See terrific trails and parks to walk a dog just off the highway
Memories made with your dog on the road can last a lifetime. And you know your pooch always loves a good walk any time.
Whether your furry friend is busting to get out of the car during a cross-state road trip or you’ve been simply looking around for a special walking spot close to home, we are blessed in the Pacific Northwest with an abundance of scenic, pet-friendly trails and stops close to major highways. See some of the best places around the state to enjoy quality time with your pet.
I-5, the largest and busiest route in Washington, offers opportunities to stop and walk the dog, but you need to know where to look.
Near Bellingham, your pooch can wear itself out sniffing around at the on-leash Samish Park. Nearby, Lake Padden Park has an off-leash area, and the rest areas along I-5 also have a few dog-friendly spots.
In Arlington, Haller Park has a fenced dog agility course and open fields for off-leash play. Here you’ll also find the mile-long Eagle Trail, which showcases the majestic Stillaguamish River.
South from Seattle, Saltwater State Park has miles of well-maintained trails in the forests for on-leash walks, as well as beach access to take in the salty air. The Saltwater State Park Loop Trail is dog heaven with 1.4 miles of varying terrain to sniff.
Close by is the Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park. South of Olympia is Millersylvania State Park, where you can enjoy an on-leash walk with your pooch along a lake and miles of trails through towering trees.
In Centralia, Fort Borst Park has an off-leash dog park, as well as trails where you can walk your pet on a leash. Lewis and Clark State Park at the Highway 12 junction is another gem of a place, perfect for hiking and an on-leash stroll with your pooch among huge trees.
Highway 101 offers some of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite road trips, so you can imagine that this scenic road also has some great stops for a walk with Fido.
Along the Hood Canal side is Dosewallips State Park, which has miles of trails through trees for on-leash walks along the river or out to the fjord. A huge picnic area is frequented by elk and the occasional eagle drops a salmon. Stop here and your dog’s nose will find nirvana.
On the northern Olympic Peninsula, keep an eye out for access points to the Olympic Discovery Trail. For 135 miles, the trail runs between Port Townsend and La Push on the Pacific Coast, giving frequent opportunities for dog-friendly stops and scenic walks.
The highlight is a walk to Devil’s Punchbowl in Olympic National Park. It is rare to find dog-friendly hikes in Olympic National Park, but the scenic and majestic Spruce Railroad Trail is open to dogs on leashes. Ruby Beach is another pet-friendly area in Olympic National Park. For an on-leash walk through the rainforest, the Quinault Rainforest Trail in Olympic National Forest is iconic.
The Mountain Passes
Some road trips require crossing the Cascade Mountains on one of four passes. Seasonally open, Highway 20 is one of Washington’s most scenic major roadways with memorable dog-friendly stops along the way. Right along the Skagit River is Rasar State Park, with river access, miles of trails and a mile-long ADA accessible trail for great wildlife watching experiences.
Farther up the pass, the 1.6-mile Ross Dam Trail makes for a scenic spot for an on-leash walk to enjoy the water and mountain views. Farther east, the renowned Methow Trails is a dog-friendly option.
Highway 2 also has incredible stops for you and your pet. Close to Stevens Pass, the Iron Goat Trail is a classic, known for its stunning, gently graded trail that crosses over wooden bridges. If you are up for a longer trek, you can go through tunnels. Few places offer the history and experience of this trail.
Nearby, both the Bygone Byways Interpretive Trail and the Swiftwater Picnic Area are fantastic dog spots with an endless supply of smells and sticks for your pup. Past Leavenworth, Peshastin Pinnacles State Park is a highlight with on-leash dog-friendly paths, showcasing the tooth-like shale-and-sandstone pinnacles of this geologic marvel.
Highway 12 runs south of Mount Rainier National Park before reaching Yakima. Since Highway 12 is not as popular as other routes, these areas will be mostly empty in the spring, fall and winter months. If you are out this way and your dog needs to have a longer adventure, Cramer Lake is an easy-to-reach trailhead with a 7-mile round-trip hike. If that seems too intense, the underrated Tieton Nature Trail is best experienced in spring and fall with wildflowers and fall colors.
Running from Seattle to the Idaho border and beyond, I-90 has rest areas with dog parks, but those are often very small and typically occupied. Keep your eyes peeled for signs directing you to segments of the Palouse to Cascades Trail. Mirroring I-90, this long trail provides plenty of scenic and spacious areas to walk your dog.
Asahel Curtis Nature Trail and Picnic Area is an unexpected wonderland. Here you’ll find an easy trail into one of the last remaining stands of old growth in the Snoqualmie Valley and a spacious picnic area. At the top of the pass, Gold Creek Pond is a favorite in the summer and fall, with jaw-dropping views for you and a lifetime of smells for your pooch. Near Ellensburg, Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park offers great hiking trails for your pet and an off-leash area along the Yakima River.
Many of the scenic pet-friendly destinations are found along the Columbia River near Vantage. You’ll find state parks and Frenchman Coulee, each of which provides hours of unique and memorable adventure locations for you and your dog. Take advantage of everything you can in this area, as there aren’t too many options to stop at aside from rest areas until you reach Idaho.
Just over the state line in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Tubbs Hill gives you and your dog a chance to walk the wooded trails overlooking the lake. Take advantage of the signs to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which follows I-90. The mostly flat, easy-to-reach path makes for quick stops and an opportunity to give those legs one more stretch before Montana.
Disclaimer: Depending on the season, some of these stops may be closed due to weather, construction or any number of reasons. Some may also have amenities closed or removed. Check ahead before setting out to a destination.
Reminder: Always bring extra food and water for your pooch, as well as a towel and dog bags to pick up waste. Remember to be courteous to others and keep your pet safe by keeping them leashed where required, and pick up after them. Remember to leash your dog before exiting the vehicle and bring sealable zip-lock bags in case the spot doesn’t have a trash can for the waste.
—Written by Douglas Scott.
—The top photo is at Ruby Beach. Photo is courtesy of the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau.