Nestled against the southern flank of Puget Sound, the Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offers abundant outdoor options for all ages. Seasonal offerings include birding, boating, fishing, and hiking on easy trails beneath splendid green canopies of mixed conifer forests.
The largest estuary restoration project in the Pacific Northwest, the Refuge includes scenic, fam-friendly trails of various lengths. Four miles of trails include the Twin Barns Loop Trail and the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail.
A great choice for families with small children, the one mile Twin Barns Loop Trail is an easy, level stroll that’s part graveled trail and part wooden boardwalk. Hemmed by towering red leaf alders and big leaf maples, the broad trail skirts several ponds and options for going further. Brief side trips to the Riparian Forest and Nisqually River Overlooks are worth the time. In season, watch scores of fleet-winged barn and other swallows flitting in and around the barns from the Twin Barns observation deck.
The Nisqually Boardwalk Trail is four miles round trip from the visitor center. You can pick it up from the Twin Barns trail. Heading toward the observations towers, the trail is treeless, shadeless, and under direct sun. Wear a hat. Use sunscreen. Bring plenty of water.
Head west across a raised dike across a marsh toward an excellent observation tower. Continue past the Shannon Slough Blind for a good look at seasonal water fowl. Chug on out to the Medicine Creek Viewing Platform and the Puget Sound Viewing Platform for stunning views of the Sound and the Leschi Slough.
Over 300 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians live at the Refuge. Watch bald eagles, osprey, or hawks split the sky in search of prey. Listen to warbling wrens and varied thrush crochet an afternoon with bird song. See ducks and geese paddle ponds and marshes.
The Refuge is located eight miles east of Olympia off the I-5. The entrance is well-marked. Pets, biking and jogging are prohibited on trails. There’s a daily entrance for of $3.00. Children 16 and under enter free. Open daily from sunrise to sunset.