Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Mountain, city, beach: Planning an epic Oregon road trip

Check out our picks for navigating Cannon Beach, Mount Saint Helens and Portland with kids.

Photo: Darian Wong/Flickr


Just to the south of Seattle lies a whole other state worth exploring! Of course, I knew Oregon was there, but I never made it a priority to visit. All of that changed this past summer when we took our first family road trip.

Our plan was simple. We would head south to Mount Saint Helens, then cut across Oregon to the quiet beach town of Cannon Beach before rounding out our trip in Portland, where we could dive into some of the famed food carts, gardens and the Oregon zoo.

My sons, Dek and Ty, were both under the age of 3; we had to plan this very carefully. Dek was potty training and Ty was nursing. We knew we would need to stop every two to three hours to use the restroom and feed the baby. We mapped out our route so that every destination on our trip was along a major roadway with at least one restroom halfway through the journey.


Mount Saint Helens

The first stop was Mount Saint Helens. The Forest Learning Center boasts a fabulous outdoor playground where Dek could stretch his legs while we took our first look at the volcano. Inside, young minds can learn about the most recent eruption and the reforestation efforts. Dek loved to flip the switches in a real helicopter while we looked down at the model of the volcano's path of destruction.

Further up the road, we hiked around the Johnston Ridge Observatory, the perfect place to let the kids run around and get up close and personal with the volcano. Park rangers are on hand to give you a little education and provide kids with junior ranger materials. If you are really lucky, the volcano will let off a little methane gas, giving you a taste of the volcano in action.



  • Forest Learning Center, 33 miles from Interstate 5 on Highway 504; inside exhibits open May 15 through September 20. 17000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, 98649

  • Johnston Ridge Observatory, 52 miles from I-5 on Highway 504. 24000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, 98649



  • Pack a picnic lunch and bring plenty of water.

  • Strollers can easily navigate the paths, but if you plan on hiking, bring the baby carrier.


Cannon Beach

As the sun started to hang low in the sky, we headed east toward the coast. Our family chose to skip the excitement of Seaside and head to its quieter neighbor, Cannon Beach. We were ready to unwind and just have a little fun in the sand. If you dream of diving into the Pacific, wet suits are recommended, but little toes will still enjoy splashing around without one as they build some stellar sand castles.

Our family loved to fly kites, grill hot dogs and s'mores on the beach, and check out the tide pools around Haystack Rock. The caves at Hug Point State Park and the tall grasses on the bluff in Ecola State Park were the biggest excursions we managed while on the coast, each just a few miles outside of town. If you are craving a little social interaction and sustenance, you can head into the heart of Cannon Beach for burgers at Bill's Tavern, brunch at Lazy Susan Cafe, or check out our family's personal favorite, Crepe Neptune.



  • Cannon Beach Hotel Lodgings. One block from the beach with great family-size studios that include sofa beds and kitchenettes. Call for specials at one of their 4 properties. Moderate. 503-436-1392. 1116 South Hemlock Street, Cannon Beach, 97110

  • Surfsand Resort. Situated on the beach, this full-service resort offers studios and two-bedroom suites, loads of games for kids, s'mores on the beach, and an indoor pool. Splurge. 503-436-2274. 148 West Gower, Cannon Beach, 97110



  • Bill's Tavern. 503-436-2202 188 North Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, 97110

  • Lazy Susan Cafe503-436-2816. 126 North Hemlock St, Cannon Beach, 97110

  • Crepe Neptune, 503-436-9200. 175 East 2nd St, Cannon Beach, 97110



  • Hug Point State Park, US 101, 5 miles south of Cannon Beach. Free. Arch Cape, 97102

  • Ecola State Park, off US 101, 2 miles north of Cannon Beach. Admission: $5 per car day rate. 84318 Ecola State Park Rd, Cannon Beach, 97110

  • Haystack Rock can be viewed from any beach in Cannon Beach. Free.



Although we certainly had not had enough of the sun and sand, we pointed our car east after a few nights to tackle Portland, home of food carts, roses and Packy the pachyderm. We made the Oregon Zoo, Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park our first priorities once we arrived. After the hour-and-a-half drive from the coast, Dek was ready to get out and run.

Family highlights at the zoo included playing in the jeep by the leopards; Desi, the zoo's newest giraffe; and the Amazon Flooded Forest. Once your kids are worn out, take the train over to the Rose Garden (if in bloom) and Japanese gardens for a little down time and parental meditation. There was plenty of room for our active toddler to have fun while we explored.

Our first family road trip was a smashing success. Oregon has so much more to offer than the three destinations we visited, but for a quick family road trip, this was perfect for getting our feet wet.



  • Hyatt Place Portland Airport. Features include: indoor pool, complimentary hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi plus complimentary parking. Moderate. 503-288-2808. 9750 NE Cascades Parkway, Portland

  • Hotel MonacoLocated in the heart of downtown, this hotel offers large suites for families. Paid parking. Booking tip: Check their website for regular room specials. Splurge. 503-222-0001. 506 SW Washington St, Portland





  • Oregon Zoo (inside Washington Park). Hours: 9 am to 6 pm in summer. Admission: Adult $11.50, children $8.50, children 2 and under are free. Parking $1.60 hourly, maximum of $6.40. 4001 SW Canyon Road

  • International Rose Test Garden. Hours: 7:30 am to 9 pm. Free. 400 SW Kingston Ave

  • Portland Japanese Garden  Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (summer), Mondays late opening at noon. Admission: Adults $9.50, youth (6-17) $6.75, children 5 and under are free.  611 SW Kingston Ave

Keryn Means is a mother of a two boys and writes a travel blog for families – Walking on Travels. Her family loves to take weekend adventures around the the country as well as venturing further from home to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii and most recently, Europe.