Written by Craig Romano
There is no lack of wild and beautiful places to set up your tent and enjoy the great outdoors in the West. Delightful places abound for you and your hound for sharing time under the stars in our special part of the world. Here wilderness travel expert, Craig Romano, looks at the best ways -- and Northwest places -- to go camping with your best friend.
Here are ten gorgeous places to go camping -- all near trails, lakes, rivers and beaches -- and all of them surrounded by acres upon acres of public land. Some of them are close by, ideal for a quick getaway; while others are a little distance away and perfect for a week long outdoor holiday. But most importantly, all of them welcome your canine companion.
1. Kaloloch, Olympic National Park, Pacific Coast
Set up camp on a coastal bluff high above the crashing surf of the wild Olympic coast. A sprawling campground with a handful of sites with breathtaking ocean views, Kalaloch is one of the few public campgrounds in Washington right on the Pacific. Watch stunning sunsets right from your picnic table. Listen to gulls, oystercatchers, and eagles and let the incessant pounding of the breakers lull you and your lab deep into la la land. While dogs are not allowed on the trails of Olympic National Park, they are allowed on leash on this stretch of park beach—over 10 wild miles worth! While there are 170 sites, in summer they go fast, so be sure to make reservations (www.recreation.gov).
2. Sullivan Lake, Colville National Forest, Selkirk Mountains
One of the largest and prettiest undeveloped lakes in northeastern Washington, Sullivan is surrounded by steep emerald peaks including 7,308-foot Abercrombie Mountain and 7,309-foot Gypsy Peak, the two highest summits in eastern Washington. Two gorgeous national forest campgrounds, East Sullivan and West Sullivan grace the lake’s northern shore while remote and peaceful despite its name, Noisy Creek Campground graces its southern shore. The sites are well-shaded and there are plenty of dog-friendly hiking trails nearby, including the four mile Sullivan Lake trail connecting the campgrounds. The lake warms up nicely by mid-summer and there’s a beach for your dog to splash in!
3. Colonial Creek, Ross Lake, North Cascades
One of the most stunning settings for any campground within the entire country, Colonial Creek sits in a deep valley in the heart of the North Cascades. Set in primeval timber along the turquoise waters of Diablo Lake and surrounded by towering glacial-clad cloud-piercing peaks, you may not want to budge too far once you set up camp. But if your buddy’s tail is indicating it’s time for a walk, take to several miles of delightful trail radiating right from the campground. The 1.9 mile Thunder Knob Trail is perfect for an after dinner leg-stretcher. Claim one of the sites right on placid Thunder Arm and spend an afternoon in the canoe paddling with your pooch.
4. Silver Springs, Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Rainier
While Mount Rainier National Park allows your furry friend to accompany you at one of its developed campgrounds, you can’t take her on the park’s trails. So if “the Mountain’s” allure is too much for the two of you to resist, consider setting up camp right outside of the park at the Silver Springs Campground in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Nestled in old growth forest right on the glacial-fed White River, this CCC-built campground offers spacious and private sites. And when it’s ready to hit the trail, head to nearby Crystal Mountain taking to a large network of trails surrounding the resort. Lots of dog-friendly options complete with howling views of Washington’s most famous landmark.
5. Cape Perpetua, Oregon Coast, Siuslaw National Forest
While there is no shortage of great camping spots along Oregon’s spectacular coastline, most of them can get pretty busy during the summer months. Cape Perpetua, a rugged area of salt-blasted headlands, moisture dripping old growth giants and fog-catching coastal peaks offers one of the most secluded and quietest campgrounds on the entire coast. Nestled in a deep valley set back from busy US 101, choose from 38 campsites perched along Cape Creek. Once the pegs have been staked, hit the trail! There are 26 miles of interconnecting trail radiating from the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area including paths to shore-hugging Neptune State Park. And while this campground is a tranquil gem, it’s well known. Be sure to secure a reservation (www.recreation.gov).
6. Silver Falls State Park, Willamette Valley
Looking for a quick getaway in the Willamette Valley? Does your pooch enjoy waterfalls? Do you? Silver Falls State Park located just 25 miles east of Salem is a waterfall lover’s, hiker’s, and camper’s haven! One of the crown jewels of the Oregon State Park system you and your outward bound hound can choose from among 100 sites (electrical hookups available) and then take to 25 miles of dog-friendly trail to 10 dog-gazing cascades, four in which you can wag your tails from behind. Be sure to reserve your site online before packing the Subaru.
7. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, North Coast
Set up camp along a quiet creek shadowed by towering redwoods hundreds of years old. While this gorgeous state park on the Redwood Coast does not permit dogs on its trails, you can walk your buddy on some of its quiet roads. Be sure to watch for elk feeding in misty prairies. Gold Bluffs Beach located within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park consists of 10 miles of wide sandy gorgeous northern California beach—and it’s open to your four-legged camping companion. And just south of the park you can roam two more beautiful dog-friendly beaches, Humboldt County Parks’ Big Lagoon and Clam Beach.
8. Doran Beach, San Francisco Bay Area
While your four-legged friend is allowed to set up tent with you in the scores of beautiful California state parks lining the Pacific, she’s not allowed to accompany you on almost all of those parks’ wonderful trails and beaches. That’s when places like Sonoma County Park’s Doran Beach come to the rescue. Located about 40 miles north of San Francisco in quaint and scenic Bodega Bay, Doran Beach provides camping on a beautiful two-mile long dog-friendly beach. And there are one dozen other dog-friendly beaches nearby including a couple of stunning ones at Point Reyes National Seashore.
9. Cultus Lake Provincial Park, Fraser Valley
While Cultus means “worthless” in the Chinook Jargon, this big beautiful lake located just south of Chilliwack where the North Cascades meet the Fraser Valley is anything but worthless to outdoor-loving humans and dogs. Choose from nearly 300 sites within four distinct campgrounds within 5,000-plus acre Cultus Lake Provincial Park spread out along the eastern shore of the lake. The sites are large and well-shaded and all are within a short walk from the lake. The park’s Shale Beach is leash-free. Excellent hiking trails radiate from the park from easy strolls to old-growth giants to an all out grunt up mile high International Ridge. Be sure to make a reservation because Vancouver campers love this park too.
10. Heyburn State Park, Lake Coeur d’Alene
Established in 1908, Heyburn is the oldest state park in the Northwest and one of the finest. Developed by the CCC, this 8,000-acre plus park located on the southern quieter end of massive Lake Coeur d’Alene contains three lakes, the St Joe River Delta, old-growth pine forests and ridges of open meadows. Choose from 130 sites in three separate campgrounds. Take a swim and then hit one of the park’s fine trails including the three-mile, bursting with views and flowers, Indian Cliffs Loop. Go for a bike ride or run afterwards on the paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
Aside from packing your own camping necessities and comforts, don’t forget to take along the following for your intrepid little buddy:
1. First-aid kit (including but not limited to; insect/tick repellant, gauze, adhesive tapes, tweezers)
2. Drinking water or purification tablets (if campground doesn’t have potable water).
3. Food and water bowls.
4. Chamois cloths and/or towels (you want a mud-free tent, no?).
5. Doggie bedding and blankets.
6. Treats and chew toys.
7. Doggie pack for hitting the nearby trails.
Canine Camping Etiquette
To paraphrase Robert Frost, “Good dogs make for good camping neighbors.” While no one wants to be camped next to a party of loud and obnoxious humans, a dog yipping and whimpering all through the night can be equally annoying. Be sure you and your pooch set the standard for good camping courtesy. Practice the following good neighbor behavior:
1. Your buddy should always be on leash at the campground.
2. Never leave your furry friend unattended at the site.
3. Don’t let your pooch dig holes at the site. Hey, he’s telling you it’s time to take a walk!
4. Clean up any presents your pal leaves behind. Carry extra plastic bags and deposit waste in proper place.
5. Don’t leave your buddy’s food out overnight and/or unattended lest you’ll attract uninvited critters to your site.
6. And never let your dog chase or harass wildlife.
Craig Romano is the author of numerous guidebooks including Best Hikes with Dogs Inland Northwest (Mountaineers Books) where you can find out more about Sullivan Lake and Heyburn State Park.