The Hiker Mama

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Distance: There are 2.8 miles of trails in the Refuge. The Twin Barns Loop Trail is a 1.0 mile loop on boardwalk through wetlands and forest. The Nisqually Estuary Trail is a spur trail that take hikers on a gravel dike and wooden boardwalk far out into the estuary. It is 1.5 miles from the beginning near the Nisqually River Overlook.

Elevation Gain: Trails are flat.

Season: Year-round.

Description: The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top birding areas in the region. Waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and other birds are in abundance here. You may also spot other wildlife. Trails are easy and flat (suitable for strollers, but leave the dogs at home). There are many viewing areas where you can pull off and look at a pond or the estuary. The Visitor Center has an information desk and friendly staff, as well as interpretive displays, a gift shop, and large windows that overlook the wetland. There are restrooms at the Visitor Center, and Porta-Potties out by the Twin Barns. Trails are open every day from sunrise to sunset; the Visitor Center is open Wed – Sun 9-4, and is closed on major holidays. There is a $3 fee per family to visit the Refuge; children under 16 are free (for a list of passes that will cover this fee see the info section on the Nisqually website.) Check out the Nature Explore Area with your little ones to give them time to run around and explore nature up close. Parents should be aware that hunting is allowed in some parts of the refuge from October through January. Some trails are closed then, and you may hear gunshots.

Directions: From I-5 southbound, take exit 114. Turn right at the traffic light, go under the freeway and make a right into the Refuge. Follow the entrance road to the two public parking lots. From I-5 northbound, take exit 114. Turn left at the stop sign, go under the freeway and make a right into the Refuge. Follow the entrance road to the two public parking lots.

Links: Learn all about the refuge, find info on birds you’ll find, and confirm hours at the Nisqually NWR website.


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