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Written by Emily Bayne
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/25/2021, edited: 10/26/2022
Don't plan a road trip out west UNTIL you check out these epic scenic drives on the Northwest Coast! Every route that made its way on our list has unique scenery that you won't see anywhere else. Print off this list and stick it in your itinerary. Buckle up, pup. It's going to be a fun ride!
Washington Route 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, is one of the most famous roadways in the Northwest. This 436-mile road is a great way to see the state and passes through some of Washington's most famous landmarks, like the North Cascades National Park.
This section will focus on the scenic byway stretch, which runs nearly 150 miles from the Methow Valley to Skagit Valley. Along this mountainous road, you'll see glimpses of alpine glaciers, old-growth forests, and sparkling cascades from the comfort of your car. Unfortunately, this road closes in November due to the state's harsh winters but reopens in May — just in time to see the new foliage and blooming wildflowers.
Forest Route 20, also known as the Mountain Loop Highway, wanders through the majestic Cascade Mountains in Snohomish County. The route begins in Darrington and runs southwest through Verlot, Granite Falls, and the Barlow Pass, passing pristine forests along the way. Most of this stretch is paved, but be prepared to get muddy on the 13-mile unpaved leg of the journey.
Some of the most notable features along the way include White Chuck Mountain, Whitehorse Mountain, and Mount Forgotten. We suggest pulling off in Verlow and hiking the one-mile trail to the ice caves for a spectacular sight you won't find anywhere else in the US. If you do decide to travel on-paw, be sure to bring some booties for your canine pals.
If you're near the Tillamook coast, the Three Capes Scenic Loop is a "mutts-see". At 40-miles in length, you'll have to dedicate a good portion of your day to this drive, but there's no better way to see the Oregon coastline. The journey starts west of Tillamook on 101, which hugs the bay. You'll pass through lush coastal forests while peeks of the ocean peer through the treeline. There are some pull-offs where you can enjoy the scenery and snap some selfies.
You'll continue North to Cape Meares for some gorgeous views of the ocean. If you're up for a little on-foot excursion, you can park at Cape Meares Lighthouse "barking" lot and head down a short walking trail to see the famous Octopus Tree. After your rest stop, circle back south towards Oceanside for the main leg of your journey. Keep heading south to see gorgeous Cape Lookout and finishing up at Cape Kiwanda.
Redwood Highway traverses scenery that feels more like a mystical fairy forest than a real place. This gorgeous roadway stretches from the Oregon border to Legget, California. Don't get discouraged at the beginning of your trek; the real beauty starts about 20 miles in. You'll pass through groves of coastal redwoods and forest floors carpeted with ferns. Your pup will have a blast hanging their head out of the window and enjoying the warm sunlight shining through the trees.
If your pack is looking for a short, low-key drive through the Oregon countryside, Route 38 is it. Route 38 is a low-traffic road that follows the Umpqua River through Umpqua Myrtle State Park. This drive boasts waterfalls, mountains, and even an elk viewing area, which will likely be your pup's favorite leg of the journey. If you feel like stretching your legs, stop in Scottsburg for some souvenirs and a quick bite.
At an average of 45 minutes long, Napa Valley's Silverado Trail is one of the shortest on our list. This stretch through wine country is as historic as it is gorgeous and should definitely make it on your itinerary. True to its name, the Silverado Trail was constructed during the California silver rush in the 1850s. Though the location is the same, the scenery has definitely undergone some changes in the last two centuries. Along your route, you'll see countless vineyards and pass through the Napa River Ecological Reserve. Stop in and stay awhile at the ecological preserve for some truly stunning views of the bay.
This route begins in Redding and finishes out at Lassen Volcanic National Park, traversing Shasta Lake, Castle Crags State Park, and Burney Falls along the way. The real wonder lies inside the Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Mars-like scenery and active volcano give this area a strangely beautiful vibe. With seething fumaroles and steaming hydrothermal vents, there's plenty to see. Your pup will be amazed at all the unusual sights.
The historic Columbia River Scenic Highway was the first scenic highway ever developed, and to this day, it still wows thousands of packs each year. The byway meanders alongside the Columbia River and offers passengers panoramic clifftop views of the river. There's no telling what you'll see on this route since the area is home to many rare species of fauna and flora. Pull off on Exit 40 for a great side trip at The Sturgeon Viewing Center to see some mammoth fish up close!
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