Family Hiking – Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Kirk and I took the boys to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. It was odd I realized, I grew up in the Olympia area and had never been there. And more so, it sits just off I-5, in that dip before you head up to Lacey. Lowland hikes are not so easy to come by that we haven’t done 10 times over and the snow isn’t exactly budging this year. Not knowing anything about the area we figured it would be a short stroll (the website isn’t exactly clear). We didn’t know it was stroller friendly so we took the Dueter carrier which gave me twice the workout.

The Refuge has a lovely visitor center with clean bathrooms (note to self this is a great stop on long road trips to stretch legs/use bathroom). It has an entry fee but if you have the Inter-agency Pass (America The Beautiful) it covers up to 4 people to get in – since we go so often to National Parks/National Forest we get the pass yearly. We did get there early so parking wasn’t an issue, they have a lot but it is popular.

There were wild roses all over and they smelled so good:

Behind the visitor center is a lake/marsh that we checked out and then started the trail to the left of the center. It offers two choices we found out (though not on the map that is handed out for free). You can walk a service road (great for strollers) or take the boardwalk trail, which is the Twin Barns Loop. It has many options for getting off and accessing the road as well. The trail is shaded and cool:

Looking back at the visitor center from a view-point along the trail:

At many of the viewpoints there are spotting scopes installed, most are ADA friendly. This is a great area for those who would love a very pretty outing that many wheelchairs can roll along.

When the boardwalk comes to the Twin Barns there are two options for getting up onto the dike, if one wants, or they can continue the loop. We left the loop and went up to the dike. The dike is hard packed surface and goes out to now what is the open tideflats (until recently it was diked and is being restored).

Just below the dike:

Walker hanging out in his backpack:

Walker and I up on the dike:

The Twin Barns from the dike trail:

Looking back across towards the barns as we walked on the dike:

At the end of the dike there is the new boardwalk trail, it goes across the mudflats/tideflats all the way to past the trees in the distance. We ran the GPS and it was 1+ miles each way – it is a lovely walk to the end, where there is a gazebo of sorts with a view of the Puget Sound in front of one:

High tide wasn’t till that evening, will have to come back to see it!

Walker and I took a peek at the Nisqually River on the way back – this is the near terminus for the river, which starts high on Mt. Rainier:

In the end we actually got more miles in than we had thought we’d find there – over 4½ miles – a nice treat to our strolling. If one does all the trails they can get a nice dayhike in – with a lot of birds to be seen. The Herons were a treat and more so was seeing a river otter.




  1. Gorgeous! I’d love to be out hiking today instead of sitting in the office!

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