Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually, Washington 98501

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"As one of western Washington’s most accessible wildlife refuges, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is as close to a sure bet for good birding as you can get. The varied habitats along the Nisqually River and the tideflats host more than 200 bird species and, depending on the season, the refuge offers everything from waterfowl to glimpses of some of the west side’s hard-to-find shorebirds. Habitats: Mixed forest, riparian, mudflat, salt marsh, wetland.

Specialty birds: Common Loon; Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorants; Greater White-fronted Goose; Brant; Greater Scaup; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Bald Eagle; Peregrine Falcon; Sandhill Crane; Black-bellied Plover; Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers; Short-billed Dowitcher; Rednecked Phalarope; Bonaparte’s, Mew, Thayer’s, and Western Gulls; Common Murre; Pigeon Guillemot; Band-tailed Pigeon; Short-eared Owl; Vaux’s Swift; Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds; Pileated Woodpecker; Redbreasted Sapsucker; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Hutton’s and Cassin’s Vireos; Purple Martin."

More Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"Rescued from the developers in the 1960s and 70s, this former dairy farm occupies the scenic Nisqually River Delta, a critical habitat for hundreds of wildlife species. More than 700 acres of the refuge are undergoing restoration work to return the estuaries to tidal influence. Miles of trails through extensive wetlands and Puget Sound tidelands draw hikers, birders, photographers, and painters—all there to witness nature in action." Read more
Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades (The Mountaineers Books)
Joan Burton
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"The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a treasury of birds and wildlife at any time of the year, but children will especially love this hike in the spring, when ducklings, goslings, and baby rabbits are everywhere. The amazing colony of blue herons across McAllister Creek is on nests from mid-April through mid-June. Even seen from half-mile away, the chance to watch the big birds swooping through the air to bring fish back to the nests for their babies is a special treat." Read more
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Seattle - Including Bellevue, Everett, and Tacoma (Menasha Ridge Press)
Andrew Weber and Bryce Stevens
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"Far from its glacial source on the southern side of Mount Rainier, the Nisqually River empties into Puget Sound in a broad delta. Once a working farm, the site has become one of the finest birdwatching locations in the Puget Sound region, although many people come purely to enjoy the natural setting. Whether looking specifically at the birds or not, hikers will find an interesting walk that explores a wide range of habitats and wildlife. Fiery beginnings from beneath the Earth’s crust, the evidence at Pinnacle Peak is more subtle, found in interesting columns of extruded rock near the summit. And although at only 1,800 feet it hardly qualifies as a significant climb, it's visibility and prominence in the Enumclaw region give Pinnacle Peak a certain “because it’s there” satisfaction to all who have reached the top, no matter how easy the trip might be." Read more
Best Wildflower Hikes Western Washington (Falcon Guides)
Peter Stekel
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"The Nisqually River delta is a treasure. First, it’s a wetland: an area inundated or saturated by surface or ground water that supports a unique community of plants and animals specifically adapted to life in waterlogged soil. Wetlands like the Nisqually are highly productive ecosystems and incredibly exciting for observing and experiencing the amazing dynamic between what happens when freshwater meets saltwater. Next, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge has a long history of human intervention and impact, but the wetland is on the mend and the recovery can be measured and seen in years, not lifetimes. Finally, though the wildflowers at the refuge are mostly anything but showy, the plant life here encourages you to forget the big picture and look at small things close up." Read more

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Reviews

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The new Boardwalk is open! A loop walk from the parking lot to the end of the boardwalk and back is about 4 miles of nearly flat trail smooth enough for wheelchairs and strollers.

Birdwatching is awesome at the Refuge. Blue Heron, Northern Shovelers & Pintails, all sorts of song birds and shore birds - all of these can be found here.

The new boardwalk takes you out over the mudflats at low tide and into the bay when the tide is in offering gorgeous views of Mt Rainier along the way.

The older boardwalk takes you through a riparian area boardering the Nisqually River and dotted with ponds where birds nest and Owls fledge. I've seen River Otter, Nutria, and Deer as well here.

Nisqually is an easy and beautiful little hike that's great for birders, or just a family outing.
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Very crowded and the trail was so well used that it was very slick even without rain for most of the way. really only one good view. It is probably great for regular exercise but hardly worth it as a destination.
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This was the first day hike I took my 3 and 7 year old boys on to train them for backpacking. I enjoyed the hike, especially the boardwalk sections. After the boardwalk the trail is simply a gravel road. We did 2.6 miles here and it wore them down. Now I've learned that my kids hike with much more enthusiasm over narrow dirt trails with exposed roots and mud puddles such as the hike around Penrose Point. While there is much wildlife to enjoy at the refuge and its an enjoyable stroll for adults, what interests a 3 year old is what is in his immediate 4 foot radius bubble. The gravel road even the broad boardwalk had little interest for him and consequently my boys tired more easily then they do on "rough" terrain.

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible
Trail Type
Skill Level
Best Times
20 feet
Trailhead Elevation
Top Elevation

Activity Feed

Dec 2018