In July of this year we decided to take a two week road trip to the Pacific Northwest. We had never taken a two week vacation before, but this one covers some distance so we though it was well worth the time. And let me tell you, it sure was! The quality time we had together, the amount of amazing things we saw, and beautiful experiences we had was something I will treasure forever. This was a trip none of us will ever forget.
For a long time we were a family of tropical paradise vacations. Until I made it my mission to visit all 50 states and check it off my bucket list sooner rather than later. Road tripping is a wonderful way to check off lots of states all at once. On this trip alone we visited eight new states. Nine if you count the state we started in, but that seems against the rules to count it.
I would highly recommend you taking a road trip of your own! And to help you out, I’ll share our route and lots of tips, tricks, and insights along the way so that you are better able to plan your own epic Pacific Northwest road trip!
Pacific Northwest or Bust
Day 1: Wendover, Utah
Greeley, CO to Wendover, UT: 9 hours, 598 miles
This first stretch was one of the longest of the entire trip. All times include stops made along the way. One thing I vowed before we left was that if there was something to stop and see, we would stop. No serious rushing from one place to the next if that was possible. The drive through Colorado to Wyoming and into Wendover was a scenic one. We watched the landscape completely change and were excited to get on the road. It made this first long stretch bearable.
We drove past the Great Salt Lake, which I had never seen before. It was beautiful. For us, we decided that driving by was enough. We didn’t need to stop. We were in awe of the amount of salt along the side of the roads and all around us. It was a fantastic drive.
About 5:00 pm we pulled into Wendover. Its a very small, rural town that served as a nice stopping point. We stayed at The Best Western which had a pool (one of the big requirements of my son). We ate at a really yummy small town restaurant (Copper Kettle Cafe) within walking distance of the hotel. It was nice to walk and swim after a long day in the car.
Day 2: Reno, Nevada
Wendover, UT to Reno, NV: 6 hours, 399 miles
On the second day we woke up early and ate the free breakfast at the hotel. This is a great way to save money along the way! Before we hit the road to Reno we visited the Bonneville Salt Flats , which were absolutely awesome! The flats were a short drive from the hotel. We got out, walked around, put our feet in the salt water, and took loads of pictures. This place has been called “otherworldly” and I would have to agree. “Heavenly” is the word we would use to describe it. The natural white beauty stretching in every direction took our breath away.
After enjoying the Flats we hopped in the truck in sight of our next destination, Reno, Nevada. It took about 6 hours with stops along the way to eat and use the restroom. We stayed with friends in Reno and arrived in the early evening. There is so much to do there! My daughter and I spent the evening walking the downtown strip, checking out an artist fair and taking pictures of the famous Reno sign, while my son and husband played games in Circus Circus. We all finished off the evening with a chalk art competition and frozen yogurt. This stop was a huge success!
Day 3 & 4: Rouge River, Oregon
Reno, NV to Rouge River, OR: 6 hours, 325 miles
On day three we left Nevada and drove to Rouge River, Oregon. Along the way we decided (last minute) to make a stop based on something I saw on the map. I am usually the navigator on these kinds of adventures. I’m so glad we took our time and stopped at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The falls were absolutely stunning and it was a wonderful bout of exercise after sitting in the truck for too long.
Road Trip Tip: Embrace the last minute stops!
When we arrived to Rouge River we stayed for two days with my sister and brother-in-law. During those two days we also explored a couple of the surrounding towns. We ate an amazing breakfast in Ashland at Morning Glory Restaurant and visited Lithia Park where Logan played in the river and caught minnows. A visit to Grants Pass was fun, where we shopped at a beautiful little bookstore called Aquarius Books and Gifts and ate a very yummy lunch at Goodness Gracious Cafe . We absolutely loved this area and could have easily spent many more days here. It definitely added to the appeal of the area that we had awesome family members there as well. We will be back to explore more in the future for sure!
Road Trip Tip: When you’re stopped at your points of interest find ways to move around and get exercise (especially for the kids).
Day 5-7: Coos Bay, Oregon
Rouge River, OR to Coos Bay, OR: 3 hours, 151 miles
On the fifth day we left Rouge River and headed to the coast. Along this trip the only places I had reserved in advance for lodging were in Coos Bay and Seattle. We chose to stay in Coos Bay for three days because my husband used to go there for vacation as a child. He had fond memories of crabbing with his family and we wanted to experience it with him.
Upon arrival, we were a little surprised by the appearance of the town. It was small and seemed a little run down. I will say that it definitely grew on us, in a big way, in the three days we were there. There is a fun downtown area and everyone we met was welcoming and friendly.
The other thing we loved was that there were three state parks along the coast, very close to where we were staying. They all offered their own beauty and changes for exploration. At Cape Argo State Park we hiked down a path and walked along the shore during low tide looking for agate, sea glass, and lots of other treasures. There is also a lookout point at the top where you can hear seals making plenty of noise on a small island nearby. Based on some research I did while we were there, there had been sightings of Orcas from the lookout point, though we didn’t see any this time around.
Road Trip Tip: When traveling along the Pacific Coast, download a tide schedule app on your phone. This really helps with timing on when to go to see certain things. Low tide was important for many sights on our trip.
We spent one of our evenings at Sunset Bay State Park and saw the most beautiful display of a sunset I had ever seen in my life! We spent so much of our time exploring these parks and absolutely enjoyed every moment. Some of our favorite places to eat in Coos Bay were The Boat Fish and Chips, Sharkbites Cafe, and we loved the Espresso Mill & Bakery for a quick coffee and breakfast in the morning. One thing we have to find in every place is ice cream and Scoops Handmade Ice Cream in North Bend hit the spot!
We also spent a day crabbing off of a dock in Coos Bay. We picked up all of our equipment and everything we needed at The Bite’s On Bait & Tackle. The people there were very helpful and nice. After we got our supplies, we stopped at the grocery store (next door to the tackle shop) and got everything to make almond butter and jelly sandwiches. These supplies came in handy a few other times throughout the trip!
My favorite part about crabbing was not catching crabs. It was the surprise we got from a harbor seal that kept stealing our bait. It got really close to us and we spent most of our time on the seal rather than the crabs. Read more about my crab analogy story on my Facebook page HERE. This was definitely one of my very favorite parts of the trip.
During our stay in Coos Bay we also did a day trip up to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We spent some time walking on the beach looking for shells and treasures.
Day 8: Astoria, Oregon
Coos Bay to Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (Black Pebble Beach): 2 ½ hours, 101 miles
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse to Astoria: 3 hours, 131 miles
On day eight we headed up the coast toward Astoria where we would find a hotel and stay for the night. Throughout the trip I found hotels along the way and it worked out quite nice. I did reserve Seattle in advance just because I was concerned about it being so busy and selling out.
Our trip up Highway 1 was absolutely breathtaking. There were beautiful views all along the way and wonderful little towns we wished we had more time to stop and explore. As we drove up the coast, things got a whole lot busier. The small towns were jam-packed, which made us love our small town of Coos Bay even more.
One stop we prioritized on the way up the coast was Yaquina Head Lighthouse, on the coast of Newport, Oregon. I wanted to stop at this particular spot to experience the Black Pebble Beach that’s located at Yaquina Head. Let me tell you, it was SO worth it. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before. The black stones created a kind of music with the waves flowing in and out of them. This was the perfect stop to experience and also break up a long day of driving.
Later that day we made it to Astoria in time to try and check out the Goonies house. We were disappointed to find that the driveway was blocked. There was a sign that said they would call the police if anyone tried to enter. We did get a picture from a distance though.
Road Trip Tip: Have items to make sandwiches in the car on hand to keep from stopping excessively. Our almond butter and jelly sandwiches came in handy on this stretch for sure!
Day 9 & 10: Seattle, Washington
Astoria to Seattle: 3 1/2 hours, 182 miles
On day nine we were to head to Seattle. Before we headed that direction though, we went backwards and visited Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach, Oregon. Haystack Rock was also seen in the Goonies movie. We got up early and headed over to the beach to make sure we were there at low tide so we could see the tide pools. When arrived at Cannon Beach it was VERY busy and hard to find a parking spot. Make sure to plan ahead for this. Even though it was busy, it was well worth the visit.
After soaking in Haystack Rock, we jumped back in the truck and headed to Seattle (where we would stay for two days).
Road Trip Tip: When traveling to a city with a lot to do, make a list before you get there of all the sites you absolutely want to check off your list. Prioritize those top sites.
In Seattle we visited the Pikes Place Market, which you could spend an entire week exploring all the shops. It was very busy but we didn’t mind. The famous gum wall is right there in the market as well. We could have stood and watched them yell and throw fish for hours at the Pike Place Fish Market. We also walked by the first Starbucks and quickly snapped a picture and kept moving. The line was WAY too long. We walked away from the market to find places to eat. Within and around the market the wait times were out of control and we were far too hungry. We found lots of great places off the beaten path.
We also visited the Central Waterfront Pier and walked around and shopped. And, we ate dinner on the Pier one night. Our other big site to see was the Space Needle. We took the Light Link Rail. After arriving we decided not to go to the top. The prices were very high and we preferred to save our money for another experience, such as whale watching later in the trip. There was a lot to do around the bottom of the needle with live music and booths set up everywhere. We got rolled ice cream which was delicious!
Road Trip Tip: When you’re in a large city, park your car and use public transportation. It’s much easier to get around that way. Especially in very busy cities like Seattle.
Day 11 & 12: Friday Harbor, Washington
Seattle to Anacortes: 2 hours, 78 miles
On day eleven we left Seattle and headed to Anacortes. This is where we would catch the ferry that would take us to Friday Harbor, Washington. A quick tip for the ferries that I was so lucky a friend told me ahead of time: download the WSDOT app on your phone to reserve you space on the ferry. You can also go to the Washington State Department of Transportation Website.
On our way to Anacortes we stopped to see The Fremont Troll, which was on the way. It was a fun little stop to climb the massive statue and take a few pics.
Once we got to Anacortes we waited in line for the ferry. You drove up and parked your car in a long line of other cars. By the waiting line there was a waiting area with a snack bar on one side and a shoreline you could explore on the other. We waited in line for about an hour so it was nice to be able to get out and walk around. The ferry ride was about an hour and a half long which didn’t feel bad at all. That’s probably because it was such a beautiful ride and fun experience to get our truck on a huge ferry.
Our Stay in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Our stay on the island was magical. We ended up getting a VRBO rental at the last minute. We weren’t sure during this part of the trip if we were going to go to the islands or to Vancouver. I’m so glad we chose the islands. I wish we would have had more time there. This is definitely a place I’d like to come back to someday. When I do come back I’ll do more exploring of the other San Juan Islands, as well as Vancouver Island that are very close by.
During our time on on San Juan Island we explored the shops in Friday Harbor, ate amazing food, and drove to the Pelindaba Lavender Farm and Lime Kiln Point State Park and Cattle Point Lighthouse, which were all amazing! Because we had our truck we were able to do some exploring around the island, which I was grateful for. I absolutely fell in love with this island and will continue to plan for having a vacation home there someday.
My very favorite thing to do while we were there was to go whale watching. We boarded a boat chartered by San Juan Safaris and took their Classic Whale Watch & Wildlife Tour. We saw wild orcas, seals, eagles, and porpoises. It was a magical experience that I’m happy to be able to check off my bucket list. When we go back I will definitely do this again!
Road Trip Tip: Even though it was July when we went it was a bit chilly. Make sure you pack extra so you can dress in layers along the Pacific. You never know what the temperature will be like.
Some of our favorite places to eat in Friday Harbor were Downriggers and Cask and Schooner for dinner, and Rocky Bay Cafe which we ate every day for breakfast. And, we couldn’t skip out on the ice cream offered at the ice cream shop right on the pier.
Day 13: Spokane, Washington
Anacortes to Spokane: 6 hours, 351 miles
On day thirteen we began our trek back home. We took the ferry back to Anacortes and drove to Spokane where we spent the night at the Ramada close to the airport. We chose this hotel for the great indoor pool (are you catching on to the theme here?), in house restaurant, and outside play area with fire pits.
The next morning we headed to downtown Spokane to check out the Riverfront Park on our way out of town. The giant Radio Flyer Wagon was a huge hit with Logan!
Day 14: Polson, Montana
Spokane to Polson, MT: 4 hours, 215 miles
Two of my favorite things about the drive to Polson were the beautiful views and the roadside stands. On this stretch of road we stopped and got the most delicious huckleberry shake you’ve ever tasted and fresh cherries picked from the mountains of Montana. These were treats like no other.
We had originally planned on driving to Kalispell and staying there. By this point in the trip we were getting a bit tired of driving. The beauty of not having a completely rigid plan is that you can change your destination at any time. Mostly, we wanted to see Flathead Lake and we decided to drive to the closest town that would allow us to experience the lake. Polson was a beautiful place and we were happy with our choice.
Road Trip Tip: Keep your plans flexible. It’s nice to be able to change your final stopping point based on how you’re feeling along the way.
Flathead Lake was beautiful! We rented a boat from Polson Boat Rentals (which was just outside of our hotel) while we were there and took it out to Wild Horse State Park, which is an island inside the lake. We were able to dock the boat, swim, walk around the island in search of wild horses, and admire the crystal clear water. This was a great half-day experience! After we got back and returned the boat, the kids swam some from the docks along the shore. The water was very cold, but they seemed to adjust quickly. They were much braver than their parents who watched from the shore.
Day 15: Bozeman, Montana
Polson, MT to Bozeman, MT: 272 miles, 4 ½ hours
I wish I had more to say about Bozeman. Our stop through Bozeman was pretty quick. We did find a hotel with a great indoor pool. The pools seemed to be a great way for Logan to get his energy out after a long day of driving. We ate dinner on the outskirts of town and didn’t explore much. Someday we will be back to visit downtown and soak in all Bozeman has to offer.
Day 16: Yellowstone National Park
Bozeman, MT to Lander, WY: 301 miles, took us all day due to stops (GPS says 6 hours 10 minutes)
On the 16th day we drove from Bozeman down through Yellowstone. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be overly impressed with Yellowstone. Especially since it was the last couple days of our trip and we had been in the truck for so long. I was totally wrong! The fact that Yellowstone was so amazing totally threw off our time schedule. There were a couple of other factors, such as a wreck and rainstorm, that slowed us down but overall it was worth it. We loved seeing Mammoth Hot Springs, Midway Geyser Basin (which includes the famous opal pool), and, of course, Old Faithful. While we waited for Old Faithful to erupt, we enjoyed the most delicious ice cream located in the shop right by the geyser.
Throughout the drive there were tons of little stops along the way as well. We stopped at waterfalls and to look at wildlife. Because we were only driving through, we missed the whole east side of the loop. This is just another reason to spend some more time here someday.
On our way out, the thunder storm hit so we missed the view we hoped to see of the Grand Tetons. This was a bit disappointing, but a small snag in an overall amazing adventure. What we didn’t plan for on this stretch was how far it would be until we got to a town with a hotel or someplace to stay. At about 11 pm, we saw the bright lights of the Shoshone Rose Casino Hotel in Lander, WY coming to our rescue. We felt overly blessed to get the last room they had.
Road Trip Tip: Try to figure out if there is any stretch of road where there are no services ahead of time. This way, you can plan ahead and bypass the panic of being in the middle of nowhere with no place to eat or stay. Thank goodness for those sandwiches!
Day 17: Greeley, Colorado (Home Sweet Home)
Lander, WY to home: 315 miles, 5 ½ hours
On the last and final day we left the hotel that had saved us (and appeared from what seemed out of nowhere) and headed home. The final stretch is always a bittersweet one. Sad for the adventure to end, but happy to be back home again. This was an epic road trip and I feel tremendously blessed to have experienced it with the most important people in my life.
Cheers to a future of many more epic road trip adventures!
*All of the opinions in this article are mine and I did not receive compensation from any of the places mentioned in this article.