Seattle to Yellowstone
Almost half of all the land in the United States is uninhabited, and some of the greatest swathes of forest in the country lie in its northwestern states. The lush landscapes of Washington and Oregon only grow more beautiful as you go east, towards America’s most famous national park – the Yellowstone National Park – but there’s plenty more to see on the way besides magnificent trees! Read on to discover our favorite stops on a road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone.
- Mount Rainier
- Coeur d’Alene
- Museum of the Rockies
- Craters of the Moon
- Grand Teton National Park
Things to know before you go on your Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip
Driving nonstop on the I-90 from Seattle, you can reach Yellowstone National Park in 12 hours. The shortest distance by road is about 750 miles. However, the route we suggest is 1315 miles long and should be covered over a week or so.
Being on the coast in Washington, Seattle has a reputation for being rainy and temperate. It’s also in a fairly forested region, which is why it’s called the Emerald City. Yellowstone, on the other hand, is thickly forested, being America’s first national park. The climate is humid continental in some parts and subarctic in others, and snow is common at higher altitudes. However, more than the temperature shift, it’s the altitude sickness that you need to watch out for.
Places to see on your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip
1. Mount Rainier
Looking at this towering behemoth, its peaks crowned with snow, it’s hard to imagine a smoking cauldron of fire and smoke, but that’s exactly how Mount Rainier started out. Like many of the mountains in the region, it’s a volcano. As of now, though, it’s a peaceful paradise for nature lovers.
In two days, you should be able to cover all the local attractions at the Mount Rainier National Park: old-growth forests, waterfalls, grasslands, and rivers. The area is home to a number of rare species, including cougars, Pacific fishers, black bears, and Northern Spotted Owls. To tour the park more quickly, take the Mt Rainier Scenic Railroad, which weaves its way across very picturesque parts of the mountainside. Finally, be sure to pay your respects at the Mount Rainier National Park Valor Memorial, which honors five employees who gave their lives to save visitors in danger.
Situated in between the Colville and Coeur d’Alene Reservations, Spokane is best known for the eponymous falls in the middle of town. Once, these falls were a sacred gathering place for the Native Americans, but now they evoke awe in visitors from across the world. The best way to experience them is via the Numerica SkyRide, a 15-minute-long gondola ride along the Spokane River. It shouldn’t cost more than $7.75 for adults and $5.75 for children.
Afterward, go for a run through the Riverfront Park, rated one of America’s best urban parks by National Geographic. Here you’ll want to check out the Garbage Goat, Havermale Island, Childhood Express, and Bloomsday Sculptures. Exploring all of Spokane shouldn’t take more than a day.
3. Coeur d’Alene
Looking for another small town, but eager to get in the water this time? Coeur d’Alene is only a short ride away from Spokane. The heart of this pretty town is Lake Coeur d’Alene, a 25-mile-long water body with more than 100 miles of shoreline. Feel free to go for a stroll by the waterside, swim, fish for bass or pike, and drive around the surrounding hills. Oh, and if you’re into golf, you’ll be excited to know that the lake has the only floating green in the world.
True to its Francophone name, which means ‘Heart of the Awl,’ the rest of the town feels simultaneously private and industrious. Check out some of the local art galleries and then, come evening, visit the Silverwood Theme Park, located outside the main town.
4. Museum of the Rockies
The forests in this part of the US constantly remind you of how rich and diverse the natural world is. But what about if you want to learn about the history of our living planet? Well, look no further than the Museum of the Rockies in the city of Bozeman, Montana. This museum has one of the largest fossil collections in the world, including not one but thirteen Tyrannosaurus rex specimens! Visitors can learn more about how these fossils are extracted, cleaned, and prepared at the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Laboratory.
There’s more than just fossils here, though. The museum also hosts three to five exhibitions a year, revolving around themes such as feminism, the Viking Age, and the Native American peoples of the Northern Plains. Most people spend about four hours here, but if you want to look at everything, you should spend at least half a day.
5. Craters of the Moon
How would you like to go to the moon? Unfortunately, space travel hasn’t advanced enough to allow tourists to leave the Earth – but there are plenty of places on our own planet that feel otherworldly. Take the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Central Idaho, for instance. Formed about 15,000 years ago by volcanic activity, it’s essentially a field of hardened lava that could have very easily been on the moon. Immerse yourself in the alien wilderness by following a hiking trail, and be creative with your photography. It’s not every day you can pretend to be Neil Armstrong.
6. Grand Teton National Park
From the Craters of the Moon, double back the way you came. Once you reach the town of Idaho Falls, take the eastern road to Yellowstone. You should reach the Grand Teton National Park within three hours. Much like its rival at Yellowstone, this park is known for its scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity, though it’s the smaller of the two. Some also argue that it offers better views of the mountains.
There are plenty of good hiking trails here, and Jenny Lake is great for picnics. Do keep an eye out for bison, grizzly bears, pronghorn, and other large mammals, though! Spend two days here, then head to Yellowstone – it’s further north, on the same road.