Family camping in Oregon out of a van

The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Family Road Trip

I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way to pack the kids into the van for an epic family road trip that doesn’t end in disaster.” But surprisingly enough, a good Pacific Northwest family road trip can check off quite a few boxes — pristine wilderness and national parks, beaches, museums, water slides, and urban adventure.

Before hitting the road on that multi-month cross-country road trip, start small with your ROAMERICA campervan rental. We’ve put together an itinerary that has some great stops in the Pacific Northwest but won’t require more than a few hours in the car at a time so that you won’t have to answer the “are we there yet?” question more than five times per day. We hope.

Note: Time to next destination is from previous destination, excluding potential campgrounds.

1. Oaks Amusement Park, Portland, Oregon

Make sure you’re starting off on the right foot by beginning your trip at the Oaks Amusement Park, located right in Portland. This park has been open since 1905, making it one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the country. The park is home to everything you could want in an amusement park, from an ice-skating rink to a state-of-the-art roller coaster to corn dogs. With a first day like this, the kids won’t be able to wait until the next stop. Time to next destination: 4 hours 30 minutes

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Head out towards the Mt. Hood National Forest for your first taste of the Cascade Mountains. You can find dispersed camping in the national forest or head to the Trillium Lake Campground for lakeside camping and amazing views of Mount Hood.

2. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Situated in the collapsed summit cone of Mount Mazama, Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States. While the park does have some extensive hikes for all fitness levels that lead to incredible viewpoints, Rim Road also offers great vantage points to view the pristine waters without having to stroll too far from the van. Swing by the Sinnott Memorial Overlook, located behind the Rim Visitor Center, to learn about the area’s geology and lake research. The park also offers boat tours where guests will learn about the history, geology, and cultural significance of the lake. Time to next destination: 2 hours.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: The park has two campgrounds — Mazama Campground and Lost Creek Campground. Lost Creek is a first-come, first-served campground with beautiful tent sites perfect for parking your van. Mazama takes reservations and also has tent sites.

Family Road Trip in the Pacific Northwest - ROAMERICA - Micah Baird

Photo Credit: Micah Baird

3. High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon

Set on 135 acres, this museum focuses on the history and culture, wildlife and art of Oregon’s high desert. Kids will enjoy educational experiences where they get to encounter wildlife, take part in camps, and participate in a variety of hands-on experiences. Younger kids can attend different types of day camps, allowing you to go explore the museum (or a few of Bend’s 22 breweries) for the day. If you decide to go the brewery route, check out the Deschutes Brewery for some of the area’s classics, or Crux Fermentation Project, which is located in a former Aamco transmission plant. Time to next destination: 3 hours 40 minutes.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Head to either the Willamette or Ochoco National Forests for dispersed camping and for a truly off-the-grid experience.

4. Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon

This facility sits on 23 acres along Yaquina Bay on Oregon’s coast and boasts a variety of exhibits such as a “Secrets of Shipwrecks” exhibit. Visitors will also learn about the marine wildlife that call coastal Oregon home. Learn about the different ecosystems and the types of wildlife that they host, as well as different species of birds, fish, seals, sea lions and even land-dwelling creatures. Time to next destination: 2 hours 30 minutes.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Head 35 minutes east to the Saddle Mountain State Natural Area for stunning mountain views, great hiking trails, and 10 primitive, seasonal campsites at the base of Saddle Mountain. Note that the campsites are only available April through October.

Traveling around national parks by camper van with the family

5. Cannon Beach, Oregon

This small, coastal city is famous for its sandy shores and the iconic Haystack Rock — an igneous rock protruding 235 feet above sea level and situated just off the coast — which is often accessible during low-tide. The town hosts an annual sand castle building competition in June, as well as a Fourth of July parade, a Spring Unveiling festival and other events. Stop by the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum to learn explore a variety of programs and the area’s history. Time to next destination: 3 hours 20 minutes

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Head north to Washington for Cape Disappointment State Park. You’ll find stunning coastal views and campsites perfect for you and your family along the coast.

6. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

At 14,411 feet above sea level, this stratovolcano is the fifth tallest summit and is home to the largest glacier by volume in the lower 48. Idyllic meadows spotted with wildflowers sit amongst a backdrop of the dramatic, glaciated peak, offering an opportunity to enjoy nature in its simplest form. In addition to an endless amount of hiking trails, visitors can drive to Sunrise, which at 6,400 feet, is the highest point in the park accessible by car and offers views of Mount Rainier, Emmons Glacier and the surrounding meadows. Time to next destination: 3 hours 15 minutes.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: For $20 per night, you have the option to park your van at the Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, or White River campgrounds, all located within Mount Rainier National Park.

7. Leavenworth, Washington

This Bavarian-themed village, the seventh stop on your Pacific Northwest family road trip, is located in the heart of the Cascade Mountains and has been welcoming tourists since its downtown renovation in the 1960’s. Now, millions of tourists walk its streets each year, enjoying a variety of events, museums, tours, outdoor recreation and restaurants. Take a walk through The Sleeping Lady Art Walk and Organic Garden, which is home to organic gardens and art sculptures. The Leavenworth Summer Theater offers musicals during the summer months. Time to next next destination: 2 hours 15 minutes.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Leavenworth is surrounded by the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, a stunning wilderness space with plenty of dispersed camping throughout.

8. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, Pike’s Place is a bustling market comprised of restaurants, craftsmen, farmer’s stalls, and artisans. Tourists and locals alike flock to the market to admire the historic architecture, experience the local culture, taste a Seattle hot dog, and pick up some freshly caught fish. Coffee lovers wait in line at the first-ever Starbucks, which has been operating in Pike’s Place since 1971.

Where to stay in your ROAMERICA campervan rental: Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and stay at one of the tent campsites at the Fay Bainbridge Park and Campground. You’ll find beautiful coastline and stunning views of Washington State.

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