Traveling from Seattle to Yellowstone is an excellent road trip thanks to the beautiful scenery and numerous other state and national parks you’ll pass through.
Just visiting Yellowstone alone would make the trip worth it, but the adventure doesn’t need to stop there – you’ll encounter incredible natural landmarks, historic towns, and stunning wilderness, which all beckon to be explored along the way.
With so many places to visit, we’ve put together this guide with some of the best attractions along the route so you can create a Seattle to Yellowstone road trip itinerary that fits your time frame and travel style.
- Distance from Seattle to Yellowstone
- How Long do I Need Driving from Seattle to Yellowstone?
- Best Time of Year to Drive from Seattle to Yellowstone
- 7 Best Stops on a Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip
- 7 Best Stops Back – Yellowstone to Seattle
- More Tips for Road Tripping from Seattle to Yellowstone
Distance from Seattle to Yellowstone
It’s about 750 miles between Seattle and Yellowstone. This route will take you through Washington, Idaho, and Montana on I-90.
A slightly longer route will take you south on 1-84 through Washington to Oregon and then across Idaho to reach Yellowstone. This drive is about 1,000 miles in total.
How Long do I Need Driving from Seattle to Yellowstone?
Driving straight from Seattle to Yellowstone on the 1-90 route will take about 12 hours without any stops. Sure, this might be doable in a day if you really enjoy sitting behind the wheel. Still, with so many places to explore, we recommend breaking the trip into segments!
Taking the southern 1-84 route is about 17 hours of driving time. Although this trip is longer, it also means you can stop in Portland, Oregon, and some of the parks in southern Idaho.
If you’re planning a round trip back from Yellowstone to Seattle, you can take 1-90 one way and 1-84 in the other direction to make the most of your travel experience.
In this Seattle to Yellowstone driving itinerary, we’ve included stops along the northern route on the way to Yellowstone and then highlighted some of the places to visit on the south route on the way back.
Although this trip could be done in a few days, we’d recommend planning on spending at least a week driving in either direction to allow for time to stop and visit the parks and cities.
Best Time of Year to Drive from Seattle to Yellowstone
Spring, summer, and fall are the best times of year for a road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone. Although it’s certainly possible to drive this route in the winter, parts of Yellowstone are closed during this season, and there aren’t as many options for accommodation.
Summer is the busiest time of the month for tourists to visit Yellowstone. You’ll also encounter more traffic on the roads during this season.
Often the shoulder months of spring and fall between April-May and September-October are considered ideal times of the year. This way, you can still enjoy good weather but miss the major crowds which flock to the park in the summer.
No matter what time of year you’re planning on taking a Seattle to Yellowstone road trip, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance, especially at Yellowstone itself. Places will fill up quickly, and you won’t want to miss out on your opportunity to explore this amazing National Park!
7 Best Stops on a Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip
As you drive from Seattle to Yellowstone, here are some of the best parks and cities to visit along the way taking the I-90.
Many of these stops could be entire vacations in themselves, so if you have time, don’t hesitate to stretch out your road trip to really make the most of all the exploration in store!
Quick Drive Time Summary: Seattle to Yellowstone (Northern Route)
The following are estimates only to help you plan out your driving times between major attractions on the northern route from Seattle and Washington State to Yellowstone.
|Seattle Snoqualmie Falls
|Snoqualmie Falls to Spokane
|4 hours 10 minutes
|Spokane to Coeur d’Alene
|Coeur d’Alene to Missoula*
|2 hours 45 minutes
|Missoula to Lewis & Clark Caverns
|2 hours 30 minutes
|Lewis & Clark Caverns to Bozeman
|Bozeman to Yellowstone
|1 hour 30 minutes
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
We’re going to start our journey close to Seattle. Snoqualmie Falls makes an excellent first pit stop on your drive to Yellowstone if you’ve not already experienced the falls on a day trip from Seattle.
These spectacular falls are one of Washington’s top natural attractions, and it’s no secret why. Plummeting 270 feet, the waterfall is an absolutely jaw-dropping sight.
There are two observation decks which are open year-round, as well as picnic areas and a gift shop to pick up snacks and souvenirs, the best way to start your long journey into eastern Washington state.
About a five-hour drive from Seattle if you drive direct, Spokane is a perfect place to spend the night (or a few nights) on your road trip to Yellowstone.
This city is family-friendly and has a great variety of cultural attractions as well as parks and natural beauty.
In the downtown area of Spokane, you’ll find some of the city’s famous landmarks, like a pavilion that was constructed for the World’s Fair in 1974. Nature is found right in the middle of the city as well, thanks to the Riverfront Park where you can see Spokane Falls.
A fun family activity in Spokane is the SkyRide gondola. This ride takes you right over the Spokane River for some great sights of the city and the waterfalls.
If you’re staying for a night or two, you might want to check out the arts or nightlife scene of the city.
Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Not far from Spokane, Lake Coeur d’Alene is a perfect first stop in Idaho during your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip.
The 135 miles of shoreline offer plenty of room for lots of outdoor fun, whether you decide to go hiking or rent a paddle boat for a day out on the water.
Lake Coeur d’Alene also has some excellent beaches like Pebble Beach and Sanders Beach which are great spots for swimming, picnicking, or just relaxing by the scenic shoreline.
There are also several shoreside dining options ranging from more expensive restaurants like Cedars Floating Restaurant (which has some incredible views!) to casual family venues.
For a short but beautiful detour on your drive from Seattle to Yellowstone, you can add on the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway, one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Idaho. The drive is about 35 miles and it takes about an hour to drive. The panoramic views of the lake and surrounding forest and mountains give you an appreciation for the beauty of Idaho!
A nature-lovers paradise, Missoula beckons with fun activities like hiking in the mountains, horseback riding, and fishing.
The Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot rivers converge at the city, and water sports are particularly popular pastimes. For a relaxing day, you can rent inner tubes to float down the gentle areas of the rivers, or if you’re in search of more adrenaline, then kayaking may be a good option.
The fun university town of Missoula also has a great cultural scene with theaters, art galleries, and excellent dining options. It’s a perfect place to spend a night or two to enjoy the best of the Montana wilderness as you make your way from Seattle to Yellowstone.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana
One of the gems of Montana, Lewis and Clark Caverns is an incredible place to visit for the whole family. It’s historically significant owing to its title of being Montana’s first state park, and it’s known for its other-worldly limestone caves filled with stalagmites, stalactites, and enormous rock columns, which give the caves the appearance of an underground cathedral.
Don’t worry-the caves have all been equipped with electric lighting and handrails, and tour guides will accompany groups to bring them through the maze of tunnels to learn about the incredible geologic process of cave formation.
Tours of the caverns are offered between May 1 and September 30, and during the hot summer months, not only will you enjoy the stunning natural formations but also some natural air conditioning thanks to the cool temperatures of the caverns!
Lewis and Clark Caverns are easy to do as a daily activity, or you can also spend a night at the campground if you want to get a real experience of big sky Montana.
A gateway into Yellowstone, Bozeman is definitely worth visiting during your drive from Seattle to Yellowstone.
Outdoor activities like rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing are all possible thanks to the stunning mountain scenery and beautiful rivers.
In the city, you’ll find farmers’ markets, art fairs, and a vibrant theater scene if you want to experience the social side of life after spending time in the wilderness of Montana.
You’ll want to check out the Bozeman Hot Springs, which are a perfect place to relax and appreciate the natural spa created by the thermal springs in the area.
Surrounded by mountains and with the big blue sky above, it’s way better than any indoor spa!
Families traveling with kids will enjoy the Montana Grizzly Encounter, which is a grizzly bear rescue and rehabilitation site in Bozeman. It’s a perfect chance to have a close-up encounter with these enormous bears in a safe and protected environment.
Yellowstone National Park
We’d highly recommend that you book your accommodation in Yellowstone well in advance (if you’re traveling in the summer, booking the winter before is a good idea), since lodges and campgrounds will fill up very quickly.
West Yellowstone is the most popular of Yellowstone‘s four entrances on account of how close it is to many of the famous geysers such as Old Faithful. It’s also a convenient entrance to use for visiting the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Accommodation in West Yellowstone
One of Montana’s most charming small towns, check out accommodation options in West Yellowstone (much like lodgings within the park, you’ll want to book many months in advance.
Our complete family guide to Yellowstone National Park coming soon! From Mammoth Hot Springs to Grand Prismatic Spring, there are so many great experiences to enjoy in Yellowstone.
- Got a 4th grader in th family? Check if your eligible for free national park entry with Every Kid Outdoors
7 Best Stops Back – Yellowstone to Seattle
As we mentioned, it will take several hours longer to take the southern route back Idaho and Oregon, but this drive includes some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest, so we’d argue it’s unmissable on any American road trip bucketlist!
- Many will also pair with a trip to Yellowstone a stop at Grand Teton National Park – you could easily add this as your first stop in Montana before continuing on with this itinerary.
You can mix and match these stops east to west for a shorter journey, but overall we’d allow a week to complete the drive back to Seattle (or alternatively, take the southern route to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, then the northern route back, it’s totally up to you!)
Quick Drive Time Summary: Yellowstone to Seattle (Southern Route)
Use these estimates to help you plan out your drive times and return route from Yellowstone to Seattle.
|Yellowstone to Idaho Falls
|1 hour 42 minutes
|Idaho Falls to Craters of the Moon
|3 hours 5 minutes
|Craters of the Moon to Sawtooth National Forest
|3 hour minutes
|Sawtooth National Forest to Painted Hills
|7 hours 12 minutes
|Painted Hills to Columbia River Gorge
|3 hours 37 minutes
|Columbia River Gorge to Portland
|Portland to Mount Rainier
|2 hours 22 minutes
|Mount Rainier to Seattle
|1 hour 50 minutes
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Taking the south route back between Seattle and Yellowstone, you’ll drive right through Idaho Falls which is known for its amazing waterfalls (maybe you guessed by the name?).
There are lots of options for camping, hiking, water sports, and horseback riding, as well as great activities and culture in the city itself.
Families will want to stop to visit the Idaho Falls Zoo, which has a great petting zoo that young kids will enjoy. There are also family-friendly museums to learn about the history of the area and the Lewis and Clark expeditions.
It’s only about a four-hour drive between Yellowstone and Idaho Falls, but because of all the things to explore, it’s worth spending at least a day, if not two or three, to get a chance to explore.
Craters of the Moon, Idaho
Visiting this National Monument on your drive from Yellowstone to Seattle is a must; you’ll truly feel like you’ve left planet Earth behind and are walking on the surface of the moon!
The landscape was created from oozing lava which seeped up from fissures in the ground. As it spread, it created a surreal environment of lava beds, tree molds, and strange lava formations covering nearly 620 square miles!
The Space Research Center is also a great place to visit for families. Young kids will love getting Lunar Ranger Badges and learning about how the area was used in the process of training NASA astronauts for landing on the moon!
We’d also highly recommend checking out the lava tubes, which are underground tunnels created by the channels of lava.
Craters of the Moon is a little over two hours from Idaho Falls, making it a nice day activity during your road trip between Seattle and Yellowstone.
Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
The Sawtooth Mountains are one of the crowning natural landmarks of Idaho. Leaving behind the moonscapes of Craters of the Moon, you’ll enter some of the most stunning mountain scenery you’ve encountered yet on this drive from Seattle to Yellowstone!
From hot springs to waterfalls, the activities in the mountains are endless, and it’s worth spending a few days exploring.
With over 1,100 lakes and 3,000 miles of streams and rivers, the chances for water activities like kayaking, swimming, and fishing are endless.
The Snake River is a particularly popular tourist attraction thanks to the possibilities of water rafting on the blue waters and miles of hiking trails through the mountain landscape.
Pro Tip: There aren’t any major cities in the Sawtooth Mountains, but you can find lodges and accommodation near the town of Stanley, but make sure you book a room well in advance. For those who want to be more immersed in the outdoors, camping is also a great option!
Painted Hills, Oregon
The Painted Hills in Oregon are a geological wonder that make for an unforgettable road trip stop. These hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and are known for their vibrant colors, which range from deep reds to bright yellows and oranges.
The hills are made up of layers of volcanic ash and clay that have been eroded by wind and water over millions of years, resulting in a landscape that looks like something out of a painting.
As you approach the Painted Hills, you’ll be struck by the contrast between the bright colors of the hills and the stark beauty of the surrounding desert landscape. The hills seem to glow in the sunlight, and the colors change depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. Visitors are welcome to explore the hills on foot, following a series of trails that wind through the landscape.
- Note this is a long driving day with not much site seeing en route. You can tackle it by staying in Boise overnight, driving it in one long hit, and staying in nearby John Day. Or, if you’re skipping Painted Hills, the I-84 is a little quicker, with a stop at Baker City, La Grande or Pendleton to break up the journey..
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Driving through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway is a breathtaking experience that will leave you in awe of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. This Oregon scenic byway stretches for 75 miles along the Columbia River, cutting through the Cascade Mountains and connecting the states of Oregon and Washington.
As you travel through the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll be surrounded by towering cliffs, dense forests, and cascading waterfalls. The road twists and turns along the Columbia River, offering spectacular views of the water as it rushes through the canyon.
One of the most popular stops along the way is Multnomah Falls, a stunning 620-foot waterfall that is easily accessible from the road. Visitors can hike up to the top of the falls for an even more breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery.
Another highlight of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway is the historic towns that line the route. You’ll pass through quaint communities such as Hood River, where you can stop for a bite to eat or a glass of local wine. The area is known for its excellent wineries, and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and sample some of the region’s best varietals.
Making your way back up through the Pacific Northwest, it’s worth taking a slight detour on I-84 to go through Portland, Oregon.
Eccentric, fun, and full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, it’s no wonder why Portland is such a popular city to visit.
Spend a day hiking around Mount Tabor, then head downtown to check out the fantastic restaurants and culinary scenes the city has to offer. Local coffee shops abound, and Portland is said to have some of the best coffee anywhere in the U.S.!
After a trip full of mountain scenery, experience a new kind of natural beauty at the Portland Japanese Garden. These artistically curated gardens are full of amazing flowers, picturesque bridges, and tranquil ponds covering about 12 acres.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
On the southeast side of Seattle, Mt. Rainier National Park makes a perfect way to round off your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip.
The iconic peak of Mt. Rainier is one of the best-known natural landmarks in the Pacific Northwest. Some people don’t realize that it’s also an active volcano that last erupted about 150 years ago!
The park is a popular place for hiking, mountain climbing, and biking. Although it’s possible to visit the park in a day, we’d recommend at least spending a night or two either at a campsite or lodge so you don’t feel rushed.
The glaciated peaks and mountain rivers of this park are stunning year-round, but spring is particularly beautiful thanks to the fields of mountain wildflowers. Painting the mountainsides with bright gold and purple, it’s no wonder that Mt. Rainier ends up in so many postcard photographs!
More Tips for Road Tripping from Seattle to Yellowstone
- Make sure you pack for a wide variety of weather, especially if you plan on camping. Temperatures can change a lot between day and night, so having layers is a good way to ensure you’ll stay comfortable.
- Always check road conditions before you set out each day. We’ve found Waze the best app for real-time traffic, or follow along with the government-run websites and advisories:
- Note that you’ll be crossing time zones from PST/PDT in Washington and Oregon to MST/MDT in Idaho and Montana.
- If you plan on fishing during your trip, double-check the requirements for fishing permits before you go.
- Campgrounds in most National Parks operate on a reservation basis, but some may be first-come, first-serve.
- Lodges at Yellowstone are available to book from up to 13 months out; if your heart is set on staying within the national park, get organized early!
- Part of the experience of visiting Yellowstone is the opportunity to see lots of wildlife, but make sure you also take the necessary safety precautions, especially when hiking or camping in grizzly bear territory.
- Approaching from the south instead? You’ll love this Yellowstone road trip itinerary from Salt Lake City, taking in Grand Teton along the way!
- Never forget a critical road-tripping item again! Check out our guide to the road trip essentials we always pack, with a downloadable packing checklist.
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