Northwest Trek reopens, allowing guests to drive their cars inside park

EATONVILLE, Wash. — Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is beginning to open back up, but guests will notice many differences because of COVID-19.

Soon, people will be able to tour the park in the comfort of their own cars, while also catching a glimpse of roving mountain goats, wandering elk and baby bison.

“Instead of guests boarding a tram driven by one of our staff, we're actually having guests stay in the safety and security of their own vehicle. We will drive caravan -style tours through the free-roaming area,” said Jessica Moore, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park education curator.

The concept is done at similar zoos across the country, but it's brand new for Northwest Trek.

Ten cars at a time will line up and take a 45 -minute tour of the park's 435-acre free-roaming area, which is filled with bighorn sheep, moose, deer and more.

"People are really looking for opportunities to get out of their homes, but still feel safe and find fun things to do that they can engage their family in,” said Moore.

Coronavirus closed the park. For now, the core area will stay shut too, which is where people typically see bears, cougars and wolves. Moore said they hope to reopen that section when the state's restrictions loosen.

With the Wild Drive tour, Northwest Trek will be able to bring people back to the park to see the animals and also bring in some money.

"We rely very heavily on gate admission as well as a small percentage of Pierce County sales tax and with those two things drastically cut, and, in fact, no revenue coming in at all through programs or gate, we are really hurting financially,” said Moore.

She believes the new drive-thru tour will be a success. They recently tested it out with Metroparks staff and Northwest Trek members. Now, they're ready to welcome everyone back to the park to experience the amazement at seeing wild animals up close.

The Wild Drive tour opens to the public on Wednesday.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance.