One of the many things I look forward to about Seattle in the summer is the freedom to go on road trips without having to worry about snow in the mountain passes. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to spend more time in Montana, and every time I go there, I’m in awe of the state’s natural beauty. And one of the best ways to see what it offers is to go on a Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip.
True, you could make the trip in a day, but you’d be missing out on a lot. That’s why I say you should take your time on a road trip from Seattle to Glacier so you can stop in places you’ve never heard of before. You’ll love exploring these new destinations on the way to a stunning national park.
To help you plan your drive from Seattle to Glacier National Park, I’ve included a detailed three-day itinerary with stops at some of my favorite places along the way. So let’s get started!
Tips for a Seattle to Glacier Drive
Before I give you the inside scoop on the best way to travel from Seattle to Glacier National Park, there are a few things you should know. All the important questions you might have are answered here, as well as some you hadn’t even considered.
How Long is the Drive from Seattle to Glacier?
Although it’s hard to predict exact drive times due to traffic, weather, and other unpredictable variables, I can say that the average Seattle to Glacier National Park drive is about 10 hours via Interstate-90 without stops. That said, technically you can do a weekend trip from Vancouver or a Seattle weekend getaway here, but it’ll be a bit long.
Alternatively, you can go against the grain and opt for a ride on Highway 2. It’s slightly longer than the Interstate-90 drive, but only by approximately 40 minutes. However, I personally love the towns along the way here more. This is also a great Idaho weekend getaway if you’re coming from the east.
How Far is Glacier National Park From Seattle?
Taking the Interstate-90, you’ll travel about 550 miles by car between Seattle and Glacier National Park. If you’ve decided on Highway 2 as your route, you’ll be on the road for 582 miles.
Whichever path you take, you’re in for beauty either way. The drive is beautiful because it goes through national forests and calm lakes. It also gives you a great view of some majestic mountains.
Not to mention, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to stops. That is why I recommend a three-day road trip between Seattle and Glacier National Park, which is the perfect amount of time on a Pacific Northwest road trip.
How Many Days Do You Need in Glacier National Park?
Ideally, you want to schedule 3 to 5 days for your Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip, and perhaps even an extra day to account for travel time from Seattle. Of course, if you’re tight on time but still want to see the magic of the park, you can plan well and fit it into a shorter trip.
You can see the highlights of Glacier National Park in a day if you’re really pressed for time, but if you have the luxury of a few days, you’ll get the most out of your visit.
A two-day option will give you time to experience more than just the basics as you venture over Going-to-the-Sun Road, explore Logan Pass, and bask in the beauty of Avalanche Lake. Three days will allow for even more scenic drives and moderate hikes, while four or more days can get you deeper into some of the remotest portions of the park.
What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Glacier National Park?
I would say—and most will agree—that around summer is the best time to visit Glacier National Park from May to September.
These months bring days of relentless sunshine and toasty temperatures that make hiking through its lush meadows and finding hidden waterfalls a rewarding experience. Plus, you can see abundant animal life taking advantage of the warm weather.
Be warned that I’m not the only person who’s crazy about summer at Glacier National Park. Many people also come to the park then, meaning you’re in for a lot of foot traffic.
Local tip: Want the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Glacier National Park? Visit in spring when nights are a bit longer and darker, but the park is still accessible.
Seattle to Glacier National Park Road Trip Map
7 Stops on a Seattle to Glacier National Park Road Trip
A road trip where you drive from point A to point B isn’t my idea of a road trip. The best road adventures include stops in several locations, so here are my recommended spots between Seattle and Glacier National Park.
Leavenworth is a Bavarian town in the Wenatchee Valley, which has a lot of charm, beautiful mountain views, and beautiful natural scenery. This area is one of my favorite places to stop any time throughout the year, especially because it’s only slightly over two hours from Seattle, and there are so many things to do in Leavenworth.
Icicle Creek Nature Trail is a great place to explore the alpine meadows, forests, and mountains near Leavenworth. I also love the historical gems, like the unusual Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and the Greater Leavenworth Museum with rotating exhibits.
During the colder winter season in Leavenworth, you can enjoy all kinds of winter sports at the Leavenworth Ski Hill or the Plain Valley Nordic Ski Trail. There’s nothing I love more than spending a day outside in the cold being active or going on winter hikes, and then coming back into town and warming up somewhere like Icicle Brewing Company.
Things to Do
- Visit Waterfront Park
- Hit the slopes at Ski Hill Lodge
- Learn history at the Greater Leavenworth Museum
- Meet reindeer at Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Where to Eat
- Enjoy American bites with Asian twists at Yodelin Broth Company
- Indulge in German fare at Andreas Keller Restaurant
- Grab farm-to-table dining delicacies at Watershed Cafe
I always love stopping in Wenatchee, as not only are there plenty of bigger stores to stock up on road trip snacks, but the downtown area is charming. You can often find me hiking here in the spring and in Seattle in summer (Sage Hills is one of the best wildflower hikes in Washington) and enjoying a pint of beer at a local brewery after.
There are also plenty of things to see in Wenatchee, such as the Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village or the Rocky Reach Discovery Center. If you’re not sick of driving yet, I also recommend taking a drive down the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway.
Things to Do
- Ski at Mission Ridge
- Get local produce at Pybus Public Market
- Go hiking at Sage Hills
- Relax with a beer at Badger Mountain Brewing
Where to Eat
- Get fish and chips at Captain’s Cod food truck
- Enjoy enchiladas at Alma’s Mexican Kitchen
- Indulge in a slice of pizza at Abby’s Legendary Pizza
Spokane is located 193 miles (3 hours and 17 minutes) from Leavenworth, and it is a lively city with plenty of outdoor and indoor entertainment options. It is seen as the center of the Inland Northwest because of where it is and how different the landscape is.
I recommend stopping at Spokane Falls for scenic views, which are easily accessible from the Pavilion at Riverfront. They also have plenty of playgrounds to stop at if you’re traveling with your kids, or you can stop at one of the dozens of restaurants in downtown Spokane.
Check out exhibitions at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture if you love art. If you’re a music lover, be sure to catch a live performance at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.
Things to Do
- Stroll through Riverfront Park
- Enjoy incredible vistas at Mount Spokane
- Watch performances at the Martin Woldson Theater
- Appreciate art at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
Where to Eat
- Bite into an incredible pizza at The Flying Goat
- Try some of the city’s best steak at Clinkerdagger
- Enjoy casual fare at Wooden City
4. Coeur d’Alene
Coeur d’Alene is a small city that’s very popular for us Seattleites to go on vacation during the summer months, and it’s only about half an hour away from Spokane.
I recommend stopping at Lake Coeur d’Alene, an expansive, beautiful body of water with plenty of things to do. Think kitesurfing, jet skiing, and the incredible views you can see around town.
Coeur d’Alene is also home to McEuen Park, a beautiful green area with a waterfall and breathtaking views of the lake from the Rotary Harbor House. If you want an even deeper appreciation of the small town, you can learn more about it at the Museum of North Idaho.
If you brought your trusted bike on the trip, you can unload it and experience Coeur d’Alene’s part of the North Idaho Centennial Trail. The 23-mile path moves along Lake Coeur d’Alene’s eastern shores.
Things to Do
- Admire Lake Coeur d’Alene
- Explore McEuen Park
- Visit the Museum of North Idaho
- Hike the Coeur d’Alene National Forest
Where to Eat
- Try Latin-American fare at Cafe Carambola
- Grab a glass of beer along with some casual food at Daft Badger Brewing
- Fine dining awaits at Seasons of Coeur d’Alene
Kalispell is well-known, in part, due to its proximity to Glacier National Park. But it’s more than just a stop on the way to the tourist trap, so don’t be fooled.
For those who enjoy being outside, this city has no shortage of beauty. To get to Kalispell from Coeur d’Alene, you’ll have to travel 205 miles, which will take you about four hours.
Before even reaching Kalispell, I would recommend a stop at Flathead Lake. To get there, you’ll have to take Montana Highway 135 from Interstate 90 on your Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip.
The awe-inspiring freshwater lake has 185 miles of shoreline, along which you can stroll while feeling the sand under your feet. I recommend taking a ferry to Wild Horse Island to see wild horses grazing among beautiful plants.
The Conrad Mansion Museum is a mansion that once belonged to the founder of Kalispell and features the same furnishing it initially had. The Hockaday Museum of Art is geared towards art lovers thanks to an ever-changing collection of exhibitions. The Northwest Montana History Museum has several exhibits that explain the history of the Flathead Valley Region.
Things to Do
- Head south for Flathead Lake
- Visit one of three museums
- Head to Wild Horse Island for something unique
- Enjoy a splash at Woodland Water Park
Where to Eat
- Grab a burger and beer at Hops Downtown Grill
- Enjoy Italian delicacies at Scottibelli’s Ristorante
- Light bites wait at MacKenzie River Pizza Company
6. Columbia Falls
Before you make your way to Glacier National Park, I recommend a short stop in Columbia Falls. The quickest route between Kalispell and Columbia Falls is 17 miles long (or 25 minutes). Even if the stop is short, you can pack most of what the small city offers into a few hours.
Between June and October, a thrilling experience awaits at Glacier Ziplines. For a different type of thrill, rent an ATV and take on the steep terrain at Hungry Horse.
I also suggest going on a mind-bending adventure at the Montana Vortex, which defies the laws of physics. For instance, you can jump on hexagonal stones and watch your friends or family shrink and grow (kind of like Ant-Man) with every step you take. Note that this is a seasonal activity open between April and September.
Things to Do
- Go on a mind-bending adventure at Montana Vortex
- Enjoy a thrilling zipline ride at Glacier Ziplines
- Get wet at Big Sky Waterpark
- Indulge in craft beer at Backslope Brewing
Where to Eat
- Three Forks Grille has some of the best Italian goodies here
- Laidback treats like BBQ and pizza are available at Nite Owl & Back Room
- Classic Mexican dishes and margaritas are the stars of the show at Vaqueros
7. Glacier National Park
Your final destination on this Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip is Glacier National Park, known as the “Crown of the Continent.” It’s renowned for its stunning scenery, comprised of over a million acres of forests, glacial-carved terrain, alpine lakes, and more.
Glacier National Park is 17.5 miles (23 minutes) from Columbia Falls. Upon arrival, you’re greeted by the small Middle Fork Flathead River—a small glimpse of what this stunning national park holds.
When it’s open between July and October, I’ll say the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road is an absolute must-see. The route features 50 miles of natural beauty, including cascading waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, beautiful valleys, and animal sightings.
Along the way, you must stop at the 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. Here, you can enjoy sweeping views of Glacier National Park peaks and fields of wildflowers. If lady luck’s on your side, you might also see an elusive mountain goat.
However, coming here while Going-on-the-Sun Road is closed isn’t too bad either. You still have a lot to look forward to.
One of my top recommendations is Many Glacier, a natural stunner with waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and many hiking trails. You also have the less-popular Two Medicine, which is a valley complete with reflective lakes, towering peaks, and cascading waterfalls.
Hiking is easily the best way to see Glacier National Park, so you’ll want to try a few trails. I highly recommend connecting the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail for a great hike. After passing through a forest of tall cedar trees, you will arrive at Avalanche Lake.
If you’d rather rest your legs from driving and hiking, you can enjoy a bus tour of the park atop a vintage bus. It’ll take you to places like Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Things to Do
- Drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Take a vintage bus tour around the park
- Visit Many Glacier for more natural beauty
- Hike through the park
Where to Eat
- Get nachos or burgers at Tower Grill
- Grab Mexican delights at La Casita
- Enjoy a varied menu at Nell’s
Seattle to Glacier National Park Itinerary: 3-Day Road Trip
Wondering how to fit these gorgeous stops in on a Seattle to Glacier Park road trip? Let me not keep you waiting any longer; here’s the best way to get to Glacier National Park from Seattle in three days.
Day 1: Seattle to Spokane
Driving time/distance: 4 hours and 19 minutes / 279 miles
Unfortunately, we only have 24 hours in a day, so you’ll need to carefully budget your time between stops to stay on course. Leave Seattle early in the day, and you can give about 3 hours to Leavenworth. During that time, you can see the best of the small city by focusing on just the activities I highlighted.
Continue your trip on Interstate-90, and you’ll be in Spokane in about 3 hours. That is if you don’t make a quick pit stop at Moses Lake to admire the waters that beautifully reflect the clear skies.
Spokane and its many attractions and activities will be your final stop for the day.
Where to Stay: The Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection is a beautiful place to stay that’s right in downtown Spokane. (rates start at $209 per night on Booking.com)
Day 2: Spokane to Kalispell
Driving time/distance: 4 hours and 10 minutes / 238 miles
After your beauty sleep in Spokane, you’ll be ready to hit the road and continue your exciting journey. Don’t dread the Seattle to Glacier National Park driving time, as there are plenty of stops along the way to give your feet some much-needed rest.
Coeur d’Alene is the first stop and is only 30 minutes from Spokane. The tiny city has splendor you can see most of in just a few hours. This includes its serene lake, along with the hiking trails and thrilling activities it has to offer.
Drive the extra few miles to stop by Liberty Lake on your way between the two towns. It’s an incredible body of water that belongs on your Instagram.
After enjoying your share of fun in Coeur d’Alene, you’re in for a 4-hour drive (205 miles) down I-90. Between the two locations, there are a number of stops perfect for catching a breather, including Higgens Point and Flathead Lake.
Not to mention, the entire drive winds through several streams and lush roadside greenery.
Where to Stay: Glacier International Lodge has a free breakfast buffet along with an indoor pool and waterslide. (rates start at $137 per night on Booking.com)
Day 3: Kalispell to Glacier National Park
Driving time/distance: 44 minutes / 34 miles
While the whole day is reserved for Glacier National Park, I highly recommend a stop in Columbia Falls first. It’s small enough to take just a few hours of the day but has enough on offer that you could spend more. Columbia Falls and Kalispell are just 25 minutes (17 miles) apart.
You’re only 20 minutes from Columbia Falls, one of America’s crown jewels. You’ll then have the rest of the day to explore Glacier to your heart’s content.
Where to Stay: While the park itself doesn’t have dedicated accommodation, you can enjoy a stay at the minimalist Wonderstone at Glacier in nearby Columbia Falls. (rates start at $84 per night on Booking.com)
You’ll love enjoying the best of Washington, Idaho, and Montana on this fantastic Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip.