Yellowstone and Grand Teton Road Trip from Seattle
If you’ve always wanted to take a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but don’t have a surplus of vacation days, consider flying into a major airport hub that’s within a day’s drive like Seattle, WA. From there, rent a car or campervan and let the adventure begin. You’ll still get all the fun and nostalgia of a road trip, but you won’t spend endless days driving across the country.
From Seattle to Gardiner, MT, the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park, it’s a roughly 12-hour drive. You can definitely tackle it in one epic day of driving, but this is vacation after all, so plan to spend 2 – 3 days checking out some of the must-visit towns and cool attractions along the way. Read on for some recommendations on how to make the most of a Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip from Seattle.
The Route: Seattle, WA to Gardiner, MT | Total Drive Time: 11-12 hours
Leaving from Seattle, take I-90E to Spokane, before passing briefly through Idaho en route to Missoula and Bozeman, MT. From there, take US-89S, which will take you into Yellowstone via Gardiner, MT and the Park’s North Entrance near Mammoth Hot Springs.
Stop 1: Explore Spokane’s Riverside Neighborhood
Head into the heart of downtown Spokane near the city’s scenic 100-acre Riverfront Park. Grab a table at one of the many lively restaurants in the area like Steelhead Bar & Grill. At this hip establishment, you’ll find casual dining with Northwest-inspired flavors, burgers and craft cocktails. Afterward, stroll through the park to check out Spokane Falls, the city’s landmark location, where you can take the 15-minute SkyRide over the falls. Settle in for the night at a nearby hotel in this bustling downtown district.
Stop 2: Take a mountain town pit stop
Surrounded by seven wilderness areas and situated at the confluence of three rivers, you’ll have a hard time deciding how to spend a day in the ultra-outdoorsy college town of Missoula. After being in the car for a few hours, a hike from the University of Montana campus to the town’s signature M is the perfect way to stretch your legs. It’s a ¾-mile scramble to the M, or you can continue on to the top of Mount Sentinel for a 3.5-mile round-trip hike with sweeping views of the area. Later, cool down on a Clark Fork River tubing adventure right through the center of town before heading over to Big Sky Brewing Company’s Taproom.
Stop 3: Visit T. Rex
For a fascinating diversion on your way into Yellowstone, check out the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Home to one of the largest dinosaur fossil collections in the world, including 13 different Tyrannosaurus rex specimens, this top-notch history museum also has a wide variety of other world-class exhibits.
From Bozeman, it’s a little over an hour to the northern gateway of Yellowstone National Park where your national park adventure awaits. Not sure how to make the most of your time in the parks? Check out this recommended itinerary: The Best of Yellowstone and Grand Teton if You Only Have a Week.
Photos: Downtown Spokane – Craig Goodwin/Visit Spokane; Big Sky Brewing – Chris Corbin; Museum of the Rockies/Facebook