Rain is in the forecast for a long weekend in the Cascades, what do you do? You take advantage of Washington’s microclimates and head to the desert.
Washington State has Mount Rainier, Olympic Peninsula, and North Cascade as national parks. However, there are several state parks, recreational sites, and national forests that are available to explore, especially if you have a dog in tow.
I decided to take the plunge and get a furry companion, which is a lifestyle change. Instead of big mountain goals this summer, I’m looking for short backpacking trips and day hikes. Having the long Memorial Day weekend was ideal to introduce my, then, 12-week-old puppy while exploring outside of the national parks I normally gravitate towards. Our original plans involved a road trip around Washington’s Cascade mountains and national forests, but Mother Nature had other plans.
Below is an itinerary of a weekend road trip to take your furry along for the ride. As a first overnight dog van trip and hours in the car, some of the stops were short but necessary for her little bladder. If you have an older dog you can find hiking in the areas we stopped to stretch the legs a little more.
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Wanapum Recreation Area
A stop off the Columbia River and a boat launch for those wanting to fish, swim, paddle, and be on the water. A small campground makes the recreation area a place to call home for a night or two. Located a short 3-mile drive off I-90, it is a good place to have a picnic and dip your feet in the water.
If you want another experience, you can go north off the highway and explore the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. Both are close to the Frenchman Coulee, where basalt rock walls add to the landscape and can be rock climbed (both trad and sport). Since I spend springs and summers climbing in the area, it was nice to venture away from the climbing area and stay close to our road trip route.
Potholes State Park
Located south of Moses Lake, Potholes State Park is a small 700+ acre park with boat launches, fishing, and swimming. Laugh at the name until you realize that during the Ice Age, a series of flood-carved depressions and the nearby O’Sullivan Dam created tiny islands surrounded by “pothole” lakes making it truly unique. Source
Camp here for the night if you want a break from driving.
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge
The area is designated for public lands and fishing. A hidden gem with tons of wildlife and dirt roads to get you to nature. The sage bushes were fresh and the dry desert sun was a perfect break from the west-of-the-crest rain.
Though busier than normal with it being a holiday weekend, I was able to find a spot and take a long break to sit outside, crack open a beer, and watch. Optimally, I would have liked to camp here to get the morning and evening wildlife viewing.
Palouse Falls State Park
A popular destination if you’re out in eastern Washington. The state park is small and offers walk-in tent camping only. I timed the falls for an evening photo opportunity and waited over 30 minutes in line to park with staff letting cars in when cars left. Having the puppy, we didn’t want to do the longer walks in the area and stayed to the viewpoints not far from the falls. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.
Lyons Ferry State Park
Just does the road from Palouse Falls State Park, Lyons Ferry State Park is on the confluence of the Snake and Palouse rivers and is a public stop. In additional to the public recreational area, a small campground is available to stay for the night. Instead of a long stop here, across the road near the train bridge, a large dirt parking area lines the Snake River. We chose to cook dinner from the back of our van here since we had the place to ourselves.
Little Goose Lock and Dam
Down the Snake River, you can find public lands and places to camp. Though not always available and without many options, we elected to drive to Little Goose Lock and Dam. As we were arriving, we saw others camped at a fishing parking lot with a pit toilet. We drove the van down to see how populated it was and decided to continue on the dirt road that continued to the dam and back to the main road. Driving the length of it, there was one small pull out on the one lane road where we parked. We arrived just before dark and left early in the morning.
A storm front pushed through creating a wind channel down the river. Keep it in mind if planning on crashing here for the night.
Hood Park, Burbank, WA
I’m not sure why we woke up so early to head to the Tri-Cities for breweries before looping back towards western Washington. As we entered the area, we stopped at Hood Park and decided to nap in the back of the van before the breweries opened for lunch.
What’s a road trip without local breweries? Based on proximity, we headed to Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery, which had an outdoor patio for the puppy. We both ordered flights to test the beer. After talking to a local at a nearby table, we shifted gears and heading to Bombing Range and White Bluffs Brewing LLC, which are in the same area.
Bombing Range had a small outdoor seating area with cornhole boards that allowed dogs outside. After the drinking we already did, we stopped with a growler in hand and filled up at White Bluffs before heading ‘home’ for the night.
Circling back towards Vantage, Ancient Lakes has been on my radar for a few years now. I didn’t know why but people liked to drive all the way from Seattle to hike a few miles and return to the city. Now I know why. Small basalt columns, dry desert sand, and small lake views provide an escape from the Seattle rain and can be done when other trails are covered in snow in the spring and early summer months.
Many car camping spots are scattered throughout the public access areas with sparsely scattered pit toilets.
End the trip in Leavenworth; visit a touristy town, window shop and take in the Bavarian-styled theme that put this town back on the map. Pick up a braut and drink at the local brewery or distilleries.
Not only a tourist town, Leavenworth has plenty hiking trails to stretch the legs, river floating in the summer, and stellar climbing options. I met up with a friend to crag for the day when Andy and the puppy returned back to the city early.
It’s time to return back to the western side of the Cascade mountains. Pick the route that suits your adventure via Stevens Pass or Blewett Pass.