that gets dropped out of vehicles.
The Wild Drive takes about an hour and you’ll either tune into an FM station or use an app to listen to the live audio tour. A Northwest Trek expert will point out the animals along the drive and tell you a bit about the history of Northwest Trek.
Each tour is different as you just never know which animals will make an appearance and where they will be.
Our Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Wild Drive Review
We had tickets for 10am on a Sunday. We left our home in Renton at about 8:45am, to ensure that we’d be at Northwest Trek by 9:45am to check in.
Check in was super smooth and fast. The Northwest Trek employee was wearing a mask and kept a nice distance from our car as she explained what would be happening. Then, we were free to get out of the car to run to the restroom before heading off.
Right at 10am, we tuned into the FM station and they let us know that we’d be slowly driving together for about an hour. We could unbuckle seat belts and move around our cars, but we had to keep all hands and heads inside our vehicles. And we weren’t allowed to feed the animals.
The biggest tip was to roll down all our windows so that we could get a better experience. That way, we could hear the leaves rustle and the animals chewing their food. It was a bit chilly, so I wished we would have worn more layers.
Then, we headed off! We drove the back way around Northwest Trek to get to the spot where the trams normally pick up guests.
We heard a bit about the family that originally owned the farm and saw where their home was.
What Animals Did We See at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park?
In my confirmation email from Northwest Trek, they sent us some information and photos of some animals we might see during the Wild Drive. We printed those off and I had my kindergartner read it to us on the drive to Northwest Trek.
We ended up seeing every single one of the animals!
These are the largest animals at Northwest Trek and we saw TONS of them! Some of them were even hanging out right by the road so the kids got a really close view of them.They were staring to shed their winter coat a bit, so they were kind of patchy!
We only saw one of them kind of close. The rest were pretty far away.
We saw a herd of them near the beginning of the drive kind of hidden in the woods.
North American Moose
The North American Moose that we saw had already shed their antlers.
We almost thought they were horses at first look!
This was one of the last animals we saw on the way out of the Wild Drive. They were hanging out near some trees close to the road.
Columbian Black-Tailed Deer
We saw a ton of these throughout the drive. A bunch were close to the road and a bunch more were hanging out in the fields.
These can be tricky to find, but we did see a bunch of them high up on the hillside.I had to zoom in a bunch on my phone to get this photo.
Watch Our Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Wild Drive Experience
Top Northwest Trek Wild Drive Tips
You can have up to 8 people in your vehicle. Everyone must be enclosed your vehicle, which means no motorcycles, open top Jeeps or convertibles, and no riding in the beds of pickup trucks. If your vehicle has a soft door (or your doors are removed) you won’t be allowed to enter the park.
Also, you have to stay inside your vehicle the entire time, so no leaning out of windows or standing up through sunroofs. The animals at Northwest Trek are free-roaming and might get close to your vehicle. So, it’s important for your safety that you stay inside.
Plus, you cannot tow a trailer (like for a boat, camper or to haul livestock.) And all tailgates, car doors, and hatchbacks need to stay closed at all times.
Leave Your Pets at Home
You are not allowed to have a pet inside your vehicle.
Get to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Extra Early
So, on our confirmation email, they suggested getting there 15-20 minutes early. We got there 15 minutes early and we were #7 out of #10 in the lineup of cars.
That was fine, but it meant that we were further away from the guide car. So, the tour was a couple minutes ahead of what we were looking at.
If you want the best experience, try getting there maybe 25 minutes early to ensure you are closest to the guide car.
Don’t Feed/Touch the Animals
These are wild animals in a free-roaming environment. You aren’t allowed to feed the animals or touch them. It’s for your own safety. They have horns and antlers and can injure you or damage your vehicle.
While a lot of the animals are easy to see with the naked eye, kids might get a kick out of using binoculars to see some of the more hidden animals.
When we went, some of the elk and mountain goats were tricky for our boys to see. Binoculars might have helped.
Left Side is the Best Side
From our experience doing the usual Northwest Trek tram ride as well as the Wild Drive, it seems like the left side always has more animals. I think it’s just how the path is set up.
So, keep that in mind if you are planning on taking video or photos.
You’re going to want to roll your windows down and that means your car is going to get a little windy and chilly. Yes, even during the summer. We’re in the Pacific Northwest and the heat of the day is usually around 5pm.
So, if you are doing a morning drive, go ahead and make sure to have sweatshirts for everyone in your car.
Don’t Honk Your Horn
Whatever you do, don’t honk your horn. This could startle the animals and it might cause them to stampede or damage your car.
Stay on the Paved Road
You’ll be in a caravan and they will encourage you to stay semi-close to the car in front of you (with a safe distance to avoid an accident.)
Make sure you are following the lead car and staying on the designated path. The speed limit is 5MPH and you should have no problem following.
The paved road does have a few uneven edges, so it’s helpful to drive right down the center of the road for the smoothest ride.
How You Can Get Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Wild Drive Tickets
How Much Does it Cost?
Tickets are $80 per vehicle (up to 8 people per vehicle.) If you are a Northwest Trek member, you can get a discounted rate of $70 per vehicle.
What are the Dates?
Right now, the Northwest Trek Wild Drive experience runs through July. However, we think it might also run through August.
Do You Need a Reserved Ticket?
Yes. Because the Wild Drive is so popular, it tends to sell out. Make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time to reserved your date and time.
Can You Walk Around Northwest Trek?
Yes! Starting June 18th, you can also buy tickets to walk around Northwest Trek.