man running on point defiance park trail

More than two miles of soft-surfaced walking trails wander through the wetlands and forest areas. There is also a half-mile outdoor access route for wheelchairs.

Trails are open daily from 8 am to 30 minutes after sunset

  • General admission is free for the preserve
  • Since this is an urban nature preserve, we ask you to leave pets and bicycles at home while visiting
  • Smoking is prohibited

For the health of our ducks and geese, we ask you to refrain from feeding them.

Trail Map

TNC TrailMap colorThis Trail Guide is also available in the Tacoma Nature Center. Pick one up before you hit the trails to help you learn about the natural and human history of the area while you explore.

Download Map and Trail Guide (pdf)

Trail Runner Guidelines

We welcome runners year-round, but we invite you to remember that the primary purpose of the preserve is passive recreation and rules and guidelines exist to protect the resource for its intended use.

The following “Rules on the Run” are principles of trail running etiquette that foster environmentally-sound and socially-responsible trail running.

1. Stay on the trail
Well marked trails already exist; they are not made on the day you head out for a run, i.e., making your own off-trail path. There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain. Such running creates new trails, encourages others to follow in your footsteps (creating unmarked “social trails”), and increases the runner’s footprint on the environment. When multiple trails exist, run on the one that is the most worn. Stay off closed trails and obey all posted regulations.

2. Run over obstacles
Run single file in the middle of a trail, even when laden with a fresh blanket of snow or mud. Go through puddles and not around them. Running around mud, rocks, or downed tree limbs widens trails, impacts vegetation, and causes further and unnecessary erosion. Use caution when going over obstacles, but challenge yourself by staying in the middle of the trail.

3. Run only on officially designated open trails
Respect trail and road closures and avoid trespassing on private land. Make sure the trails you run on are officially designated routes, not user created routes. When in doubt, ask the land managing agency or individuals responsible for the area you are using.

4. Respect animals
Do not disturb or harass wildlife. Avoid trails that cross known wildlife havens during sensitive times such as nesting or mating.

6. Don’t startle other trail users
A quick moving trail runner, especially one who seemingly emerges from out of nowhere on an unsuspecting trail user, can be quite alarming. Give a courteous and audible announcement well in advance of your presence and intention to pass hikers on the trail stating something like, “On your left,” or “Trail” as you approach the trail users. Keep in mind your announcement doesn’t work well for those who are wearing headphones and blasting music. Show respect when passing, by slowing down or stopping if necessary to prevent accidental contact. Be ready to yield to all other trail users (bikers, hikers, horses) even if you have the posted right of way. Uphill runners yield to downhill runners in most situations.

7. Be friendly
The next step after not startling someone is letting them know that they have a friend on the trail. Friendly communication is the key when trail users are yielding to one another. A “Thank you” is fitting when others on the trail yield to you. A courteous, “Hello, how are you?” shows kindness which is particularly welcome.

8. Don’t litter
Pack out at least as much as you pack in. Gel wrappers with their little torn-off tops, and old water bottles don’t have a place on the trail. Consider wearing apparel with pockets that zip or a hydration pack that has a place to secure litter you find on the trail.

9. Run in small groups
Split larger groups into smaller groups. Larger groups can be very intimidating to hikers and have a greater environmental impact on trails. Most trail systems, parks, and wilderness areas have limits on group size. Familiarize yourself with the controlling policy and honor it.

The Tacoma Nature Center requests that runners use the trails in small groups of 5 or less with no more than 20 runners using the trail at one time.

10. Safety
Know the area you plan to run in and let at least one other person know where you are planning to run and when you expect to return. Run with a buddy if possible. Take a map with you in unfamiliar areas. Be prepared for the weather and conditions prevailing when you start your run and plan for the worst, given the likely duration of your run. Carry plenty of water, electrolyte replacement drink, or snacks for longer runs. Rescue efforts can be treacherous in remote areas. ATRA does not advise the use of headphones or iPods. The wearer typically hears nothing around them to include approaching wildlife, and other humans. The most important safety aspect is to know and respect your limits. Report unusually dangerous, unsafe, or damaging conditions and activities to the proper authorities.

11. Leave what you find
Leave natural or historic objects as you find them, this includes wildflowers and native grasses. Removing or collecting trail markers is serious vandalism that puts others at risk.

12. Giving back
Volunteer, support, & encourage others to participate in trail maintenance days.

Agents of Discovery Mobile App

agents of discovery

Perfect for families looking to spend time outdoors, the Tacoma Nature Center has utilized the Agents of Discovery platform to create a free, educational app to get youth active, engaged and learning about the world around them.

The game is free to download and once downloaded does not require any data or WiFi to play. Loaner smart phones are available during the Nature Center’s open hours Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visitors receive a collectable prize once they complete their Agents of Discovery Mission. There will be a new prize every quarter as the Nature Center updates their Mission.

Download Agents of Discovery at Google Play or the App Store.

Accessibility Info

  • Parking: There is designated ADA parking on site. Passenger drop off is allowed at the base of the entry ramp.
  • Entrance: Main Entrance is the accessible entrance. There is a ramp with handrails to the main entry; slope is 5-8%. External doors are not automated and may require some assistance.
  • Route: There is a 36″ + wide accessible route through the internal exhibits and displays. There is an elevator to the lower level classrooms. Route to all classrooms, auditorium and entry ways are maintained for safety and access.
  • Assistance: Most information, exhibit signage and customer materials are within the 15-48″ reach range. Staff is available to provide assistance with out of reach items, particularly in the gift shop.
  • Restrooms: On-site restrooms on the main (upper) level are accessible.
  • Viewing: The exhibit hall provides good viewing of displays and views of the natural reserve behind the center. Most internal exhibits are on display for touch and sound interaction.
  • Outdoor Sensory Experience: Persons with plant allergies or sensitivity should consider the season when planning a visit. Outdoor trails have native plant species which may be irritating if they come in contact with the skin.
  • Trails: There are trails of varying surface, slope and difficulty on the site. Routes that are accessible for wheelchair users are listed on the trail map.
  • Renters: Persons who rent the auditorium receive an overview of the facility’s accessibility limitations upon request.