The glorious Pacific Northwest has a spirit and majesty that is unmatched. And specifically, Glacier National Park is one of the most special places within it. So, when it comes to planning a trip there, taking a Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip is a no-brainer.
You’ll love traveling over this beautiful terrain, that’s for sure. But when it comes to mapping out the route to take and what stops to make, you’ll want to put in a bit more thought.
Not to worry! This Seattle to Glacier National Park itinerary will take you to charming mountain towns, through national forests, and along serene lakes.
Distance from Seattle to Glacier National Park
A road trip from Seattle to Glacier National Park will cover a total of 550 miles. You’ll travel through Washington and the Idaho panhandle on I-90E as the most direct route.
Then in Montana, you’ll head towards Glacier National Park first on MT135, then MT200, Mount Highway 28, and US 93. Seem a bit confusing? Just follow the signs towards Glacier West, and you’ll be fine.
|Estimated Drive Time
|Where to Stay
|Seattle to Ellensburg, WA
|107 miles (172 kms)
|1 hour 50 minutes
|Ellensburg to Leavenworth, WA
|57 miles (92 kms)
|1 hour 10 minutes
|Leavenworth to Wenatchee, WA
|22 miles (35 kms)
|Wenatchee to Spokane, WA
|170 miles (274 kms)
|2 hours 45 minutes
|Spokane to Flathead Lake, MT
|209 miles (337 kms)
|3 hours 30 minutes
|Flathead Lake to Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
|117 miles (189 kms)
|3 hours 5 minutes
|Waterton Lakes National Park to Glacier National Park, MT
|44 miles (71 kms)
|Columbia Fall, MT
For a more scenic drive from Seattle to Glacier National Park, consider heading north through the Idaho panhandle. Just after Spokane Valley, take US95N and US Highway/Route 2. It only adds about 45 mins more to your total trip but is totally worth the view.
How Long Is the Drive From Seattle to Glacier National Park?
To drive straight from Seattle to Glacier National Park, you can expect to spend 9-10 hours on the road without stopping. But the truth is, if you’re going on a road trip, half the fun is the drive to get there, right?
So instead, consider taking your time to make this Seattle to Glacier road trip. If you give yourself two or three days to get there, it will allow you to really enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Your family will also really appreciate not being stuck in the car for so many hours at once.
Best Time of Year to Drive Seattle to Glacier National Park
The best time of year to make this epic Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip is during the summer months. It’s when you’ll have sunshine and warmth, perfect for exploring the beautiful landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
During the summer months, you’ll find the most entrances to Glacier National Park open, which is ideal. It also means that the park sees the highest number of visitors during this time too. So, be sure to make reservations ahead.
Best Stops on a Seattle to Glacier National Park Road Trip
We start this epic Glacier National Park road trip in the awesome city of Seattle. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, you’ll love spending at least a few days in this incredible town. It’s got everything from food to fun for everyone in the whole family. From little ones to big kids, there’s something for everyone in Seattle.
Head indoors if the weather’s a bit iffy. Families with little ones will love the Children’s Museum. Kids of all ages will have fun at the Museum of Pop Culture (closed Wednesdays except in the summer), Seattle Aquarium, or the Pacific Science Center (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
Of course, no trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Space Needle and a stroll along Puget Sound on Alaskan Way. But once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to set off on your scenic drive through the Pacific Northwest and onto the Glacier National Park road trip.
Heading east on I-90, the first major stop on this Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip is Ellensburg. You’ll reach it in just about two hours, depending on traffic. Making it the perfect distance to get out and stretch your legs while exploring this great little town.
You’ll love strolling through town, checking out the cool murals and architecture. For a bit of history, stop in to the Kittitas County Historical Museum.
One of the best events in the annual Ellensburg Rodeo. Known as the largest in the state of Washington and one of the best in the country, it takes place over Labor Day weekend. It’s a perfect stop on a late summer Glacier National Park road trip.
Heading back on the road after Ellensburg, continue east on I-90 to Spokane.
If you want a cool Bavarian stop-off on your Seattle to Glacier road trip, then set the navigation for Leavenworth, WA. Depending on traffic, you’ll follow Route 2 out of the city for about two hours. As soon as you arrive in town, you’ll realize you’re in for some seriously good fun.
The architecture of downtown Leavenworth will transport you to the great historic towns of Germany. You’ll love the whole look with the thatched roofs, wooden details of the buildings, and the mountains in the backdrop. But the experience doesn’t end there.
Make sure to visit the Greater Leavenworth Museum. Here you’ll learn about the town’s German roots and history. You’ll even hear about great places you’ll want to visit after the museum. Don’t miss the Nutcracker Museum or the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. You’ll find incredible German food and drink in Leavenworth too. A favorite is Rhein Haus.
To get some exercise and excitement, go for a walk in Waterfront Park or get your adrenaline pumping on the Leavenworth Ziplines. Hiking the Icicle Gorge Trail is one of the best things to do in Leavenworth.
It’s one of the most magical places to visit in the US around Christmas time!
Pro Tip: Leavenworth is a great place to spend the night on your Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip. If you’re camping or RVing, there are plenty of places to choose from, including the Icicle River RV Park and the Leavenworth/Pine Village KOA Holiday.
Wenatchee is just a short 30-minute drive down the road from Leavenworth. But it’s such a great place to spend some time. We just had to make it a stop on this Seattle to Glaciers National Park road trip. The truth is that if you don’t want to make two stops so close together, then pick one to do on the way to Glacier National Park and one to do on the way back.
You’ll definitely want to shop around in Pybus Public Market. With the heart of a local market, you’ll find everything from local produce to works of art and even kid’s activities. There are also great places to grab a coffee, pastry, or even a full meal – perfect when you’re in the middle of your epic Seattle to Glacier road trip.
Wenatchee has three great breweries downtown: Wenatchee Valley Brewing, Columbia Valley Brewing Co., and Badger Mountain Brewing. They all serve up great beers and meals to keep your whole family happy!
Spokane and neighboring Spokane Valley are a must-stop on any Seattle to National Glacier National Park road trip. It’s got just about everything you’re looking for in the perfect stop-over. No matter what route you take out of Seattle, you’ll get to Spokane in about three hours from either Ellensburg or Leavenworth/Wenatchee.
Riverside, Spokane’s downtown, has plenty of places to eat and shop. Kids will love all the parks in Spokane, including those with playgrounds and skate parks.
Spokane’s Riverfront Park is a place you must visit when in town. You’ll love it all, from the restored Looff Carousel to the Numerica SkyRide and, of course, the view of Spokane Falls. The Mobius Discovery Center (open Wednesday-Sunday) is perfect for families who enjoy hands-on learning.
To get the family into the beauty of nature, make a trip to Riverside State Park. With 55 miles of hiking and biking trails, there’s a lot of terrain to explore. The Centennial Trail, a Spokane favorite, runs along the Spokane River within the park too.
Don’t miss exploring the nearby area of Spokane Valley. You’ll fall in love with the land, people, and things to do.
After Spokane, head east on Mount Highway 28 and US 93N to West Glacier and the entrance to Glacier National Park.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to take a bit more of the scenic drive through Washington to Glacier after Spokane, follow Route 95 to Route 2 instead. On this road, you’ll spend more time in the Idaho panhandle, passing through the Kaniksu and Kootenai National Forests and a bunch of charming mountain towns. On this route be sure to check out the swinging bridge at Kootenai Falls and the Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell, MT.
Flathead Lake, MT
Flathead Lake is something you just can’t miss on your road trip from Seattle to National Glacier National Park. The drive from Spokane will take about four hours, so it’s the perfect place to stop and relax for a day or two. This majestic lake is beautiful to see and a ton of fun to experience.
Surrounding the lake are many great towns like Bigfork and Polson, ready to help you with everything from places to eat and sleep to water sports and boat rentals. During the summer, you’ll find awesome events like the Whitewater Festival and the Bigfork Festival of the Arts.
Don’t miss visiting Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake. It’s only accessible by water, but once you’re there, you’ll love to hike this beautiful state park. It’s also so awesome to catch a glimpse of the wild horses that call it home.
A must-do is to learn more about the native people of the Flathead Lake area. Definitely make time to visit The Three Chiefs Culture Center (formerly The People’s Center), where you can learn about the Salish, Ksanka & Qlispe people.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada
The US side of Glacier National Park makes up half of the remarkable International Peace Park. The other half is the beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. So, no Glacier National Park road trip is complete without visiting this sister park to the north.
You can go hiking, relax with a picnic, or get out on the water on the beautiful mountain lakes. If you want to paddle, just make sure to get your watercraft inspected before you do.
Admission fees to the park are charged per person. Adults are $10.50, and seniors are $9. Kids 17 and under are free.
Pro Tip: Remember to bring your passport so you can easily cross the border into Canada and back again.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to camp (including RVs) at Waterton Lakes National Park on your Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip, make sure to book a reservation on the reservations.pc.ca website in advance.
It’s important to note Canada has its own Glacier National Park located 6 hours north of the border in British Columbia. Don’t confuse it with Waterton Lakes National Park, which is adjacent to the US Glacier National Park!
Glacier National Park
Now onto the main event, your final destination on this Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip. Known as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park is one of the absolute best parks in North America. With towering mountains, gorgeous glaciers, alpine meadows, valleys, and lakes, it’s no wonder it’s a major bucket list item.
Coming from Flathead Lake or Kalispell, you’ll reach West Glacier and the park entrance in just under an hour.
Definitely plan to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which takes you clear across the park. You’ll also get to Logan Pass on the road, another must-do. Many Glaciers and Two Medicines are also ones to put on the itinerary.
One of the best things to do in Glacier National Park is to walk the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This path follows the natural border of the Great Continental Divide, separating watersheds that flow into the east and west. The views from this trail are incredible.
It takes more than a day to fully experience Glacier. So camping (and RVing) is a great idea. There are several sites throughout the park that are first come by reservation.
Pro Tip: You’ll need both a vehicle reservation and a parking pass for Glacier National Park. Entrance passes for private cars are $25 from November 1 to April 30 and $35 from May 1 through October 31. Passes are valid for 7 days.
More Tips for Road Tripping Seattle to Glacier National Park
- You’ll be changing Time Zones on this Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip. Make sure you’ve got the right time at the National Institute for Standards and Technology.
- For current road conditions, check out the following websites:
- Keep an eye on current conditions in Glacier National Park on the park’s website, including road closures and local fires.
- Check out the NPS website for information on reservations and fees required for Glacier National Park. But here are the big things to know before you go:
- Reservations and vehicle registrations are required to enter the park from May 26 through September 10 between 6 am and 3 pm.
- Make sure to book your vehicle registration in advance. They are released four months in advance, so you should really do it then. If you miss it, they release it more than 24 hours before. But honestly, it’s best to plan in advance. Go to Recreation.gov to make reservations.
- Different sections of the park require separate reservations. So you’ll need to make them for Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and North Fork.
- Glacier National Park is open 24/7. So you can enter the park without a vehicle registration before 6 am or after 3 pm during the high season. For more specifics, check out the NPS website.
- To extend this road trip further through Montana, you may also like to check out our road trip itinerary from Seattle to Yellowstone.
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