When you plan a Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip, you’re in for a memorable adventure. Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana, with the northernmost parts of the park extending into Canada. The drive from Seattle to Glacier National Park takes travelers through beautiful scenery and small mountain towns before arriving in Glacier.
If you’re gearing up for this road trip, we’ve got all the recommended stops to make along the way. Begin your journey by visiting the sites in Seattle before transitioning out of the city and into nature. All different kinds of scenery await visitors while driving between these places. Keep reading for the best stops to make during your travels.
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Planning a Seattle to Glacier National Park Road Trip
The hardest part about planning a road trip from Seattle to Glacier National Park is deciding where to stop along the way. The most scenic route is along I-90 from Seattle to Montana.
The drive is easy and straightforward as you remain on this interstate for almost the entire drive. You’ll regularly pass through cities and small towns along the drive, giving you plenty of opportunities to stop for food, gas, and bathroom breaks.
When you reach Montana, the towns from the Idaho-Montana border to Glacier National Park will be further apart and smaller. Still, these places will be able to provide any resources you need on your travels.
Towns directly outside the national park tend to have higher prices than those further away, so try to fill up your gas tank before reaching Glacier if possible.
Make sure to pack your bags to align with your itinerary. If you’re planning on stopping for regular hikes, have easy access to hiking boots and comfortable clothes in your car. If you plan to swim or have a picnic by a lake, keep your bathing suit, picnic blanket, and a towel nearby.
Pack comfortable clothes to wear while exploring Glacier National Park and regular streetwear for your time spent in Seattle. Don’t worry if you forget something – there will be plenty of opportunities to purchase forgotten items along your road trip.
If you need to rent a car for this drive, you can browse Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across many major car hire companies. Alternatively, check out Outdoorsy if you prefer to rent an RV or campervan – this can be a great idea if extending this road trip by driving from Montana to Denver.
How Far is Seattle to Glacier National Park?
The distance from Seattle to Glacier National Park is about 550-miles if you head straight there. You’ll follow Interstate 90 almost the entire drive to the park, crossing the whole state of Washington, through Spokane Valley, and across the tip of Idaho, before cutting north toward Glacier National Park.
The total Seattle to Glacier National Park drive time is almost nine hours. It’s feasible to be done in one day, but why not spread it out and see some of the sites along the way? There are a number of amazing places to stop where you can easily spend a few days.
Best Seattle to Glacier National Park Drive Stops
If you only have a day or two to spend in Seattle, there are a few sites you should make sure to explore. The city skyline’s iconic Space Needle is a favorite for all visitors. Likewise, a visit to Pike Place Market for a variety of merchants selling anything from raw fish to flowers is a must-see.
If you have time for museums, you should explore Chihuly Garden and Glass. This indoor and outdoor blown glass museum is filled with the work of Dale Chihuly. Visitors to the museum will view countless bright and colorful blown glass exhibits. Take a walk through the indoor exhibits before exploring the garden.
The Museum of Pop Culture is just down the street from Chihuly and the Space Needle. Check out the history of pop culture through a series of carefully designed exhibits. The build itself can’t be missed – it boasts a twisted metal exterior that reflects sunlight.
If you still have time to visit another museum in the city, check out the Seattle Art Museum downtown near Pike Place Market. No matter how much time you have to spend in Seattle, your days will be filled with excellent attractions.
Mount Rainier, Washington
If you have time on your Seattle to Glacier National Park drive to make a pit stop at Mount Rainier National Park, definitely do it. On a clear day on Seattle waterfront, you can see this towering Northwest volcano in the distance.
A visit mid-week to avoid the crowds is ideal. When you spend time around Mount Rainier, you’ll have countless options for viewpoints and hikes taking you through subalpine meadows, lush green valleys, and an impressive snow-capped peak.
The park was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States. More than 25 glaciers extend from the mountain.
Avid backpackers might take on the Wonderland Trail, which circles the entire mountain. Day hikers can opt to cover a small section of the trail to reach more remote locations in the park.
Granite Mountain, Washington
Forests, meadows, and cliffs are the variety of landscapes hikers on Granite Mountain encounter. The hike itself isn’t too strenuous and offers a nice relief from a Seattle to Glacier National Park drive to stretch your legs.
The Granite Mountain summit boasts incredible views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding hills. A lookout tower at the top is a fun stop to explore. Bear in mind that this trail is open all year, but becomes more dangerous in the winter months, so be cautious if hiking in snow.
Leavenworth and the Enchantments, Washington
A slight detour off I-90 takes you to Leavenworth and the Enchantments. Leavenworth is a quaint Bavarian-inspired small town in rural northwest Washington. Stop in for a beer and brat, or spend a night and explore the surrounding area.
The nearby Enchantments is an iconic spot for both backpackers and hikers. Permits for backpackers are hard to come by, but day hikers can trek up to Colchuck Lake, an electric blue body of water that reflects the towering mountains behind it.
If your itinerary allows for a two-day detour to Leavenworth, definitely take it. This is a unique area that has a lot to offer its visitors.
Spokane might not be the first place to come to mind when you’re considering places to stop on a drive to Glacier National Park, but hear us out. As the second-largest city in Washington, Spokane has plenty to offer its visitors.
Riverfront Park looks like a scene from a fairytale. The 1902 Clock Tower, Spokane Falls, and Manito Park are great ways to spend a day. Spokane is also a great pitstop on your drive to Montana and there are a lot of places to see on the Seattle to Spokane drive.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Now that you’ve officially crossed into Montana, you’re rapidly approaching Glacier. Before you reach the park, make a stop at Flathead Lake. It’s the largest freshwater lake in Montana with 13 different access sites.
Visitors have over 200 square miles of lake and 185 miles of shoreline to explore here. The park only permits day use and forbids overnight camping. However, if you’re looking for a nice place for an afternoon picnic and swim to break up a day of driving, Flathead Lake is the place to be.
Columbia Falls, Montana
Columbia Falls sits a short 15-minute drive from the entrance to Glacier National Park. Here is a perfect small town to pause and spend a night before driving into the park. There are cabins and campsites readily available to visitors.
Make sure to explore the local shops, restaurants, bakeries, breweries, and the summer farmers market when you’re in town. Columbia Falls also has a popular golf course if you’d like to stop in for a quick game. If you’re traveling with kids, an aerial adventure park or alpine slide might be exciting activities.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
As the only road that traverses the entire national park, driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road should be at the top of your to-do list in Glacier National Park.
The road passes over the Continental Divide and through Logan Pass, which is the highest place on the road at 6,642 feet. Construction on the road began in 1921 and finished in 1932.
The road itself is about 50 miles long, but you should budget several hours to drive it. There are several stops to make along the way.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is only accessible during the summer months due to it being exceptionally difficult to plow during the winter. It’s narrow and windy, with several hairpin turns.
It’s best to take the road slow to both catch as much of the scenery as possible and drive safely. Keep in mind that the road does see a lot of traffic, so get an early start if you can.
Lake McDonald, Montana
If you’ve ever seen photos of colorful pebbles under crystal clear water and backdropped by towering mountains, it was probably Lake McDonald.
The lake is about 10 miles long and 472 feet deep, creating a picturesque photo opportunity. It was filled by glacier runoff, which makes the water clear. Visitors can kayak or paddleboard in the lake.
Lake McDonald Lodge sits on the lake’s shoreline. Here is a great spot to rest after a long day of hiking. Ranger-led evening programs, scenic boat tours, horseback riding, and more are offered from the lodge.
Try to visit Lake McDonald on a clear day for a perfect mirror reflection of the mountains behind. Before your visit, consider checking out the lake’s webcam of the lake pointed up toward the continental divide.
Grinnell Glacier, Montana
Grinnell Glacier is one of the most famous glaciers in the park. It was named after the American conservationist and explorer George Bird Grinnell. The glacier is just a day hike away, sitting on the side of Mount Gould at 7,000 feet elevation.
It’s one of the most photographed glaciers in the park, but has been shrinking consistently since 1850. Visitors remark that the journey to the glacier along the Highline Trail, while a moderately difficult hike, is well worth the effort.
Highline Trail, Montana
This ridgeline hike offers visitors stunning views of the park’s mountains and valleys before arriving at the famed Grinnell Glacier. Beginning at Logan Pass, hikers trek 7.6 miles to Granite Park Chalet before continuing another 11.9 miles toward Fifty Mountain Campground.
Hikers can choose to walk any length of the trail, but a 1.2-mile side trail stretches toward Grinnell, a highly recommended stop on the hike. Most of the trail follows the Garden Wall ridge that runs along the continental divide. This path offers hikers unbeatable views of U-shaped valleys.
Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail, Montana
If you’re looking to shake up your scenery while visiting Glacier National Park, try out the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. The hike takes visitors into the valley forests and is accessible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Some of the cedars here reach 80 feet in height.
This is one of two wheelchair-accessible trails in Glacier National Park. Hikers have options for which route they take. One direction takes them in a loop through the forest while the other continues straight toward Avalanche Lake.
The parking lot at the trailhead fills up quickly, so it’s advised that hikers get an early start. You can begin the hike from either side, but most people start along the eastern side of the loop.
Where to Stay on the Seattle to Glacier National Park Drive
If you’re wondering where to stop off for a night (or two) while on your road trip to Glacier National Park, then the town of Leavenworth makes for a great option if you want to break up the drive over a few days.
A solid halfway mark, the city of Spokane also makes for a great place to break up the journey. If you’re wondering where to stay there or near the National Park, have a look at the following suggestions:
Bavarian Lodge – If you are looking for something that fits in then the very classically German aesthetic of Leavenworth, then this hotel is an excellent option. It’s centrally located and they have a number of great rooms available and numerous other amenities to make your stay a great one.
Fox Den Bed & Breakfast – A cute and quaint option if a large hotel isn’t your style, this bed and breakfast is centrally located and have several wonderful rooms available. They have a great, central location and a hearty breakfast available each morning.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Leavenworth!
The Historic Davenport – An excellent luxury accommodation choice in Spokane, this historic hotel has every amenity imaginable. There are also a range of plush rooms to choose from to ensure that your stay is a wonderful one.
Montvale Hotel – This boutique hotel in central Spokane is a great choice for you if you’re looking for something a bit smaller and quaint. They have cute and comfortable rooms available and even a restaurant and bar on site.
Private Rental – If you’d rather find your own place rather than stay in a hotel, then a private apartment or home rental is the perfect choice for you! There are lots of great places in Spokane — like this comfortable central cottage — that you’re sure to find something that suits your fancy.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Spokane!
Glacier National Park
The Ridge at Glacier – If it’s some luxury you’re after, then these luxury cabins close to the Glacier National Park entrance are a fantastic option. There are wonderful cabins to choose from that can suit all kinds of visitors.
Under Canvas Glacier – If it’s a unique glamping experience you’re after, then this accommodation option closeby to Glacier National Park is an excellent option. There are countless plush safari-style tents available to suit any party size and lots of other amenities to help your stay be a great one.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels near Glacier National Park!
The drive from Seattle to Glacier National Park is full of stops for every kind of traveler. Stick to the bigger cities or lean into nature by staying in campgrounds. Depending on how much time you have for your road trip, you can add or subtract destinations from this list on your trip.
A Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip is certain to be a memorable experience for all. Now, it’s time to start planning your trip!
Are you planning a Seattle to Montana road trip? Have you been to any of these stops? Let us know in the comments!