A Seattle to Yellowstone road trip is an excellent chance to see a big swath of the mountainous northwest. Driving through three western states known for their pristine vistas and outdoor adventures, there is a lot to see and do along this trip. It is possible to speed along I-90 in one very long day of driving but is best to break it up so you can spend some time enjoying this beautiful part of the country.
As you drive through the mountains in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, there are many options for hiking, fishing, boating, and camping. Before you even get to Yellowstone National Park, you can have a lot of opportunities to see wildlife and get close to nature on this route. You will definitely want to take your time on this trip to stop and enjoy the scenery in big sky country.
Planning a Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip
You’ll likely want to travel along I-90, the most direct route to Yellowstone. Once you get to Bozeman, you can take either Highway 191 or go a little further to 89 south to get to the park. This route has plenty of gas stations and restaurants at bigger towns and cities. You should have no trouble finding places to stay on this route.
Because I-90 is one of only two east-west interstates through the Northwest, it can be very busy in some stretches. Road conditions can be dangerous, especially in winter, while driving through mountain passes like Snoqualmie and the area east of Coeur d’Alene.
Keep in mind that I-90 through Montana has been named the most dangerous stretch of interstate in the country due to excessive speeding.
If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across a number of car hire companies. Alternatively, you can rent an RV or campervan from Outdoorsy, particularly if extending your drive from Yellowstone to Denver or detouring along the Oregon Coast.
How Far is Seattle to Yellowstone?
The distance from Seattle to Yellowstone is 755 miles if you take the most direct route on I-90. The Seattle to Yellowstone drive time is almost twelve hours, so you will want to break this up into at least a two-day or three-day trip to enjoy the many fun places to stop along the way.
Some great cities to stay overnight include Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and Missoula. There are also lots of places to camp overnight along I-90.
Best Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip Stops
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
If you are a Twin Peaks fan, don’t miss stopping at the town of Snoqualmie Falls, where much of the television show was filmed. Take the Snoqualmie Parkway off I-90 to the famous waterfall from the opening credits.
It’s one of the most popular destinations in Washington State and a great place for a photo op. There are two observation decks and a gift shop, and you can hike and picnic at the falls. While you’re there, you may want to dine or stop in at the Salish Lodge (known as the Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks), which sits right above the waterfall and has great views.
You can also visit sites nearby from the show like the iconic Double R diner where Agent Dale Cooper often stopped for a slice of cherry pie. Drive down Route 202 to North Bend to the now renamed Twede’s Café, where cherry pie is still prominently featured on the menu.
Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
If you are making the Seattle to Yellowstone drive in winter, take extra caution when driving through Snoqualmie Pass as this area gets heavy snow and the roads may be closed. Snoqualmie Summit is a popular place for winter sports with lots of options for skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing.
In summer, the Snoqualmie Pass area is a beautiful alpine wilderness with crystal blue lakes, waterfalls, and endless pine forests. You can take the Pacific Crest chair lift to the top of the mountain for a great view.
There are lots of great hikes in the area right off I-90 including Franklin Falls and Beaver Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail also goes through Snoqualmie Pass.
Spokane Falls, Washington
There are several famous waterfalls on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip, and Spokane Falls is the second one to see. Spokane Falls is at the heart and history of the city of Spokane and is just one of many beautiful places to see when driving from Seattle toward Spokane.
It was a gathering place for centuries for local Native Americans to catch salmon and perform ceremonies and a hydroelectric dam and a mill were built powered by the falls in the 1800s. The falls spills out over rocks and includes two different levels in the middle of Spokane’s downtown.
You can view the falls at Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane, which has several city landmarks including a clock tower, a pavilion built for the 1974 World’s Fair, and many sculptures.
You can take pedestrian bridges to Snxw Meneɂ Island (formally known as Canada Island) in the middle of the Spokane River, and you can also walk across the Monroe Street Bridge for a great view of the falls. For an extra special treat, take the SkyRide, a gondola that goes over the Spokane River.
Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Lake Coeur d’Alene, with 135 miles of shoreline, is one of the premier natural lakes in the area and there is a lot to do, including watersports of all types.
You can rent paddle boats or a pontoon boat at the marina or take a cruise around the lake. Fishing is also very popular at Lake Coeur d’Alene, and you’ll need to get an Idaho fishing license. You can fish for salmon, trout, and bass here.
If you don’t want to get out on the water, there are several beaches you can head to the beaches off I-90 on the north side of the lake, including Sanders Beach, and Pebble Beach. The Couer de’Alene Resort offers many options for lakeside dining including Beverly’s and the Cedars Floating Restaurant.
If you are a cyclist or just want to take a great walk, check out the Trail of the Couer d’Alenes, a 73-mile paved path crosses the southern part of the lake and a few other lakes to the east. You can pick up the trail at the town of Cataldo on I-90 east of Couer d’Alene.
National Bison Range, Montana
North of I-90 on Highway 93 from the town of Wye is the National Bison Range in the Flathead Indian Reservation. The National Wildlife Refuge has been managed by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes since 1908 to restore bison, which were nearly extinct by that point from hunting.
The range is open to visitors from May to December. Stop at the visitors center to pay the fee, where you can also picnic. You can drive along the Prairie Drive and Red Mountain Drive roads with interpretive signs through the range to view the herd of bison, which numbers around 350 to 500.
You can also hike the Bitterroot, Grassland, and High Point trails to view the herd. The National Bison Range is an off the beaten path and offers a chance to learn more about Native American history and conservation efforts in the west.
Montana Natural History Center, Montana
If you’re looking for a fun stop for kids on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip itinerary, check out the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula.
There are exhibits on Montana’s ecosystems, glaciers, a naturalist lab, and lots of activities for kids including a discovery room, a nature adventure, scavenger hunts, and other programs. The center also owns the Fort Missoula Native Plant Garden in Missoula, where you can learn about pollinators Montana’s native plants.
The center is open Tuesday through Saturday and is $4 for adults and just $1 for children. It is located on History Street and near the riverfront area. If you’d like to explore the riverfront from the museum, you can take a walking path from the center to get to the parks that dot the Clark Fork River through Missoula.
Grant-Kohrs Ranch, Montana
Montana is famous for its ranches, and if you’d like to stop at a real one on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip, visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, a National Historic Site right off I-90 in Deer Lodge.
It was originally started by a Canadian fur trader, Johnny Grant, and then expanded by Conrad Kohrs, who was known as Montana’s Cattle King. At one point he owned 50,000 cattle and ten million acres of land. It was also owned by Conrad Warren before becoming a National Historic Site in 1972.
The Grant-Kohrs Ranch is still a working ranch today. You can tour the barn and bunkhouse buildings and walk along the trails around the ranch and see the cattle and the cowboys that work it. You can also visit the blacksmith shop and the chuckwagon.
The ranch offers several programs and guided tours in summer, which is a great time to visit. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch does not charge an admission fee.
Missouri Headwaters State Park, Montana
The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States, and it starts where the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers meet in Montana just north of the town of Three Forks off of I-90.
It was at this site that Sacagawea was kidnapped as a girl by the Hidatsa tribe and taken to North Dakota. She helped lead Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery on their journey to the headwaters, where they wrote about it in their journals.
At the Missouri Headwaters State Park, you can walk or bike along the interpretive trails, canoe, fish, and camp overnight. You can also rent a tipi to camp in.
The park is open year round and charges fees for camping and tipi rental. The park entrance fee is $8 per vehicle. This state park is a scenic and peaceful stop on the drive from Seattle to Yellowstone Park.
Museums at Montana State University
Montana State University in Bozeman has two great museums that are worth stopping to see on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip.
The Museum of the Rockies, a Smithsonian affiliate, has a huge fossil collection and a complete T-Rex to view. It also has natural history exhibits, a planetarium, cultural exhibits, and lots of programs. It is open every day throughout the year and admission is $16.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids.
For an unexpected learning experience, also consider visiting the American Computer and Robotics Museum on the Montana State University campus. The museum was first started by local engineer George Keremedjiev, who began collecting calculators and adding machines.
The museum collects all kinds of items on computing, artificial intelligence, and information systems. It has cuneiform tablets, robotics, and electronics, some of which you may remember going back to your childhood on display.
It’s a great place to visit for those who work in tech or just love computers. This museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and charges $8.50 for adults and $5 for kids.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, Montana
The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is located in West Yellowstone just outside of Yellowstone National Park, so it may be a great preview before you head into the park or you might want to stop by on your reverse Yellowstone to Seattle road trip.
It was started as a sanctuary for nuisance grizzly bears who would normally be killed, and it educates the public on how to reduce the problem. It has expanded to also include wolves, otters, birds of prey, and squirrels. The center has exhibits to learn about the animals and you can view them too.
A unique activity the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center does for the bears is have them try out bear-resistant garbage cans and food containers, so you might get to see a bear trying to break into one while you’re there.
The center is open every day of the year. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Where to Stay on the Seattle to Yellowstone Drive
If you’re planning on making any (or all) of these stops on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip, you’re going to need to find a great place to stay along the way. The cities of Spokane, Washington and Missoula, Montana make great overnight points on this beautiful road trip.
The Historic Davenport – This hotel is an excellent choice if you’re looking for some luxury in Spokane. Centrally located, they have a number of plush amenities and plenty of lovely rooms to ensure you’re well-rested to continue your road trip. Click here to see their availability
Montvale Hotel – This boutique hotel is another great Spokane option, especially if you’re looking for something a bit smaller and more quaint. They have a range of lovely, chic rooms on offer and even have an on-site restaurant and bar. Click here to see their availability
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. Click here to browse private rentals in Spokane
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Spokane hotels!
C’mon INN Missoula – If you’re looking for a comfortable and reliable place to rest your head in Missoula, then this hotel is an excellent option. They have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available, an indoor swimming pool and fitness center on site and a number of other amenities to make your stay a great one. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – Another popular option in Missoula is a private rental, like this plush condo in central Missoula. There are lots of properties to choose from in the city that you’re sure to find something that suits your needs. Click here to browse Missoula private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Missoula hotels!
Bentwood Inn – Located in Wilson, WY, this luxury hotel is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a place to stay that is within easy reach of Yellowstone National Park. They have countless plush rooms on offer to suit all party sizes, breakfast included each morning, and they even offer wine and cheese for guests in the evenings. Click here to see their availability
Yellowstone Park Hotel – If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then this place located in West Yellowstone, MT is an excellent choice. Located close to Yellowstone NP’s western entrance, they have a number of great rooms available and even have an on-site swimming pool. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – If you’re looking for your own private rental near Yellowstone, there are lots of properties to choose from close to the National Park. A place like this condo close to the Park’s west entrance is just one of countless options available. Click here to browse private rentals near Yellowstone!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Yellowstone hotels!
By making some of these Seattle to Yellowstone road trip stops, you can get off the interstate and have some memorable moments in the mountains, learn more about nature and landscape of the west, and have a fantastic adventure.
Are you planning a road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park? Have any questions about the route? Let us know in the comments!