How to Make the Most of Your Next Trip to the Tacoma Nature Center

tacoma nature center

The Tacoma Nature Center is one of the most wonderful things to explore in Tacoma.

It’s a fun way to spend a day out in nature and learn about the local area. From hiking trails to family activities, there’s so much to discover.

If you’re planning a trip, you’re going to want to know how to enjoy your time there.

Here’s your guide to making the most of your trip to the Tacoma Nature Center.

What Is the Tacoma Nature Center?

Maybe you’re not familiar with the center and what it has to offer.

The Tacoma Nature Center is a 71-acre preserve surrounding Snake Lake. Its nature trails are a great way to experience the local wetlands and wildlife.

General admission is free for the nature preserve, all trails, and basic activities. The visitor center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. The trails themselves are open from 8 am until sunset year round.

While it’s free to visit, donations to the preserve are accepted.

Another one of the best things to do in Tacoma, nature-lovers will find plenty to do at the center. The Tacoma Nature Center can also be rented for events such as birthday parties and weddings.


The Tacoma Nature Center has a long and fascinating history. It stretches back to the early years of American civilization.

Before the center came to be, Native Americans used the resources of the land and water. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Snake Lake became a popular destination in Tacoma. It wasn’t until 1979 that the area was officially dedicated as a park.

Soon after, the preserve started to establish various programs and activity centers. Today, the park continues to change and evolve.


A myriad of beautiful hiking trails is one of the biggest draws for visitors at the preserve. Hikers can choose between three self-guided walks. These include the Forest Walk, History Walk, and Wetland Walk.

The Forest Walk will take you through trees brimming with Douglas firs. This forest is home to wildlife, shrubs, and a highway view. Visitors will also enjoy gorgeous hillside paths.

Tacoma Nature Center’s History Walk is heaven for history-buffs. The tour ventures past a rock wall, bridge, and railroad line that all have a place in the preserve’s rich history. Hikers will learn about the habitat’s conservation and the tribes that used the land hundreds of years ago.

Wetland Walk is a guided tour through the wetlands of the area. Duck, reptiles, and majestic trees find a home in these waters.

Visitors who opt for this walk will have an experience that’s vibrant and alive with the sounds of nature.

The center offers a guide and map of the trails to all hikers who want to stay the course. The guide gives you a checklist of the various wildlife species and shrubbery you may spot on your walk.

There’s also an “interpretive center” where families can enjoy exhibits on wildlife and the wetlands.

Discovery Pond

The Discovery Pond is the perfect place for families with young children to visit.

It’s an environmental playground built with nature itself. Kids can enjoy a tree house, waterfalls, and a log crossing. The playground has tons of rocks, logs, gardens, and other things for children to play on.

This area can be reserved for parties. But on regular days, the playground opens at 9:30 am.

Plant Nursery

You can also find a native plant nursery on the preserve. Gardeners who want to help conservation efforts will find the perfect plant here. These plants make the best habitats for local animals and insects.

The nursery has plant sales twice a year. There’s one in the spring and fall for guests who want to make a special purchase.


The Tacoma Nature Center is filled with exciting local wildlife. Visitors can see over 20 species of mammals and almost 100 species of birds on the preserve.

Some mammals that are common to see include the red fox and the black-tailed deer. Painted tree frogs and painted turtles find refuge in Snake Lake. Wood ducks, black-capped chickadees, and woodpeckers circle the forests and the wetlands.

The park discourages guests from feeding the animals. You can, however, take photos on your trip.


After you’ve made the most of your trip, you might want to know what classes, events, and programs are available.

Tacoma Nature Center isn’t just great for hiking and exploration. The center hosts art shows and Earth Day events.

There are classes for adults and children to learn more about science. The preserve hosts field trips for kids that allow them to interact with nature. Lastly, summer camp programs for young children and adolescents are also available.

There’s no end to the fun and educational opportunities you can take advantage of at the park.

Plan Your Trip

There are a couple of small things to remember before making your way to the nature preserve.

The center has limited parking so if you’re going with a group, it’s a good idea to drive together. Visitors should keep in mind that pets and bicycles are not allowed on the trails. The park also asks hikers to refrain from smoking on the trails.

Now it’s time to begin planning your trip. Whether you have a family or want to go on a solo hike, there’s something for you at the Tacoma Nature Center.

For more information and tips, contact us today.

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