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6 Best Road Trips

Seattle to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks Road Trip

Hot springs, high peaks and Montana’s wide open spaces dominate this 2,114-mile tour from Seattle to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks and back.

After you leave behind the vibrant city of Seattle and drive through northern Idaho’s pristine beauty, you’ll cross into Montana.

There’s a magical evening light that sweeps across the broad shoulders of Montana’s sky. Its radiating pink and purple colors echo off windows of log-hewn cabins, patios of breweries and the sides of aging pickup trucks rattling down lonely roads. Montana artist C.M. Russell captured this magnificent light in his paintings, and it fills the landscape with a peace that seeps into its people like water spilling over a river bank.

Discover Montana’s spectacular culture as you explore the fun university town of Missoula and other authentic towns en route to Glacier National Park. Head east from the park to Great Falls for a primer on renowned artist C.M. Russell. Then visit Bozeman before entering the park in Gardiner. Exit the park via West Yellowstone, Mont., a town lined with restaurants and attractions. In Big Sky, you’ll find adrenaline-filled activities and a vibrant ski town in the summer. Farther north, you’ll find boom-and-bust stories in the charming historic towns of Virginia City, Nevada City and Butte.

From Butte, hit the road to stroll Philipsburg’s quaint downtown and sample sweets at The Sweet Palace, an astonishing store filled with house-made chocolates and candy.

Download Trip PDF 31MB

Map

Start: Seattle

Totem Pole in Seattle's Pioneer Square
Totem Pole in Seattle’s Pioneer SquareDepositphotos

Seattle’s Top 5
From a fantastic market to a bookstore that’s survived Amazon, see the best of Seattle. Read more on our sister site www.myolympicpark.com.

Coeur d’Alene Area

Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho
Lake Coeur d’AleneDepositphotos

North Idaho Getaway
Looking for a wonderful lakeside getaway nestled in the mountains without the crowds? Stay in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene area where you’ll discover gorgeous hiking trails, charming towns, great biking and sandy lakeside beaches. Here are the top 5 things to do.

Roosevelt Inn Patio on the North Idaho Bed and Breakfast Assc.
Roosevelt Inn PatioNorth Idaho Bed and Breakfast Assc.

Stay in a Bed and Breakfast in North Idaho
Stay in a renovated school house, guest ranch, oversized log cabin and more in the Coeur d’Alene area. Read more.

Missoula & Glacier Country

Kayaking near the shores of Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake in Glacier Country
Kayaking near the shores of Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake in Glacier Country Photo: Courtesy Glacier Country Tourism

13 Stops on the Way from Missoula to Glacier National Park
Pull over at these great sights lining the road on the 140-mile trip from Missoula to Glacier National Park including Flathead Lake, smokejumpers and a bison habitat.

Go for a Boat Tour Plus a Hike at a Montana State Park
Hiking trails abound on the 2,160-acre Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake. Salish-Kootenai Indians allegedly swam their horses to the island to protect them from being stolen. Today five wild horses, eagles, mule deer and bighorn sheep inhabit the island.

Stay Close to Glacier National Park at The Pine Lodge on Whitefish River
Located in downtown Whitefish just over 30 minutes from the park’s West Entrance and 15 minutes from the slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort, you’ll find family-friendly lodging and have access to some of the best shopping and dining near the park.

Glacier National Park

Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park Photo: NPS/Jacob W. Frank

48 Hours in Glacier National Park
Favorite things to do in Glacier from a peaceful boat ride and breathtaking hike to eating one of the best huckleberry pastries ever.

Tour Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road with the GyPSy Guide App
Download the tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Where to See Wildlife in Glacier National Park
You’ll see more than incredible views when you visit Glacier. Keep an eye out for these six fascinating animals.

Spraying Counter Assault Bear Spray
Spraying Counter Assault Bear Spray Photo: Courtesy Counter Assault

A Grizzly Encounter
When a bear charged a family on a trail, bear spray likely saved their lives. Take the advice of a former national park ranger and Counter Assault, the company that makes the longest range bear spray.

The Four-Legged Ranger at Glacier National Park
Gracie the dog ranger works hard to keep Glacier National Park visitors and wildlife safe.

Bad Hare Day
Glacier National Park’s snowshoe hares cope with a changing climate as they catch themselves dressed for the wrong occasion.

The Confluence
The Blackfeet Nation and conservation groups are working to protect stolen Badger-Two Medicine lands at Glacier National Park, and restore Blackfeet right to manage their homeland.

Great Falls and Artist C.M. Russell

Ryan Dam Trailhead near Great Falls, Montana
Ryan Dam Trailhead. Photo: Great Falls Montana Tourism

Navigating Water and Vibrant Art in Great Falls
North America’s longest river cuts through Great Falls, Mont., and it’s worth stopping here to walk, raft, hike or bike alongside the mighty Missouri River.

C.M. Russell’s Vibrant Art inspired by Montana
See C.M. Russell’s gorgeous paintings and his log-cabin studio in Great Falls, Mont.

Hip Helena

Mountain Biking near Helena, Montana
Mountain Biking near Helena, Montana Photo: Helena Convention and Visitors Bureau

Of Bikes and Breweries in Helena
Locals like to say there’s a trail at the end of every street and a brewery at the end of every ride. And while every town is prone to some hyperbole, Helena truly offers an extraordinary range of mountain biking for beginners all the way to experts.

Yellowstone’s Northern Doorstep

Have a Huckleberry Mule at Bozeman Spirits
Have a Huckleberry Mule at Bozeman SpiritsCourtesy Bozeman Spirits

Bozeman Spirits, Award-Winning Montana Distillery
Located in historic downtown Bozeman, the distillery produces whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum, distilled and bottled on site. Proud to support Montana farms.

The Quaint Town of Livingston, Montana
On any given day you could run into Earl Craig, Montana’s poet laureate who works as a farrier—someone who shoes horses—when not writing poetry; or John Bailey, the fly-fishing expert who coached Brad Pitt in casting for the movie A River Runs Through It. Here are four places not to miss in town.

Yellowstone Hot Springs pools
Yellowstone Hot SpringsCourtesy Yellowstone Hot Springs

A Serene Soak at Yellowstone Hot Springs
Just eight miles from Yellowstone’s North Entrance, these naturally hot pools feel surprisingly remote and far from the park’s crowds.

Insider’s Guide to the Best of Gardiner
Sitting at the only year-round entrance to the world’s first national park, pretty much everything in Gardiner is colorful from the scenery and people to the names of dishes on menus.

Yellowstone National Park

Enter the North Entrance

Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.
Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in YellowstonePhoto by NPS Neal Herbert

48 Hours in Yellowstone
Only have 48 hours? Make the most of your time by visiting some of our favorite spots in the park. Read more.

GyPSy Guide’s Yellowstone Audio Tour App
Download the Yellowstone audio tour app that’s like having a tour guide in your car. GyPSy Guide automatically plays interesting and entertaining commentary as you go.

Watch Wildlife in Yellowstone’s Lamar and Hayden Valleys
Yellowstone’s huge, wide valleys make excellent habitat for wildlife. For your best chance of spotting them, point your compass toward the Lamar and Hayden. Read more.

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Photo: Adobe Stock

Mammoth Hot Springs Looks Like an Inside-Out Cave
These springs are a must-see feature of Yellowstone National Park in part because they’re so different from other thermal areas in the area. This is largely because limestone is a relatively soft type of rock, allowing the travertine formations to grow much faster than other sinter formations.

Exit the West Entrance

West Yellowstone

Mountain biking at Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone
Mountain biking at Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone Photo: by Jon Cracroft courtesy of West Yellowstone, Montana

7 Sights at West Yellowstone
The town of West Yellowstone sits right at the West Gate to Yellowstone National Park. Here are the top seven ways to avoid the park’s crowds and see the best of the area.

Explorer Cabins in West Yellowstone
Explorer Cabins in West YellowstoneCourtesy DNC West Yellowstone Lodging

True Yellowstone Vacations
Stay a couple blocks from the park in West Yellowstone and leave the park driving to a guide. Make yourself at home within walking distance to attractions and downtown at the Yellowstone Park Hotel and the pet-friendly Gray Wolf Inn & Suites and Explorer Cabins.

Big Sky

Lone Mountain Ranch horseback ride with a view of Lone Peak in Big Sky
Lone Mountain Ranch horseback ridePhoto by Lone Mountain Ranch courtesy of Visit Big Sky

Best Basecamp
Born next to a ski area, the town of Big Sky offers music, food and tons of trails under its piece of the enormous Montana sky.

A family rafting the Gallatin River north of Yellowstone
A family rafting the Gallatin River north of YellowstonePhoto courtesy of Montana Whitewater

Raft, Float or Zipline with Montana Whitewater Company
Float the river that appeared in A River Runs Through It or the iconic Yellowstone River. Launch from Big Sky, Bozeman or Gardiner at Yellowstone’s North Entrance.

Southwest Montana’s True Gems

Fly fishing the Madison River in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest south of Ennis, Montana.
Fly fishing in the Madison River south of EnnisUSDA/Preston Keres Public Domain

Ennis is Montana’s Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem
Halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, this colorful town holds on to it’s western roots. Learn more about Ennis’ storied past.

Robin and Willie Blazer of Willie's Distillery
Distillery owners Robin and Willie BlazerCourtesy of Willie’s Distillery

Stop in Montana’s Magic Town for a Sip at Willie’s Distillery
Discover bootlegging, women’s rights and of course, whiskey.

Virginia City Barber Shop northwest of Yellowstone
Virginia City Barber Shop northwest of Yellowstone Photo: by Andy Austin courtesy of Southwest Montana

10 True Gems in Southwest Montana
You’ll find everything from spirits and sapphires to ghost towns and river canyons. Here are our top picks for places to stop in southwest Montana.

The "richest hill on earth" in Butte, Montana
The “richest hill on earth” in Butte, Montana Photo: Butte CVB

Butte, Montana, the Richest Hill on Earth
Visit this boom town to see a pit mine, a giant statue, and a distillery, then dance at a signature event. It’s a melting pot of friendly people between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

Trumpeter swans flying over Lower Red Rock Lake at Red rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana
Trumpeter swans flying over Lower Red Rock Lake near Dillon, Mont. Photo: USFWS/Erin Clark

9 Reasons to Visit Dillon, Mont.
Dig for crystals, catch a glimpse of stunning trumpeter swans, eat amazing sourdough pancakes and more in smalltown Dillon, Mont.

The outside hot pool with waterslide at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
The outdoor hot pool with waterslide at Fairmont Hot Springs ResortCourtesy Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Soak it In at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
On your road trip between the two national parks, stop midway to stay in a luxury spa resort, golf, and swim in hot springs pools – one with a water slide.

Downtown Philipsburg, Montana at sunset
Downtown Philipsburg, Montana at sunset Photo: by Samuel Gonzales Photography courtesy Philipsburg Chamber of Commerce

Magical Philipsburg
You’ll find sapphires and a palace of sorts tucked into the gentle folding hillsides and valleys of this swath of southwestern Montana. With flowers and gorgeously restored historic buildings lining its main street, Philipsburg is one of Montana’s most charming towns.

Hell’s Canyon

A Beamers jet boat tour through Hells Canyon. Photo courtesy of Lewis Clark Valley
A Beamers jet boat tour through Hells CanyonCourtesy Lewis Clark Valley

Sip and Cruise
Lewis Clark Valley is the gateway to Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge, and is one of the new frontiers for wineries in the United States. Although it’s a new wine region, vines were planted in the valley as early as 1872. The best way to view Hells Canyon is from the water on a jet boat trip or cruise on the Snake River. Stop along the way to check out ancient petroglyphs and a shipwreck site. Learn more at visitlcvalley.com.

End: Seattle