The Seattle To Yellowstone road trip is the ultimate bucket list adventure for a reason. From the mountainous views to the lush forest, this road trip is just unforgettable.
Pack your bags, fill your gas tank and let the route lead you down the most scenic roads from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park.
Make sure to plan out enough time for stops. Though the National Park is the ultimate destination, I promise the route has tons of worthy stops you must check out.
From Mount Rainier National Park to Idaho Falls, I recommend creating a detailed itinerary before you leave so you don’t miss any of the fantastic sites along the way.
Let’s hit the road!
Seattle To Yellowstone Road Trip Tips
Best Time To Road Trip To Yellowstone From Seattle
The best times to visit Yellowstone National Park is from late April to May and September to early October. This is when the weather is mild, and the crowds start to thin out so you can properly enjoy the trip.
However, July and August are the busiest time in the park because it’s usually school holidays and the perfect time to camp.
Keep in mind that the park is known for its colder temperatures, especially during winter. April to May is spring in the area, but the temperatures can be unpredictable, so make sure you pack warm clothes if you plan to visit during this period.
The seasonal road closures end towards mid-April, making it easier to travel towards the end of the month. If you visit around June or July, be prepared for the crowds of people you will face during the trip.
That said, there are tons to do during the period, including the Cody Stampede PCRA Rodeo, Targhee Fest, Yellowstone Beer Fest, Last Chance Stampede and Fair, and Shoshone-Bannock Indian Festival.
All that aside, my personal recommendation is to visit from September to October. Autumn weather in the area is very mild, so there is a lot of wildlife spotting and activities minus the summer crowds. Make sure you are prepared for slightly chilly weather as winter approaches.
Remember that most facilities like the visitors centers close around mid-September, and seasonal road closures begin around mid-October. Winter in Yellowstone is rough as the park gets heavy snow and daytime temperatures are often below freezing.
Anyone visiting around this time should carry safety gear. Note that the North Entrance is the only way to enter the park with a car in winter.
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Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip Distance
There are two possible routes for a Seattle To Yellowstone road trip: a north route and a south route.
Overall, the direct distance from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park is about seven hundred and fifty miles. The northern route follows the I-90 and is the shortest and quickest route.
The road takes you from Seattle to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest then to Mount Rainier National Park. It also passes Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Turnbull National Wildlife, Spokane, and Riverside, to name a few possible places to stop.
The seven hundred and ninety-mile road takes just over twelve hours to drive without any stops, but that would defeat the purpose of our packed trip.
The other option for a Seattle to Yellow Stone road trip is to take the southern route along the I-5 South, which runs from Seattle through Tacoma, Lakewood, Capitol State Forest, Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and into Portland.
It then joins the I-84 east that runs along the Washington-Oregon border and Columbia River and passes through Idaho and the Grand Teton National Park.
This route is much longer at 1,040 miles, but the scenic drive is well worth it.
My advice, however is to take the south route to the park and then the north route back to Seattle, so you don’t miss all the fantastic stops both routes have to offer.
Here are my top nineteen must-see stops on a Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip.
Seattle to Yellowstone Road Trip | Must-See Stops
1. Lake Easton National Park | Easton WA
Normally the perfect place to get out of the city for the weekend, Lake Easton National Park has tons of activities to enjoy and needs only a day to explore fully.
Thus it’s a great place to start your multi-stop road trip. The state park is between Seattle and Ellensburg on the I-90, so it won’t take you too far off from your Seattle to Yellowstone National Park road trip route.
Oh, and before I forget, it’s a wise idea to pack camping chairs, hiking boots, fishing rods, and camping gear for this road trip.
You may even be tempted to spend a few hours relaxing by the river in Lake Easton National Park before continuing your adventure.
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2. Spokane | WA
Spokane, sits between two reservations: Colville and Coeur d’Alene Reservations. This place boasts with incredible local art galleries that are an absolute must-see for art lovers.
Famous for its waterfalls in the middle of town that were once a spiritual place for Native Americans to gather, Spokane has a mix of culture and nature to share. I highly recommend trying the Numerica SkyRide to get the best view of the falls.
The SkyRide is a 15-minute gondola ride on the Spokane River and costs about $8 per adult and $6 per child. Then wind down with a run in Riverfront Park. National Geographic rated the park as one of America’s best urban parks.
Lastly, end your day in Spokane by visiting the Havermale Island, the Garbage Goat, Bloomsday Sculptures and Childhood Express before packing up and driving off to Coeur d’Alene.
3. Coeur d’Alene | Idaho
Ready to stretch your legs again, the small town of Coeur d’Alene is the perfect next stop. Just a short drive from Spokane, the town is a quaint and quiet area to take a breath and stretch your legs. Visit the 25-mile long Lake Coeur d’Alene and explore its colossal shoreline.
A relaxing stroll along the waterside or a quick swim is the perfect break from being in the hot car. Perhaps kick back, have a picnic, and try fishing for pike or bass before jumping back in the car to explore the nearby hills. For the golf lovers, don’t forget to visit the world’s only floating green at the lake.
If you have time, stop at Silverwood Theme Park, a great place to get some adrenaline rush, it will be a real treat for the kids and that will get them tired and ready for bed.
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4. Mount Rainier (Tahoma or Tacoma) | Stratovolcano in Washington State
One of the most popular stops on the way to Yellowstone from Seattle is the towering snowy peaks of Mount Rainier. Like many others in the area, the volcano is now an attraction for anyone wanting to soak up the peacefulness and reconnect with nature. I suggest planning out at least two days to explore the entire area.
The Mount Rainier National Park has tons to explore, from the forests to waterfalls and grasslands to rivers. The site is overflowing with wildlife and is known for its rare species of cougars, black bears as well as its Northern Spotted Owls population.
For a shorter, quicker tour of the area, opt for the Mt Rainier Scenic Railroad that curls around the most stunning parts of the mountain. On your way out, visit the Mount Rainier National Park Valor Memorial that honors five employees who died while saving visitors. Check their website to make sure they are operating before making plans.
5. Missoula | Montana
After the two-day break in Mount Rainier, make your way to Missoula as your next stop on your Seattle to Yellowstone National Park road trip. Missoula will only require about a day of exploration. Allow yourself to wander along the bustling streets and embrace the city life while window shopping.
Then adventure through the cities early 1900s history by taking its famed historical walking tour. Continue stretching your legs as you explore the riverside walking trail. Then indulge your inner shopaholic at the winter market or farmers’ markets before grabbing a drink at the local distilleries. For lunch, I recommend getting pizza at Finn Restaurant with a view near the Clark Fork River.
If you have even more time to spend in town, plan out trips to the local wineries and indulge in wine tastings and samplings to discover the delicious wines the area has to offer.
6. Berkeley Pit | Montana
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Next on the list of cool places to stop during your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip is Berkeley Pit. This is probably the unique stop along the way.
Situated in Butte, Berkeley Pit is a really old open-pit copper mine. Now filled with water, the pit is known to be as acidic as Coke and lemon juice.
Its bright green color makes for stunning, but eerie Instagram pictures, and the area is packed with fascinating history.
Best of all, it’s only a slight detour off your route to Yellowstone from Seattle and only costs about $2 for admission to the viewing platform. Make sure to grab a cute souvenir at the gift shop before you get back on the road to Bozeman.
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7. Bozeman | Montana
Another great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the outdoors while on your Seattle to Yellowstone National Park drive is Bozeman.
The city offers the perfect combination of thrilling nature adventures and impeccable hiking trails. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all there is to this stunning city.
Bozeman is also the home of the Museum of the Rockies (I’ll explain more in the next part), as well as the American Computer and Robotics Museum making it the ultimate must-visit.
I recommend planning a day or two and booking into a hotel for a night.
8. Museum of the Rockies | Bozeman MT
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While everyone is distracted by the stunning forests and outdoors in the area, the Museum of the Rockies lures in history buffs from all over the country.
Tucked away in Bozeman, Montana, the Museum of the Rockies boasts one of the largest collection of fossils in the world. Its incredible collection also includes thirteen specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex , and visitors have the opportunity to also explore the process of preparing fossils in the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Laboratory.
The museum also has three to five themed exhibitions yearly with these about the Viking Age or Native American history. It takes between four hours to have a day to fully explore the entire museum, so plan accordingly.
9. Cody | Wyoming
After spending the night in Bozeman, it’s time to hit the road again. Next stop: Cody. No trip past the area is complete without stopping in Cody to soack up the Wild West.
Cody overflows with fun cultural and natural attractions and activities worth visiting. Pretend you’re in an old western movie while exploring the Old Trail Town that boasts 26 historic cabins.
Then continue to lose yourself in history by exploring the Buffalo Bill Center of the West that houses five museums in one building.
Next tick off a bucket list item by taking a Red Canyon Wild Mustang tour to see wild horses. The tour is often referred to as an American-styled safari.
If you still have time, explore the natural wonders of the local wildlife including bison, elk, and mountain sheep.
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Yellowstone National Park
The next stop is Yellowstone National Park. Spend a few days exploring the dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, forests, hot springs and geysers as well as the abundant wildlife.
Then if you decided to take my recommendation to take the north route to get to Yellowstone then take the southern route back to Seattle, you know that after you’ve enjoyed you time at Yellowstone, the next stop is Grand Teton National Park.
10. Grand Teton National Park | Wyoming
The short nine minute drive to Grand Teton National Park might not seem like much but I guarantee it’s well worth stopping.
Known for it’s stunning landscape and breathtaking biodiversity, the park is far smaller than Yellowstone but many agree you’ll see the mountains best from the park. So make sure you have your camera ready while exploring the hiking trails.
Plan to have a picnic for breakfast or lunch at Jenny Lake but remember to stay safe, the area is known for having bison and grizzly bears among other big animals. If you’re still in no rush to get home, consider camping for a day or two before heading out again.
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11. Jackson | Wyoming
Before properly leaving the area, take another day or two to explore Jackson. The Wyoming based town is perfect for ski lovers. With great options fo hotels and lodges, it may be worth booking a few days to stay and explore the area surrounding the town from there.
If you visit in summer remember to see the local artwork such as the Antler Arches of Jackson. From wildlife spotting to sporting fun, visitors will be spoilt for choice in Jackson. But alas, we must continue home.
12. Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Idaho and Wyoming
The next break from the long drive home is just two hours and twenty minutes from Jackson to the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
The forest occupies over 3 million acres. It runs from southeastern Idaho all the way to the Montana, Utah, and Wyoming borders. It is a must-see especially because it even houses the Curlew National Grassland.
From the gorgeous scenery to how easily accessible the area is, it’s a no-brainer to stop and take a rest. The area boasts great family activities including camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. So stretch your legs, have a picnic and catch some fish, both literally and figuratively, before the heading off to Idaho Falls.
13. Idaho Falls | ID
Just an hour and forty five minutes away lies our next stop: Idaho Falls. Lying proudly next to the stunning Snake River, Idaho Falls overflows with authenticity and friendliness.
The area boasts a multitude of activities for outdoor enthusiasts as well as the perfect way to unwind after the long drive with its natural hot springs and chance to fly fish on the Snake River or just take in the cascades at Mesa Falls.
If you’re doing a Seattle to Yellowstone road trip with a toddler or family, then Idaho Falls has the perfect options for a break from the car with its sprawling zoo, aquarium, museums, and riverfront activities.
Foodies, downtown Idaho Falls is crying out to you. Filled with dining and local shopping in historic buildings, you could spend hours indulging your tastebuds before you decide to move on from Idaho’s second-largest city.
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14. Craters of the Moon | ID
Now, let’s be honest, we’ve all dreamt of exploring out of space and floating along the moon and while I can’t promise you an adventure across the surface of the moon, I can offer something that apparently resembles it. Make sure to add the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Central Idaho onto your itinerary.
The otherworldly landscape was formed over 15,000 years ago as a result of volcanic activity in the area. The monument is a field of rock hard lava that looks very similar to the surface of the moon. Explore the area via the hiking trail, and make sure to get all the cool Instagram shots you can along the way.
While visiting the area, also explore the Volcanoes and Space Research available at the Visitor Center. The information carefully explains how the the natural formations occurred and is a fascinating experience for the whole family.
15. Boise | ID
After the out-of-space adventure, let’s jump back in the car and let the three hours and forty minute drive to Boise, Idaho bring us back down to earth. When you arrive in the capital city of Idaho, be ready to experience the ultimate outdoor adventure combined with the unique downtown experience.
For the history lovers, remember that Boise is also home to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and Old Idaho Penitentiary. Aside from outdoor activities, one must also plan to go shopping, take wine tours, and guided walks around downtown.
Foodies, a bucket list item for you should be the Boise Fry Company where you get to choose from a variety of different potatoes to be made into fries and then choose from multiple dipping sauce options.
16. Morley Nelson Snake River National Conservation Area | Boise
After relaxing, unwinding and absorbing all the city life Boise had to offer, it’s time to head back to exploring nature by stopping off at the Morley Nelson Snake River National Conservation Area. The area is made up of the grand canyons and the Snake River thus it is no surprise that it is home to a huge wildlife population.
In fact, the area is known to have over 800 pairs of hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons. This is the perfect stop for bird-watchers and those who just want to soak in nature without having to do too much.
Take a deep breathe of fresh air and enjoy the quiet moment before you hit the road again.
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17. Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest |WA
Sticking with the nature theme, the next stop on your adventure should be the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The are covers more than 3.8-million acres of the Washington state. The forest is so big it stretches from north to south: Starting from the Canadian border to the Goat Rocks Wilderness which is almost 180 miles long.
The Cascade Crest marks the western boundary of the forest while the the eastern edge extends into Okanogan highlands near the Okanogan River. The southern edge is marked by the Columbia River, and the Yakima River valley. The entire forest is known for it’s deep valleys and lushes old growth forests.
On the flip side it also boasts a large section of dry shrub-steppe and elevations that reach over 9,000 ft high. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offers visitors an extensive range of recreation activities. So let your family explore and enjoy the fun before you drive off to Yakima.
18. Yakima | WA
A short drive away lies the town of Yakima. The city known for its fruit farming and vast family-friendly activities. From nature lovers to history buffs, this is the ultimate road trip stop for everyone. Foodies, please pay careful attention to the fruit options in the area.
It’s the perfect time to get your hands on the freshest farm-to-table offerings so make the best of it! Once you’ve indulged on the divine fruit in the area, plan to stop by the Yakima Greenway, the Valley Museum, and the Yakima Area Arboretum.
Wind down for the evening by exploring some of the wineries and breweries and stay the night before your journey Yellowstone road trip draws to a close.
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19. Walla Walla | WA
Seattle is already calling out to you to return home but before you do, make one last stop in the city of Walla Walla.
The stunning city has been gaining popularity as the perfect holiday destination because of its impeccable wineries. Aside from stocking up on great wine before returning home, also explore the art galleries, breweries, and restaurants in the area.
For those who want adventure, enjoy the many recreational activities the city has to offer.
Conclusion | Seattle To Yellowstone Road Trip
After the long journey, it’s finally time for the your Seattle to Yellowstone road trip to draw to a close.
Needless to say, if you follow our guide, it will be far from boring and packed with fun stops and entertaining things to do. The trip offers something for everyone regardless who or how you decide to road trip.
So whether you opt for a Seattle to Yellowstone RV trip or a solo adventure from town to town, take the leap. Plan out your itinerary and hit the road!