Trails

Four miles of trails offer access to a diversity of habitats within Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and offers views of native plants and wildlife, from amphibians to mammals. The trails are relatively flat and accessible consisting of wooden boardwalks and gravel paths. Interpretive panels give a glimpse of the biological and ecological wildlife and habitats that can be seen, or heard, along the route. The average time spent on the trails is approximately two hours but is dependent on wildlife activity and individual preference. Benches are placed on all trails except the gravel Nisqually Estuary Trail. Depending on the season and weather forecast, be prepared with raingear and water. Restrooms are located adjacent to the Norm Dicks Visitor Center and portable toilets are placed at the Twin Barns, at the north end of the Twin Barns Loop.

Details about the trails at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge will soon be added to this page. Until then, general information can be viewed on the Fish and Wildlife Service's Geographic Information System (GIS) website.

Road to Twin Barns Trail

McAllister Cross Dike Trail is no longer open to the public.
Trail Length (mi)
0.67
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Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk

The entrances to the Twin Barns Loop Trail are on each side of the Norm Dicks Visitor Center and accessible from each parking area. This boardwalk winds through woodlands and freshwater marshes and passes by the iconic Twin Barns before making its way back to the Visitor Center. There are four short spurs (trails) off the main loop: Riparian Forest Overlook, Nisqually River Overlook, Twin Barns Observation Platform, and the longer Nisqually Estuary Trail that leads to the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk. Riparian Forest OverlookThis 0.1 mile trail branches off the east side of the Twin Barns Loop and enters through the riparian riparian Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas. Learn more about riparian forest and surge plain, where tidal fluctuations cause the Nisqually River to spill into the wooded habitat. During salmon migration, you may see salmon in the slough under the bridge and benches at the end allows visitors to rest and reflect.Nisqually River OverlookLess than half mile around the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail, the boardwalk extends 150 yards to the Nisqually River Overlook. A mounted scope is available for wildlife viewing. Interpretive panels provide information about the salmon species and cultural history of the area. A bench is provided at this site.The Twin Barns Observation PlatformThe Twin Barns, built in 1932, are about half a mile from the beginning of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. A boardwalk spur on the north (estuary) side of the Twin Barns leads to an observation platform.  This elevated platform provides excellent views of the freshwater wetlands and the tidal estuary. Mounted spotting scopes can assist with viewing wildlife.
Trail Length (mi)
1.05
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
1 Hour
Route Type
Loop
Suitability
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail

Nisqually River Overlook Trail

The Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk, constructed in 2011 after removal of the 5-mile Brown Farm Dike in 2009, is elevated above the intertidal flats and provides an unique experience to walk over the estuary during different tide cycles. At the beginning of the boardwalk, there is a viewing platform with elevated views into the freshwater wetlands and the salt marsh, and a mounted scope for viewing further into the estuary. Further along the boardwalk is the Medicine Creek Viewing Platform and the boardwalk terminates at the Puget Sound Viewing Platform. The placement of this last platform is on the footprint of the previously removed Brown Farm Dike and gives perspective on how much of the historic estuary had been cut off from tidal influence for a century. Wildlife in the estuary is reliant on tidal fluctuations giving visitors different observations each time they visit.  On a clear day, the views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic mountains give the impression they are closer. Please note, the last 700 feet of the boardwalk is closed seasonally from mid-October to beginning of February during waterfowl hunting season in the Nisqually River Delta.
Trail Length (mi)
0.08
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
2 Hours
Route Type
Out & back
Suitability
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail

Riparian Forest Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.08
View Trail

Twin Barns Loop Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.89
View Trail

Twin Barns Overlook Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.10
View Trail

Hoffman Hill Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.57
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Nisqually Estuary Trail

The Nisqually Estuary Trail links the Twin Barns Loop to the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk and the surface is packed gravel. This earthen levee separates the estuary from the freshwater wetlands giving wide-open wildlife viewing opportunities. There are no trees for shade so be prepared and plan accordingly on hot summer days. The nearest restroom are portables located at the Twin Barns and benches are not positioned along the trail to allow refuge vehicle access and maintaining the vegetation along the slope. 
Trail Length (mi)
0.59
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
30 Minutes
Route Type
Out & back
Suitability
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail