Beginning in late September, we embarked on a two-week road trip down the famed highway 101—just two crazy kids and one high-energy pup. We started our journey in Colorado, driving through Utah and Idaho up to Washington and made our way down to Oregon and California, then through Nevada and Utah back home to Colorado.
Because we were bringing a dog along, I knew there would be some added difficulty when it came to finding places to eat, sleep, etc., so I spent the months before feverishly researching and putting together an itinerary. This itinerary gave us options, which is a must when traveling with a dog. If you’d like a copy of that, I would be happy to share, just email: email@example.com and ask for “Pacific Road Trip Itinerary.”
Below I’ve mapped out the first leg of our trip with stops and notes about our favorite places, both planned and beautifully unexpected.
Lodging Note: There are virtually no free or BLM camping spots on the coast. Most ocean-side pull-offs and parking lots have signs forbidding overnight parking and I’ve read they actually enforce this. Basically you have three options: sleep for free in a Wal-Mart or grocery store parking lot, book hotels, or book camping in advance and pay. The camping ranged from $25-40 per night, which beats a hotel room but isn’t exactly free. I wanted to be close to the beaches so we opted to book camping ahead and even in late September, the spots were all full.
Day 1. Twin Falls, ID (10-11 hrs from Denver)
We stopped in Twin Falls, ID because I had my heart set on hiking Perrine Coulee Falls and visiting Shoshone Falls State park. The “hike” to Perrine Coulee falls was unexpected, but wonderful in its place as a well kept, albeit obvious local haunt. The waterfall comes out of seemingly nowhere, as you walk down a suburban paved road lined with homes overlooking a park and a large river gorge to your left. The map told us to keep walking, but I heard rushing water behind some trees, so we hopped a cement barrier—through the trees and down some slippery rocks was an enormous waterfall spilling over from the neighborhood above. We were the only two souls there.
Not to Miss: Both Perrine Coulee Falls and Shoshone Falls State Park. Be sure to check if the falls are flowing at Shoshone…they weren’t for us (see photo below)
Lodging: The ever-fabulous Motel 6.
Day 2. Twin Falls to Tacoma, Washington
Day two, we drove around 8 hours to the city of Tacoma near Seattle. While we didn’t spend any time there other than sleeping, I did thoroughly enjoy the drive over Snoqualmie Pass with its towering, lush green pines blanketed in thick fog. One of my only regrets on this trip was not carving out more time to explore the inland forests and mountain ranges of northern Washington—but that only means we’ll have to come back!
Not to Miss: Snoqualmie Falls
Day 3. Tacoma to Forks, WA
Finally, we were on our way to our first coastal beaches of La Push, Washington in a tiny town called Forks—yes the same town as Twilight. We booked a tent-camping spot at the Quileute Oceanside Resort, on reservation land inhabited by the Quileute Tribe. Our camping spot was situated in a small, forested grove situated 25 feet from First Beach. If you ever choose to stay here in a tent, I fully recommend our spot—tent spot 7—because it is close to the beach and hidden in a quiet corner away from the RVs. Most of the other tent spots were shoved in the middle of an RVs and trailer huddle, which were stuck extremely close together.
Doggy Note: I wasn’t sure if Kita would try to drink saltwater since she regularly drinks from lakes and streams, and she took a liking to it those first days. Luckily, she didn’t get sick…just had what I’ll refer to as saltwater butt. After that, we didn’t have another issue, but it can be dangerous for dogs, so be aware taking your dog to any body of salt water.
Day 4: Quileute Oceanside Resort
Unfortunately, most of the beaches in this area are not dog friendly because they are part of the Olympic National Park. Thankfully for the Quileute Oceanside Resort we were able to find a place to camp and a beach where Kita could run amok in the crashing waves. The Quileute Tribe has hunted, fished, and resided on those shores of the Pacific for thousands of years, and it was special to be welcomed onto their land. Before staying on any Native American land, it’s important to understand the customs and regulations–including photo and video regulations–to avoid being rude or disrespectful to customs (find them here).
On the first day, Kita and I woke before the sun, checking out the tidal pools and rock formations teeming with ocean life at low tide. We napped on the beach in the hazy afternoon light, among velvety rocks rounded by the ocean and inspecting the mounds of sea life—both dead and alive—washed up on the shore. We had nothing to do, no agenda items to cross off a list, no expectations; we were truly able to unplug and unwind.
First Beach is an amazing place, between sea stacks with pine trees climbing down the steep sides. The sound of a wind buoy lulled us to sleep, while blinking lights on the jetty gave us perspective at night. For our first stop, it was everything I could’ve imagined. We didn’t leave the Quileute Resort for two days straight…and boy was it wonderful.
Not to Miss: With dog: First Beach and Ruby Beach. Without dog: Rialto Beach, Second and Third beaches.
Note: For a $5 permit, you can have a fire directly on the sand at First Beach!
Lodging: Quileute Oceanside Resort – they offer beautiful Oceanside cabins and rooms; we stayed in the campground in tent-spot 7, right along the ocean.
Day 5: Long-Drive Day — Quileute Oceanside Resort to Tillamook County (1-night stopover)
Stops: Ruby Beach, Cannon Beach
We headed from La Push to Tillamook County on our way to Bandon, Oregon. I’d heard about the ultra-dog-friendly Cannon Beach and really wanted to make a stop. The beach was crowded—even on a random Wednesday. When I finally let Kita off leash (something this beach is known for allowing – be sure to check beforehand), she ran up to play with another dog whose owners were not happy that she would not come when called.
Skip It: Cannon Beach – spend more time in Bandon instead. All in all, my opinion of Cannon Beach is pretty soured mostly due to a mishap with my own dog, but after hanging out at First Beach, Bandon Beach, Bullards Beach, et all, I still think Cannon is pretty overrated.
Lodging: Barview Jetty Campground. We arrived late and left relatively early, but still had time for a sunrise run in the morning along the deserted beach, which was one of my favorite memories with Kita. We chose campground X7, which was the last spot before the beach on the jetty.
In terms of the campground, it’s known for being a “party” campground on weekends, so I would use find another spot if you’re looking for calm and quiet on weekends or holidays. The spots are extremely close together and they nickel and dime you on everything ($5/tent, $5/ animal, $5/vehicle on top of already paying for the $30 spot), but it would be a good group spot if you don’t mind spending extra money.
Parts 2 and 3 coming soon!
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