Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary for Families

Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary for Families

Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

Are you planning a road trip to the Pacific Northwest? Whenever I plan a road trip, I really like to read other families experiences. I like to get ideas about the best places to stop, the best things to see, and the best places to stay and to eat. So I thought I’d share our Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary in hopes that it can help someone else!

For some reason, we really like taking road trips as a family. Or maybe I should say that the hubs and I really like road trips, and my kiddos tolerate them with occasional eye rolls.

What’s not to like, though? Our suburban is huge, so there’s plenty of room. We homeschool, so we’re not beholden to anyone else’s schedule. And road trips are incredibly educational!

We just buy a bunch of snacks, pop in a movie, and off we go.

Er… That makes it sound WAY too easy! It actually goes more like: I spend months researching, planning every excruciating detail, printing off maps, booking hotels, planning meals, purchasing fun activities for the kiddos to do in the car, planning snacks, buying snacks, packing clothing and food and more snacks, etc…

It’s really SUCH a huge amount of work! And then we’re off, and the hubs and the kids just get to enjoy all of my hard work. I’m not complaining, though really. I wouldn’t have it any other way! 🙂

Maybe because if the hubs planned it, we’d have to sleep at rest stops. And we’d get lost anywhere our GPS didn’t work, because we certainly wouldn’t have any maps. And snacks would have to come from the gas station. If there were any snacks.

And there would be no hand sanitizer and lots of fighting from the backseat because no activities had been planned. Yeah, I’ll keep planning our road trips! Props to the hubs, though, for funding them all!

This is our first road trip through the Pacific Northwest. We’ve road tripped practically everywhere else in the United States, and even in Europe, but somehow we’ve missed the Pacific Northwest until now.

My hubs grew up in Oregon and northern California, so he was particularly excited about this road trip. A couple of my kiddos were dying to see Mt. Saint Helens and the Columbia River Gorge, having recently taken a neat geology class.

So I started planning our Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary!

Here’s the map I came up with for our road trip:

Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary

 

I use roadtrippers to plan out our road trips, because I like that you can input as many stops as you need, pertinent information about each stop, and all the information is saved for you in one handy place. So if you know that you want to eat at a specific restaurant at Lake Tahoe’s north shore, you can include that in your itinerary.

I always add my hotel reservations, sightseeing stops and other neccessary information to my itineraries, so I can keep everything in one place. I also print out our itineraries (along with reservations, tickets and maps) and bind it all, so I have a hard copy in case I don’t have internet.

It came in really handy on this trip, because we didn’t have internet through much of the Redwoods, and it was pretty spotty on much of the Olympic Peninsula and then again in the rural areas of Eastern Oregon.

I also like to print and laminate a couple of detailed maps of each city we visit, and more general maps of our drive, so I can hand them off to my kiddos and let them really get to know each place, rather than just following the hubs and me around. Maps are so educational!

Homeschooling has a funny way of turning everything into an educational experience. Road trips are no exception! We all learn geography, geology, marine biology, and all kinds of cool things! My kiddos sometimes roll their eyes and ask why I have to make everything educational, but I know they secretly love it, lol!

This post would be scroll city if I told you all about everything in one place. So I numbered our stops on the map above, and listed the stops below. I included a brief overview here, and then a separate post about each place (each destination is linked to it’s own post).

That way I have enough room to give you ALL the pertinent details about each place. We spent two weeks covering all of these places, but we wished we’d had one more day each in Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Redwood National Park.

Without further ado, I present our Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary:

 

1. Lake Tahoe

One of the best places in the entire world for outdoor adventure enthusiasts, Lake Tahoe’s crystal-clear, blue waters shimmer amidst a backdrop of towering conifers and craggy mountain peaks. We spent an entire afternoon playing at Kings Beach, then drove the west perimeter of the lake, exploring the small towns and the awesome scenery along the way. Click the title to explore Lake Tahoe with us.

Lake Tahoe with kids, Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

 

2. San Francisco

San Francisco is the perfect place for families to visit! The downtown area is easy to navigate and so walkable. It’s filled with interesting sights and smells and fun things for all ages. And I’ve got tips for budget travelers who want to see and do everything without spending their life savings!

Fisherman's Wharf; Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary

 

3. Mendocino Coast: Coastal Highway (Highway 1), Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena Lighthouse and Fort Bragg glass beach. 

The Mendocino Coast, just 3 hours North of San Francisco, is the perfect blend of educational and fun, and should be included on every Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary. We enjoyed our time here so much that we wished we would have stayed several nights longer in order to see everything!

Point Arena LIghthouse; Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary

 

4. Redwood National Park

Have you ever watched Jurassic Park or Endor (where the Ewok’s live) and thought to yourself how you’d love to live in such an incredible place? No? Okay, just me then. Maybe it’s because I live in Utah, which is practically a desert. Seriously, though, the Redwoods are incredible, and absolutely mandatory on your Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary. Click the link to find the very most magical hikes for families!

Fern Canyon; Redwood National Park; Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary

 

5. Grant’s Pass, Oregon 

Grant’s Pass was just an overnight stop to break up our drive and allow us to spend a little more time in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

 

6. Columbia River Gorge 

When we decided to take a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, I knew immediately that we would need to stop in the Columbia River Gorge. The hubs grew up not too far from here, and his mother grew up in Portland, so the Columbia River Gorge was a favorite place to visit for their family. It was memorable for us, too!

Multnomah Falls; Columbia River Gorge

 

7. Mount Saint Helens

We only spent a couple of hours at Mount Saint Helens, on the way from Portland to Seattle, so I couldn’t really write an entire post about it. I just gave it it’s own stop on the roadtripper map because I wanted to include directions and some other information about it, in case we didn’t have GPS.

As I was researching, this is where I found most of my Mount Saint Helens information. We were disappointed that you couldn’t actually hike Mount Saint Helens (you hike a mountain opposite it so you can still see into the crater) without permits, but it was still so interesting. I was amazed to learn how active it still is!

We spent about 2 hours at the visitor’s center and another hour hiking, which was just about right.

Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary

Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary

 

8. Seattle 

From drool worthy airplanes to the historical Underground tour, Seattle is just plumb full of fun, educational family adventures! It was a great stop along our Pacific Northwest road trip. Check out the post for our favorite things to do in and around Seattle, along with tips for travelling on a budget.

 

9. Vale, Oregon

The hubs grew up on his uncle’s dairy farm here in Eastern Oregon, and he wanted to show it to our kiddos, so we included it as part of our road trip. It’s not particularly picturesque, though. And I don’t imagine many people would enjoy touring a random dairy farm, so I didn’t write a specific post about it.

I just wanted to explain about the number 9 on the roadtrippers map above — a visit to family. We briefly visited and then drove home via Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

 

 

 

There’s no place like home!

There is nothing like a road trip to make your remember how much you love home! I always make us clean like Cinderella the day before we leave on any trip, so we can return to peace and calm. And because I know we’ll be bringing with us a veritable mountain of laundry!

As we get within a couple of hours of home, the kids start telling each other how excited they are to sleep in their own beds, to shower in their own bathrooms, and even to practice their musical instruments! It’s music to my ears! And I feel exactly the same way! It’s the whole reason I don’t sell our house and commit to full-time travelling. Home is wonderful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy travels, friends! I hope that our Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary is helpful to you as you plan your own road trip!

 

I’d love to hear about your Pacific Northwest road trip experiences, or your experiences at any of these stops, in the comments below!

 

Pin this Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary for later!

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary for Families”

  • This is such an amazing itinerary! Thank you so much for all the detailed information. We only have 6 days. Would this be doable in that short amount of time? How would you suggest breaking up the time?

    • You could drive this route in 6 days, but you wouldn’t have much time to stop and see things. I think we took about two weeks, and we wished we could have spent longer at Lake Tahoe (we only had one full day there) and in the Columbia River Gorge area. I think we spent 4 days in San Francisco and we saw everything we wanted to, 3 days in the Redwoods (we could have spent a week or more there), a day and a half around Portland, 3 days in Seattle and then two days driving from Seattle to Salt Lake with stops along the way. Plus we took lots of stops at points of interest along the way. So it really just depends on how many things you want to stop and see.

  • Grants Pass has so much to offer. If you ever take this trip I totally recommend spending a little time in Grants Pass. Lots of fun downtown shops, great restaurants, hiking and rivers. The rogue river runs right through GP and there is white water rafting opportunities from novice to experienced. Several guided tours or rent your own and float on your own. There is also Hellgate jet excursions! So much fun however skip the meal the food is so so. Riverside Park is a great place to stop with the kids. It is right on the river where you can feed the ducks (seeds not bread) an Awesome playground. A Water Park that is the best free water park I’ve ever been to. Lots of gazebos and grills to have lunch. There is also a Frisbee golf course. There is lots of hiking here my favorite is Limpy Creek botanical trail and Rainy Falls hiking trail. If you are coming from the Redwoods to GP I also recommend stopping at the Illinois River. There are tons of swimming spots and the water is bright blue. (Not a lot of shade on the Illinois so I suggest lots of sun screen and a pop up shade tent if you have it.) Another bear spot is Ashland, OR there is a world famous Shakespeare Festival and Lithuania Park is beautiful. If traveling at Christmas visit Jacksonville, OR where they have Victorian Christmas and horse carriage rides!

    • Also I forgot about out n’ bout treehouses and the Oregon Caves! I’m sure I’m forgetting so much. You can stay overnight in a treehouse!! It’s straight out of Swiss Family Robinson and there is zip lines there as well. The Oregon caves are so cool and family friendly. I carried my daughter as a baby through the cave . The tours are guided.

    • Oh, wow! I wish I would have known about all those amazing things before we went! I guess we’ll just have to go again. 😉

  • Thank you so much for this map !! We are traveling across the US this summer and no one has mentioned Mt St Helens! It’s on the list!

    • Glad I could help, Mary Ellen! Your trip sounds amazing — we traveled across the US one summer and had a blast!

  • I loved reading the highlights that you found. We have lived within your travel area most of my life and been to all of your list including Vale! I actually grew up 30 minutes from Vale! 🙂

  • Awesome! I would love to visit the Redwood forest. It’s on my list of travel places! I went on a lot of road trips as a kid but haven’t taken any as an adult, probably because I’m the one driving and I like being able to do more productive things than drive.

    • I’m with you! Not only are you the one driving, but you’re the one planning and paying! So much less fun, lol! Just kidding, I still totally love road trips, especially when they are through such fantastic, gorgeous country as the Pacific Northwest!

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