Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids

One place that we’ve really enjoyed visiting in the area is the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on the outskirts of Olympia.

It’s a small national park that was established in 1964 that connects the salty Puget Sound with the freshwater from Nisqually River. There are 4 miles of trails that are along a boardwalk that are great for kids (and/or strollers). Some of the trail is well covered by trees and farther along is another one in wide open space with incredible views of Mount Rainier (assuming the weather is nice that day 😉 ) and the estuary.

We’ve gone a couple of times in the summer and then a third time in the fall. For our first visit, we did the one mile loop that starts and ends at the Visitor’s Center. The center was also super useful as we were able to borrow binoculars for our walk along with purchasing our National Parks pass. The walk was well covered by trees and we saw a deer along with several birds. Halfway through the hike are a couple of old barns (from back when most of the park was a farm) which made for a great place to rest and let the girls play a bit.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
We played a lot of Simon Says and Red Light Green Light on this walk…
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
We visited during low tide, but when the tide comes in, this is all covered with water.
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
I spy Mount Rainier!

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
Can you find my husband and our oldest?

Our second time to the park was also in the summer and we did the longer trail (4 miles) to the estuary. This was another great walk that was more open, but the day we went was super hot and sunny and we weren’t prepared to be in the heat for as long as we were. So it was still nice, but we were ready to be done by the end (and I was super worried about the girls getting sunburned). Both of them did an awesome job walking for so long (London walked the entire time while Adeline walked most of it) and on a slightly less hot day, it would have been perfect (I also wish we would have packed a picnic lunch for once we reached the end of the boardwalk).

Our most recent visit was in October and while it was much cooler, it was far less crowded and the leaves were gorgeous to see all changing colors! We went just for an afternoon and checked out the Nature Play Area over by the Education Center first where there was some simple outdoor play things (xylophone, wooden blocks to walk on, etc.). Afterwards, the girls and I walked to the first lookout on the 1 mile loop while admiring all of the pretty fall colors. The only animals we saw were squirrels, but it was still super nice to be outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
We loved all the pretty colors!
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
Such a perfect fall afternoon.
Nisqually Wildlife Refuge with Kids
They loved picking up all the giant leaves on our walk

Overall, we’ve really enjoyed all of our visits (it’s also a great place for family photos).  I’d love to see all the changes the park goes through during each season and I’m sure we’ll visit again soon!


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