This post is part of a series on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, our 10-month, 15,000 mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
In the very northwest corner of the contiguous United States, off the coast of Washington and within a stone’s throw of Canada’s Vancouver Island, lies a confetti of emerald jewels in the Salish Sea. Known as the San Juan Islands, the number of rocks, reefs, and isles in the collection depends on whether you’re counting at high or low tide, but 172 have earned the distinction of being named. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, these islands are a patchwork of lodgepole pine forests, stoney beaches, verdant pastures and fields, and sparkling lakes.
Even getting to the islands is part of the fun! Four of the San Juans are served by the Washington State Ferry, and from the port in Anacortes, the rides to reach them is just over an hour. The ferries accommodate vehicles of all sizes and walk-on passengers – including those with paws – on their massive ships. The rules for pets are simple … they can stay in your vehicle for the crossing, ride in the passenger cabin if they’re in a carrier, or explore the outdoor passenger area or auto deck while on-leash.
- Pets must be leashed, housebroken, under control, and attended to at all times.
- Pets in carriers are allowed to ride inside in the passenger cabin.
- Leashed pets are welcome in the exterior passenger spaces and the auto deck. If the exterior spaces must be accessed through the main passenger cabin, take the most direct route outside and don’t linger in the interior spaces.
- Generally, pets are not allowed in the terminal buildings unless passing through the building is required for boarding access. Then leashed pets should proceed to the exterior waiting spaces in the most direct route available.
We had a beautiful day for the crossing, and Ty and Buster thoroughly enjoyed the ride. We did catch a glimpse of one other pup who rode on the auto deck with his people.
The most difficult dilemma you’ll face when touring the San Juans is deciding which island to visit. Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan Island are all served by the ferry, and any would make a great day trip. We spent a day on San Juan last year and, while it would have been great to go back, we opted to see Orcas, the largest of the islands.
Orcas is 56.9 square miles and shaped like an up-side-down horseshoe with the East Sound dividing the two lobes of the island. It’s known as the most beautiful of the San Juans for it’s mountainous terrain, pristine parks, and 77 miles of shoreline. The ferry docks on the western side of the island in tiny Orcas Village where you’ll find a few restaurants, the historic Orcas Hotel, and a grocery store if you’re in need snacks or picnic supplies.
The maximum driving distance between any two points on the island is 27 miles and, while there’s a lot to do here, everything happens on “island time.” As you cruise along the winding two-lane road through the spectacular Crow Valley, you can feel your stress evaporating and the calm, serene attitude of the island washing over you. With breathtaking views in every direction, it’s easy to leave the worries of the mainland behind and let yourself steep in this wonderland.
Moran State Park
The crown jewel of Orcas Island is the 5,252-acre Moran State Park – the fourth largest state park in Washington. The establishment of this fantastic park is largely owed to prominent shipbuilder and two-term Seattle Mayor, Robert Moran. In 1905 Moran began quietly buying land on Orcas Island for his retirement, and in 1921 donated more than 2,700 acres to the state to develop the park. Later he donated another 1,000 acres for it’s expansion, and now the park has 38 miles of trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, watercraft launches, and a swimming beach.
- Pets must be on leashes no more than 8 feet long at all times
- Pet waste must be cleaned up and disposed of properly
- Pets are not allowed on designated swimming beaches
Within the park’s boundaries is Mount Constitution – at 2,409 feet in elevation, it’s the highest point in the San Juans and offers exactly the kinds of views you’d expect. Adding to the panorama is the 53-foot stone observation tower at the summit, which was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.
Obstruction Pass State Park
As if one beautiful state park weren’t enough on a small island, Orcas boasts a second known as Obstruction Pass. With three trails that lead approximately a half-mile to the beach, this is a perfect place to bring your picnic or enjoy a sunset. The pet rules here are the same as in Moran State Park – pets must be on leashes no longer than 8 feet, and all pet waste must be cleaned up and disposed of properly.
It’s funny how time seems to fly when you slow down, and before we knew it, we had to start making our way back toward the ferry dock. Just before getting to Eastsound, the village that sits at the midpoint of the islands two sides, we stopped to see the lovely dog run at Buck Park. If your pup is itching to have a run when you arrive on the ferry, we suggest making this your first stop!
From there we had a nice walk around Eastsound. You could easily spend a day here, exploring the shops and galleries, sampling the fare at the restaurants, and taking advantage of low tide to access the marine health observatory on Indian Island.
We made it back to Orcas Village just in time to get the car in line for the ferry and have a drink on the pet friendly deck at the Orcas Hotel while we waited for our ship to come in.
Visiting these attractions with Ty and Buster is a dream come true. We’ll be blogging about each one as we go along, so fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors: Winnebago, 2 Hounds Design, Alcott, goDog®, PetGuide.com, Red Roof Inns, Sleepypod, The Bark, PetHub, RVPetSafety.com, and The Honest Kitchen. Please be sure to visit their websites and social media pages and thank them for their participation!