It’s time to dust off the driving gloves and say sayonara to the city because a just-opened drive-through adventure is calling. It’s a close encounter of the animal kind, where you and the kids, tucked safely in your car, get up close and personal with bison, moose and caribou who are roaming free. Start your engines!

Buckle Up

courtesy Northwest Trek

Northwest Trek’s Wild Drive is probably the most fun your fam will have in the car this year. The new program gives families a chance to be part of a car caravan that travels through the park’s 435-acre Free-Roaming Area. Each guided tour is led by an experienced naturalist, who shares entertaining tidbits and facts via an app you download to your phone. That’s right, you’ll have all the educational entertainment your kids need piped right to your car. Plan to spend about an hour on this all-car-all-the-time tour you won’t soon forget.

Shift into Gear

courtesy Northwest Trek

As you make your way through the grassy meadows and forested hillsides, the kids should be on the lookout for the eight Pacific Northwest native animals that call the park home. We’re talking Roosevelt elk, mountain goats, caribou, big horn sheep and elusive moose that take a keen eye to spot. Don’t forget the bison, who always seem to steal the show. They love to sit close to the road and pose for pictures. Who knows, with the springtime baby boom, you might even spy a bison calf close to mom along the way. The cars will move slowly through the grounds so you’ll have plenty of time to see the animals that are out and about. Clearly the hardest part of this trip is deciding which parent has to drive and keep their eyes on the road.

Safety First

Sean O-Neill via flickr creative commons

Be reassured this adventure puts health and safety first, as every aspect can be no-contact, if you choose. Tickets are purchased in advance online, and are shown to an attendant through your car window. Staff will wear masks (you can too!), and stay socially distanced from cars. And other than a possible pit stop, there’s no need to get out of the car or come in contact with anyone other than your car mates.

What to Bring

courtesy Northwest Trek

Unlike a typical visit to Northwest Trek, this adventure is all about car time, and that means being prepared. Put food and drink at the top of your list, as eating while you make your way through the park is totally fine (just don’t feed the animals). Hand sanitizer, masks and any other safety items you would normally pack during this time come next. Finally, plan some silly road trip games and activities to keep the kids busy on the way down and back.

Pit Stop

courtesy Northwest Trek

If your crew needs a break from car time, consider packing a picnic or getting out for an easy hike. For a picnic, try Spanaway Park, just off of Highway 7, outside Tacoma. It sits along a lake, so you can eat with a view, and there’s plenty of room to stretch your legs. Remember restrooms and playground equipment are closed here. Families can also check out Nisqually State Park, a little beyond Northwest Trek. It’s a smaller, little-known state park, so socially distancing along the riverside trails should be a cinch. Remember to pack your Discover Pass for this one.

Good to know:
1. Cell reception can be spotty at the park, so download mobile tickets and the audio app you need for the tour to your device before you head out.

2. Plan to arrive 15-20 minutes before your tour starts. There’s no joining the group once they’ve departed.

3. Families will have limited access to restrooms at the park before and after the tour.

4. Car capacity maxes out at eight people for this experience.

5. Some time slots are already sold out, so if you want in, get your tickets soon.

11610 Trek Dr. E.
Eatonville, WA

Days: daily, starting May 27, 2020
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: $70/vehicle, members; $80/vehicle, non-members

—Allison Sutcliffe


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