By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 11/18/2020, edited: 10/26/2022
A West Coast road trip is something many of us have on our bucket lists. Starting in California with the Pacific Coast Highway beneath you, the ocean alongside you, and a host of iconic destinations just waiting to be explored, the West Coast is made for road trips.
Even better, there’s a whole lot your pup can enjoy too if they come along for the ride. From beautiful beaches to “petacular” cities, here’s our simple guide to taking a dog on a road trip along the West Coast of the USA.
With well over 1,000 miles to cover and so many great attractions along the way, it’s hard to work out where to go and what to do on your dog-friendly West Coast road trip. To help you plan the “pawfect” route, we’ve broken the route down state by state.
Boasting some of the world’s most iconic beaches, a laidback lifestyle, and a host of truly dog-friendly cities, California is a state that has road trips with dogs written all over it.
Start your journey just north of the border in San Diego, known for its gorgeous climate and relaxed atmosphere. The warm weather makes it ideal if you want to check out some of the best dog-friendly beaches in the area, including the always popular Original Dog Beach at Ocean Beach.
Fiesta Island, located in Mission Bay Park, is also great if you’re looking to take your pet swimming in calm waters. Fiesta Island Park is one of San Diego’s best kept secrets. Here, pet families can enjoy camping, beachcombing, long walks, and swimming all without a leash. The best part (besides the lax leash rules) is Fiesta Island isn’t as crowded as other dog-friendly beaches in San Diego.
After running off some energy, grab the leash and head to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for a lesson on California’s birthplace. Along your walk, you’ll see original buildings over 100 years old and learn about how much has changed in this ever-evolving city.
If you’re ready for some off-leash socializing, the city’s famous Balboa Park is home to two great off-leash areas. Of course, there’s a good chance you’ll want to check out San Diego Zoo while you’re in town, so make sure you book a dog walker in San Diego to keep your pup happy when you go off to meet the animals.
If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, you might be tempted to steer clear of Los Angeles. But doing so would mean missing out on some of California’s best dog-friendly experiences, so the city is well worth a visit.
One must-visit site is Runyon Canyon Park. This 160-acre park is wonderfully dog-friendly, with a massive 90 acres of the park open to off-leash dogs. To the south of the city, water-loving pups will feel right at home at Huntington Dog Beach. Plus, there are stacks of great dog-friendly hotels and eateries scattered throughout the greater LA area.
Located over 300 miles north of Los Angeles, Carmel has a well-earned reputation as one of the most dog-friendly destinations in California. Off-leash dogs are welcome on Carmel Beach, while they’re also invited to explore among the 37 beautiful acres of Mission Trail Park.
But perhaps the best feature of Carmel-By-The-Sea is the sheer number of restaurants and bars that allow pups. From laid-back “yappy hours” to custom menus for dogs, these venues will welcome your dog with open paws.
If you’re camping with dogs, you might like to pitch a tent in Half Moon Bay State Park. Nature lovers may want to take a detour to the legendary Yosemite National Park.
The Pacific Coast Highway
Finally, we can’t leave California without mentioning this iconic highway. This legendary road is as much of an attraction as any other destination in California, leading you past breathtaking scenery and world-famous destinations. If you’re planning a West Coast road trip with your dog, checking out some or all of this scenic drive is a must.
Oregon may not be as big as California, nor is it as famous for dog-friendly attractions. But don’t despair — there’s plenty in this great state to put a smile on your pup’s face.
If you’re looking for an uncrowded beach to share with your dog, you’re in the right place. The 363 miles of rugged beauty that make up the Oregon Coast are just what the vet ordered for beach-loving pups. Dogs are welcome on many beaches in the area, with a lot of them even welcoming off-leash pooches.
If you’re after some peace and quiet for your beach adventures, check out Seven Devils State Recreation Site.
If you’ve never heard of Cannon Beach, Oregon, you’re not alone — but this gorgeous beachside hideaway isn’t on our list for nothing! Besides the beautiful, partially leash-free beach for which the area is named, Cannon Beach is home to Ecola State Park, a stunning seaside sanctuary complete with forests, caves, bluffs, and 9 miles of stunning coastline.
Go early to explore tide pools, and there’s no telling what you might find. Colorful coral, crabs, and starfish collect in these rocky pockets — you can even give them a lift back to the water. Fido will love exploring this rich and colorful landscape. Just don’t forget the leash!
If you’re ready for a break from coastal scenery and you decide to head inland, make a beeline for Bend. This high-desert town was once named DogTown USA by Dog Fancy magazine, and it’s not hard to see why.
Everywhere you look, activities your pup will love are just waiting to be enjoyed. For example, you can take them for a waterfront walk and swim along the Deschutes River Trail, or do some socializing at the 14-acre Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.
Bend is also known for its thriving craft beer scene, and many local breweries welcome pups in their outdoor areas. Now that’s sure to put a wag in your tail!
For years, Portland has been repeatedly named the most pet-friendly US city. But why? For starters, Portland boasts more dog-friendly restaurants and parks per capita than anywhere else in the US. With so many dog-friendly activities, where should your pack begin? We say Cathedral Park.
Cathedral Park looks like it was plucked from the background of a Hallmark movie, with lush grass, colorful trees, and whimsical art throughout! Despite the name, Cathedral Park has no churches — the name is a reference to the area’s Gothic architecture. Most of the park has leash requirements, but there’s an off-leash dog area with lots of space for zoomies.
Next, stop and sniff the roses with a pack field trip to the International Rose Test Garden. This fragrant facility tests new species of flowers for the American Rose Society and won the Garden of Excellence Award from the World Federation of Rose Societies. The best part? Admission is completely free!
While you’re in Portland, be sure to check out Cycle Dog. This unique establishment is a pet shop, tavern, and dog park all wrapped in a funky bow. Your pup can socialize in the off-leash area while you have a brew and a snack or browse the shop’s huge selection of eco-friendly treats and toys.
Oregon’s largest city is another destination famous for its beer, and you’ll be happy to find that there are plenty more dog-friendly breweries here. Portland is also packed with more than 30 dog parks, with Mt Tabor Dog Park a particular favorite.
And when you’re looking to do some exploring away from the city, your pup will love the Sandy River Delta. Covering 1,400-odd acres of trails, wetlands, fields, and the Colombia and Sandy Rivers, this off-leash spot offers ideal swimming conditions for pups.
Alternatively, if you’re after something a little more relaxing, why not take your pup wine tasting in the Willamette Valley? Many wineries in the area welcome well-behaved pups, while others even offer features like their own dog runs and special treats for doggos.
The final state on our dog-friendly West Coast road trip, Washington is famous for its natural wonders and the iconic sights of Seattle. Here are some of the highlights worth checking out as you and your pup journey through the state.
While it might be overshadowed by nearby Portland, Vancouver still has lots to offer to four-legged visitors. There are several dog-friendly accommodation options in and around the city, plus a host of local cafes and restaurants where polite pups are welcome outdoors.
When you feel like getting active, you can always take your dog for a scenic walk along the 5-mile Waterfront Renaissance Trail. Or, tackle the trails in Whipple Creek Park if you’re craving some solitude.
It’s well worth a detour to check out Ocean Shores Dog Beach. Located approximately two-and-a-half hours southwest of Seattle at the end of Taurus Drive, this much-loved beach offers all the sand and sea your pup can handle.
Whether they’re splashing in the shallows, digging in the sand, or sniffing around in the dunes, your pup will never want to leave. Just make sure you put them on a leash when venturing to other areas of this lovely, 6-mile-long stretch of beach.
Next, head to Seattle for everything from culture and natural beauty to delicious food, including a number of eateries that even offer special menu items for four-legged diners. Magnuson Dog Park offers almost 9 acres of off-leash space for pups who need to stretch their legs, while the 2.8-mile Loop Trail in Discovery Park is ideal when you want to take your leashed pup for a walk.
Dog-friendly ghost tours put a fun spin on sightseeing with dogs. Seattle has several dog-friendly tour operators, with plenty of historical facts and bone-chilling "tails" to share. Not much for scary stories? Try a dog-friendly scavenger hunt instead! Let's Roam features several different Seattle-based outdoor scavenger hunts, many of which are dog-friendly.
And did you know that as long as they sit on the floor or your lap, leashed dogs are permitted on Seattle buses? What a “grrreat” way for you and your pup to explore the city!
One other dog-friendly Washington attraction worth checking out is the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Located off the coast of Anacortes, this gorgeous park and nature preserve combines pristine marshland and a host of unique sculptures. It’s an enchanting place for any nature lover, while dogs are welcome throughout the 20-acre space. Provided you keep them on a leash, they’ll have a “woofderful” time exploring by your side.
You may not strike it rich out West, but you will find lots of golden opportunities to make memories with your pack! Are you thinking of taking your dog on a road trip? Check out our Ultimutt Dog-Friendly Road Trip Planner to find out how to plan successful road trips with dogs.
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