Traveling with my dog in USA (west)


In Joshua Tree. (Photo by Raúl Montoya)

The United States is one of the countries I have traveled more with Cocaí and, therefore, I have more information and tips about what it means to travel with your dog around here. We traveled around ARIZONA, UTAH, CALIFORNIA, OREGON AND WASHINGTON.

JOURNEY

We started in Nogales, Arizona, on the border with Mexico. From there we traveled to the north of the state and Utah, to then return back to Arizona and head west. We arrived in Southern California. From here we headed north through the entire golden state, Oregon and Washington. Until Canada.

Nogales – Tucson – Mammoth – Petrified Forest National Park – Canyon de Chelly National Monument – Page – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – Zion National Park – Bryce Canyon National Park – Panguitch – Arches National Park – Moab – Canyonlands National Park – Monument Valley – Page de nuevo – Grand Canyon National Park – Flagstaff – Sedona – Mojave Desert National Preserve – Joshua Tree National Park – Riverside – Death Valley National Park – Lone Pine – Alabama Hills – June Lake – Lake Tahoe – San Francisco – Bolinas – Humboldt Redwood State Park – Redwood National and State Parks – Harris Beach State Park (Brookings) – Bullards Beach State Park – Jessie M. Honeyman State Park – Newport – Portland – Vancouver (Washington) – Potlatch State Park – Olympic National Forest – Sequim – Dungeness County Park – Port Angeles – Victoria (Vancouver Island, Canadá).

LENGHT OF THE TRIP

Two months.

TRANSPORTATION

Our means of transportation in the USA

Hitchhiking. We did practically the whole thing by hitchhiking. The best thing about traveling in this way in the States is that you take away all the prejudices you may have about this country and its citizens. A hippie with his dog, immigrant and newly elected Trump, was able to travel for two months around the country, crossing from Mexico to Canada, thanks to beautiful people. In addition, it is also interesting to see the varied profile of the people who give you a ride compared to other countries. For example, here we were given rides by all kinds of people, regardless of gender (for example, in Mexico I only got one ride from a woman), color (blacks, whites), religion (Muslims, Catholics) or political ideology (more from left wing beliefs, but also some Trump supporters took us!). You will be able to read more about hitchhiking in the US soon.

Give us a ride!

And they did it... Dozens of people did it. For example, this man, who even absented himself from his job to take us to our destination

Bus. We only took two buses. In the initial journey from the border with Mexico to Tucson, we could board a van service that they had there to reach some population. On a short stretch of the Oregon coast: Gold Beach - Bandon, very close to Bullards Beach State Park. On the Oregon coast you can access buses with your dog: "Service animals and well-behaved dogs are allowed on buses". A great example for others to follow.

Cars of friends. I went to see a friend who lives in Flagstaff and we took a trip to Sedona in her car. Another friend of mine, a living in LA, came to see me at Mojave Desert and we visited together the Joshua Tree NP.

Erika came to the rescue and we visited the Joshua Tree NP together!

Ferry. The ferry that leaves from Port Angeles, north of Washington, to Vancouver Island not only lets you get on board with your dog, but you can also walk freely on the boat in the company of your buddy. On other ferries in the States and Canada you can travel with your dog, but only your dog must remain in a cage during the journey (usually provided by the ferry company).

Cocaí walking on board with a new mate (Jaxe), with whom she was going to live the first weeks in Canadian lands, to her surprise… And mine

Others that we did not use

Car sharing. There is no Blablacar or anything like that. There are some websites, but it is not worth mentioning them, as people hardly use them. However, you can try and find rides through ridesharing or travels Facebook groups.

Rental car. You can always rent a car.

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation in the US is easy in terms of being able to access with your dog. There are many campsites and almost all hotels accept dogs, paying a fee (usually between 10 and 25 dollars). However, fees aside, it is expensive (not for a backpacker budget at all), especially if you are traveling alone. They usually charge per room (hotel) or per site (campground). In addition, the idea of the hostel is not very popular, except for large cities like San Francisco. We basically used the tent, but there were other forms of accommodation besides camping. Let's see them.

Free camping. These are the places where we set up the tent "without asking for permission": Painted Desert, Lone Rock (near Page), Mt Carmel Junction, Death Valley NP, Riverside (in a square), somewhere near Seal Rock (Oregon).

Camping in the Painted Desert, one of the weirdest places we have slept in.

Campgrounds. Qualified places where we camped: Canyon de Chelly, Arches NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Moab (hostel/camping), Joshua Tree NP, Death Valley NP, Alabama Hills, Harris Beach State Park, Bullards Beach State Park, Jessie M. Honeyman State Park, Potlatlch State Park.

Making friends at Joshua Tree NP

The only crazy ones at the Bryce Canyon campground in January

Car. I met Jeremy, a Belgian boy who was traveling by car, and Coqui and I joined him for several days. Jeremy slept in the back seats, where he had a mattress, and Cocaí and I in the front seats. In this way we spent the night in places like Grand Canyon NP, Flagstaff, Mojave Desert and some other place on the way. It is common to find in the States travelers who use their cars with this double function (it is expensive even for their salaries).

Fuck, this is much better than the tent!

Houses of friends. In Portland, with the cousin of a friend of mine.

Couchsurfing. I only did it once, in Riverside with a very nice family. I tried several times throughout the country, but it did not work very well... In San Francisco I had a host, but I ended up staying with a guy who gave me a ride: César.

Spontaneous Couchsurfing. In Mammoth (Arizona), with Franckie, Isha and their two little ones. In San Francisco with César and his family. In Sequim with Dorleta. All three were after they gave me a ride. We were so lucky to cross paths with these good Samaritans who not only took us off the road and gave us a roof, but also made us enjoy unforgettable moments.

We had barely been in the US for 24 hours when FranckiE gave us a ride. After a while we were with his nice family in their house. They accommodated us...

... And they spoiled us!

Cabin and Yurt. In the Humboldt Redwood State Park and Harris Beach State Park, respectively. Thanks, again, to César and family. You can read more about this story here.

This pretty yurt was our home in the woods for a day. Thanks to César and Melissa, once again

Hotel. Tucson, Canyon de Chelly, Panguitch, Page. I did not even pay for the first two... I will not talk about that here, but anyone who is interested can read my diaries to discover the wonderful things that an unknown human being can do for you without expecting anything in return. Even in the States, where many believe that selfishness reigns.

But what is this? A bed so big for each one of us? I can’t believe it!

Some recommendations

The Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab, Utah. It is a very cool hostel that, although dogs are not allowed in the rooms or in the cabins, and therefore you will have to sleep in the camping area, they do let you use the kitchen and the living room. I can not guarantee it, but if you have a quiet dog, they will surely let you stay with him/her in the living room and even spend the night there. We ended up sleeping on the couch the last few nights... It is one of the few hostels in the area and you have to take advantage of it! Especially if you are traveling in winter, as was our case.

Lazy Lizard Hostel of Moab, Utah

Try Couchsurfing in big cities like San Francisco, Portland or Seattle, more than in towns and small cities.

In US territory they are quite flexible when it comes to free camping. You can camp on any piece of land, whether you are out for a walk in the woods or stuck on the road at night (there is no problem with camping on one side of the road). The only thing is that there is a lot of private property, so be careful, lest you get someone pointing at you with the shotgun! My advice for you: camp in National Forests. Everything that is National Forest and BLM (Bureau of Land Management), which abound in the country, allows free camping, without costs of any kind. In National Parks you usually have to stick to the authorized campsites, unless you go on a multi-day hiking. The downside of the latter is that dogs are not allowed on 95% of the National Parks trails... You can go (we did it) but keep in mind that you can get a ticket.

FOOD LOCALS AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS

We did not travel much through cities and civilized areas... We spent most of the time in natural areas. Even so, I think I have a rough idea. They usually do not let dogs in restaurants. But there are places where they do. My recommendation is that you enter the local without asking permission and if they tell you something then you leave. If you ask in the first instance, they will usually tell you that dogs are not allowed. I believe that, especially in Oregon and Washington, you will easily find restaurants and fast food places that admit dogs. On the Oregon coast, where they are very advanced with the dog thing, I went with Cocaí to a couple of Subways (more for the Wi-Fi than for the food!) and they never said anything to me. I also went to a local in Tucson, when I arrived in Yankee territory. On the other hand, if you travel by car you can always leave your partner on board.

I swear Subway doesn’t sponsor me

Having a few beers with these dudes on a terrace in Pioneer Town

Outside of the food locals I do not have a clear picture. We entered several stores and some laundry rooms. I think you will not have problems in general, but there will be places that do not welcome your dog.

This cannabis dispensary in Port Angeles (Washington) welcomed us with a "dont worry, be happy"

NATURAL AREAS

National Parks and National Monuments

In the States they are quite restrictive with companion animals in their National Parks and National Monuments. You can easily access all them with your dog, but you will only have access to the road areas (and nearby), campsites and, at best, a path that is in the most "urbanized" area. That is, they will not let you take your buddy to virtually any hiking. To travel a Park by car and do short walks is fine. For a long hike no. However, we were able to do several hikes in many Parks... How come? Because we were traveling in the middle of winter, January and February, when there are very few visitors and there are hardly any Park Rangers patrolling the Parks. Then, there are Parks that are more restrictive than others. This is my experience one by one:

Petrified Forest NP, Arizona

We got permission to camp in the Painted Desert wilderness area even though dogs are not allowed. I also toured part of the Park with two guys from Seattle that gave us a ride. We made some stops at several lookouts. Within the limited permissiveness of the National Parks in the States, this is a good Park to visit with your dog.

Holy smoke! Where did you bring me this time, crazy man?

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

I made two trips: one organized tour with a guide who took me inside the canyon (Cocaí could not come, but they looked after her at the office); another along the rim of the canyon, a trip I did with a very nice guy from Nevada who gave us a ride. Dogs are here allowed, except if you go down to the bottom of the canyon (Cocaí and the Nevada´s guy pup stayed in the car while we were visiting the depths of the canyon).

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Good place to visit with your dog. There are many routes, some of them are dog-friendly.

Visiting Utah with my dog

Zion NP, Utah

There is only one path that you can visit with your dog, next to the campsite. I could do some other hiking while Cocaí stayed in the Nevada´s guy car.

Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Like in Zion, there is only one dog-friendly trail. I did the other trails by myself, while Cocaí waited in the tent. Sorry buddy.

Even so, she had a great time in the snow

Arches NP, Utah

I think there is no dog trail, but you can access viewpoints and so on. We toured the Park with a boy who “lifted” us from the road. Although it is not allowed, we made part of a trail with Cocaí (there was no one in the Park).

Canyonlands NP, Utah

This Park has three parts. We visited two: Island in the sky and The Needles. In both the regulation is the same and in theory dogs can only stay in the camping areas and on the road routes and lookouts along the way. We skipped the rules a bit. There was not even a single soul (not even at the entrance control). In the two sections, which we did by car with people from the Lazy Lizard Hostel (Moab), we did some very cool hikes.

One of our favorite Parks

Monument Valley, Arizona

You can access the viewpoint with your dog. Not the site itself, though. Anyway, there is no need to enter the place as you have fucking great views from outside.

Grand Canyon NP, Arizona

The rim area, that is, on top of the canyon, is accessible to dogs. Not the routes that go into the interior of the canyon. Cocaí stayed in Jeremy’s car of (the Belgian guy with whom we traveled a few days). The Park has also a dog kennel service, in case you do not have a car in which your dog can stay or if you are visiting the Park under a big sun and do not want your buddy to evaporate. This kennel thing, inside the bad, is good news.

Yes, we can, we made it to the Grand Canyon Coqui!

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Same thing in theory. We visited it twice. First, with my friend Erika by car. We made several short walks through the Park with Cocaí. Second with some buds I met at the campsite, also by car and making stops in deserts of cactus and viewpoints.

Erika and Coqui among Joshua Trees

Death Valley NP, California

Death Valley is one of the Parks that we best toured. We did a few excursions through different areas of the Park. I think it is one of the most permissive in terms of getting around with your dog. Even in the most touristy area, the dunes, we did not see Rangers.

Redwood National Park, California

We only did it by car (with César and Melissa). We made some stops, but no hikes. I think dogs are not allowed in any hikes either.

Olympic National Park, Washington

It was closed by snow. A pity, because everybody says it is beautiful. Even so, since we were already there (Dorleta brought us here, a girl who also “lifted” us from the road), we took a walk around the entrance, so theoretically we got to enter!

And we had fun playing in the snow!

Others

Outside the category of National Parks, the rest very well. Whether we talk about Preserve, State Parks, National Forest... These all will not give you any problems. I will not tell here our experience one by one, I will only name the areas we payed a visit and I will notice that we made hikes in all of them, walking with no restrictions: the surroundings of Moab, the mountains of Sedona, Mojave Desert Preserve, Alabama Hills, June Lake, Lake Tahoe, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the State Parks of the Oregon Coast, Potlatch State Park, Olympic National Forest. As there are so many State Parks in Oregon, here it is the official link: http://oregonstateparks.org/. On the other hand, we were not allowed to enter a Californian State Park of Redwoods (Samuel P Taylor State Park), which is 20 minutes by car from San Francisco.

Earth, swallow me... It’s so hot! (Mojave Desert)

As for beaches, we were in some of the city of San Francisco and its surroundings (Bolinas), as well as on the coastlines of Oregon and Washington. They are quite permissive, but of course, once again, we toured the area in the winter months. In summer it is probably another story.

César and Cocaí at Bolinas Beach

With a friend at Harris Beach State Park

Final tips

Consider renting a car to tour some National Parks. It is difficult to travel by hitchhiking in a place in which dogs are not allowed (and even less in high season). It can be done (we did it), but you will probably miss routes you wanted to do. And even Parks in themselves... For example, you can rent a car in San Francisco or LA and visit the "bordering" Parks: Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, King Canyon... If you decide to do it without a vehicle, you will not see that much but you will get other things (friends, adventures...).

The Annual Pass for the Parks and National Monuments. This pass costs about $ 80 (each park costs between 20 and 30 dollars). Do three or four and you will have already amortized it. It is valid for a whole year since you buy it (for example, if you buy it in April it is valid until April next year).

Take advantage of the winter time to visit the hottest parks, such as Joshua Tree or Death Valley (impossible to visit in summer). Or to enjoy in silence those parks that are crowded during the summer months. Seeing them snowed also has its charm.

DOG DOCUMENTATION

They did not ask me for dog documentation when entering the States from Mexico. We crossed the border at Nogales, between Sonora and Arizona. In theory, they can (must) ask you for the papers, which in this case are the common ones: veterinary health certificate issued in the week prior to entering the USA, vaccination of rabies in force (that is, in the last 12 months; if it is a puppy, it must be at least one month in advance), external antiparasitic treatment in the previous days before crossing, and electronic chip.

There is no risk of rabies or other diseases in the country.

ASSESSMENT

The USA is a tough country to travel with a dog for backpackers without a car. While they are super dog-friendly, the two fundamental pillars of a trip (accommodation and transport) are going to be a problem. For different reasons: the first one for prices and the second one for the access to it.

As I have already mentioned, accommodation in the country will not be too difficult to obtain, but it will be very expensive. Hotels are out of the orbit of the backpacker budget and official campsites are not cheap at all. But at least you have the option, which in other destinations you do not even have it. Anyway, bring your tent to get you out of trouble (you are stuck on the road at night, there is no vacancy in the town you have just arrived… Whatever) and, above all, to make excursions through the vast and beautiful nature of the Far West. Under my experience Couchsurfing does not work too well, but it is just my experience. You always have to try. As for transportation, as in almost any country, you will have to trust your luck to your thumb. The good news is that Yankee citizens love dogs and their hearts will weaken when they see your furry on the road. More than one told me that he/she gave me a ride for my dog! Another thing you can do is searching for rides on ridesharing or travel Facebook groups (there is no Blablacar or anything like that).

In summary, the pros and cons:

  • Pros: Doggy culture, your dog will feel like a king or queen, getting smiles, caresses and treats down the street. Many hotels/motels allow pets, even if they are expensive. High freedom to camp.

  • Cons: It is very expensive. The "anti-dog" policy in the National Parks/Monuments. Lack of a popular application of ride sharing like Blablacar.

  • Degree of difficulty to travel: 7.

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