Considering a Denver to Seattle road trip? Driving from Colorado to Washington (or vice versa) takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, from snowy mountains to rugged desert landscapes. Not to mention multiple national parks!
How long is the drive? Which route should you take? What time of year should you travel? We’ll answer all these questions, and point out a couple dozen of the best places to stop and the best things to see between Denver and Seattle.
I’ve driven through these states numerous times and have seen almost all of the major attractions on this particular road trip route.
As always, I’ll be sure to mention some of the quirky roadside attractions along the way (such as the giant Idaho potato statue!)
This drive guide starts in Denver and winds up in Seattle, using the two most common routes. If you’re going in the other direction – Seattle to Denver driving – then just take it in reverse.
Possible Routes for the Denver to Seattle Road Trip
There are two obvious routes for this drive between Seattle and Denver. Sure, you could get creative and go way up into Canada or head out to the west coast, but most people will travel one of two ways from Colorado:
1. Head north into Wyoming and Montana, and then directly west into Washington.
2. Head west to Salt Lake City, then go north into Idaho and Oregon, and then up through Washington.
Which of the Denver to Seattle routes should you choose? Personally, I love them both. Western Montana is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. If you’ve never been there, I suggest choosing that route.
The alternate route through Idaho has some cool sights too. It’s an underrated state with fascinating attractions like Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, plus some interesting roadside attractions.
We’ll go over the highlights of each possible road trip route, after we discuss some logistics like weather and travel times.
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How long does it take to drive from Denver to Seattle?
The distance from Denver to Seattle is about 1400-1500 miles, depending which route you choose. The first route on our list requires 22 hours of driving, while the second route requires 25 hours of driving.
In either case, give yourself 4-7 days to make the trip at a relaxed pace. I always like to plan for longer road trips so I have plenty of time to stop at attractions and explore the cities along the way. If your travel style is different, feel free to move faster.
What time of year should you drive between Denver and Seattle?
Weather is a huge factor to keep in mind when planning this road trip. This is a difficult road trip to do during winter.
No matter which route you choose, you’ll be passing through multiple mountain ranges, including the Rockies in Colorado and the Cascades in Washington. There are some high-elevation roads in Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah as well.
Taking a Denver to Seattle road trip in winter is not recommended unless you have a good vehicle that can handle snow, because chances are you’ll be hitting some snowy conditions at some point along the way. Even spring and fall can see occasional snow on the road.
During summer, the roads will be clear of snow, so you can road trip without care!
Most Common Route: Denver to Seattle via Wyoming and Montana
Highlights: Rocky Mountain National Park, Casper WY, Billings MT, Missoula MT, Spokane WA
Driving time: 22 hours
Total time needed: 4-7 days
Where to stay: Little America Hotel & Resort (Cheyenne), Ramkota Hotel (Casper), Northern Hotel (Billings), C’mon Inn (Missoula), Steam Plant Hotel (Spokane)
This route departs from Denver, heads north to Rocky Mountain National Park, and then proceeds through Wyoming and Montana.
There aren’t a ton of big cities on the route. Instead, it’s mostly medium-sized cities like Casper WY, Billings MT, and Spokane WA.
Note for national parks lovers: While Rocky Mountain is the only national park directly on this road trip route, there are a whopping five other national parks that you could see if you choose to take some detours from this route.
Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier are all just a few hours off this path. You could see any or all of these if you plan your trip well and book lodging in advance.
If you drive directly without taking any of these detours, this road trip will take about 22 hours. It could conceivably be done in 3 days, or even 2 if you’re in a hurry. But 4-7 days is ideal to travel at a more relaxed pace.
Let’s look at some of the things to see between Denver and Seattle on this route.
If you’re embarking on a Denver to Seattle road trip, there’s a good chance you live in Denver. So I won’t spend too much time describing things to do in Colorado’s capital city.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Those who have never experienced Rocky Mountain NP should definitely stop here on the way out of Denver. It’s one of the few places in the U.S. where you can drive above 12,000 feet in elevation.
Cheyenne, Laramie, and Casper, Wyoming
Wyoming’s capital city of Cheyenne has some interesting historic attractions, such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
Just as it sounds, the museum has exhibits about horse carriages, wagons, and other early artifacts from the Old West frontier days.
In Laramie, see the Fort Laramie Historic Site, which was one of the country’s largest military outposts in this area in the 1800s. Casper, meanwhile, is the second-largest city in the state and has several history museums.
Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula, Montana
The cities of central Montana feel surprisingly trendy. You’ll find plenty of breweries, parks, and interesting places to eat in Billings.
Bozeman has a historic downtown that feels old-fashioned while still providing a home for some innovative and modern restaurants.
Missoula is routinely ranked as one of the top college towns in America. It has lots of good bars and restaurants, plus offbeat attractions like this giant cat statue right in the heart of downtown.
Side note: The speed limit throughout much of Montana is 80 mph. There are some long, flat, empty stretches of highway, so if you’ve ever wanted to hit 100 mph on the speedometer, this might be a good place to try it. (Not that I’d ever condone such a thing, of course!)
Wallace and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
This route passes briefly through the northern Idaho panhandle. One town of note is Wallace, an old mining town that looks pretty cool since it’s surrounded on all sides by forested hills.
Downtown Coeur d’Alene has a pretty lakefront beach and the Museum of North Idaho.
Eastern Washington is very different from the western side of the state. Here, you’ll find a lot of desert areas. Spokane is the big city and has fun outdoor spaces, riverfront parks, and waterfalls.
Our list of Washington state road trips includes one on the eastern side of the state, if you’d like to do more exploring in this area.
Upon arriving in Seattle, see all the city’s many sights, including the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, the Gum Wall at Pike Place, the Jimi Hendrix statue, and the famous Space Needle, where you can see Mt. Rainier from a distance.
Easy Detour Options From This Route
As noted, many of the coolest sights on this particular route aren’t directly on the route itself. So you’ll have to decide which of these are worth deviating from the main roads to see. There are so many options!
Add Devils Tower National Monument in eastern Wyoming to that loop.
Don’t forget Grand Teton National Park, which borders Yellowstone to the south.
In Montana, the best detour is Glacier National Park. This truly stunning park has glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and amazing hiking.
Alternate Route: Denver to Seattle via Utah and Idaho
Highlights: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Salt Lake City, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Boise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Driving time: 25 hours
Total time needed: 4-7 days
Where to stay: Hotel Maverick (Grand Junction CO), Salt Lake Plaza Hotel at Temple Square (Salt Lake City), Black Swan Inn (Pocatello ID), Riverside Hotel (Boise)
This path takes the driver west to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, then north through Utah and Idaho, and finally west to Mount Rainier National Park and Seattle.
Taking this Denver to Seattle road trip route gives you a chance to see some underrated sights that many Americans have never experienced. Let’s run down the highlights of this trip.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Many people have never even heard of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. That’s a shame, because I consider it right up there with the Grand Canyon in terms of canyon views.
This Colorado park has a scenic rim drive that allows you to hug the rim of the canyon for several miles. That’s something you can’t do at the Grand Canyon! Spend a day exploring the park on your way out of Denver.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City has a mixed reputation because of the Mormon Church. But the metro area is home to 1.2 million people and features lots of cool hangouts, nightlife, shopping, and outdoor activities. Be sure to spend at least one night here to do some exploring.
Idaho Falls and Blackfoot, Idaho
Idaho Falls is a city of 60,000 with great biking and walking trails, and a handful of unique museums. Meanwhile, the small town of Blackfoot is home to the quirky Idaho Potato Museum, which features a giant potato statue in front. It’s the perfect place for a roadside stop!
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
It’s crazy that Craters of the Moon in Idaho isn’t an official national park yet. It’s more than 340,000 acres of remnants of old volcanoes that once shaped this land, including lava tubes and lava fields.
Do some hiking here, because the landscapes are unlike what you’ll find in most other places in the country. You could spend one or two full days checking out this park.
Idaho’s capital city is worth a quick stop to check out some restaurants and museums. Stay longer if you want to explore the Idaho wilderness in the surrounding area.
Eastern Oregon / Southern Washington
This road trip continues into eastern Oregon and southern Washington. These areas have few large cities, but they have a number of fun roadside attractions. Like the gas station shaped like a teapot in Zillah, Washington. And the “Trees of Stone” trail at Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
Also, anyone who played Oregon Trail growing up will love the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center!
Mount Rainier National Park
The last must-visit on this road trip is Rainier National Park. Rainier activities include driving to scenic lakes and waterfalls, hiking mountain trails, viewing wildflowers, and watching for all the wildlife (including wolverines!)
Other Detours to Consider Between Seattle and Denver
There are even more worthwhile detours while driving between Seattle and Denver, if you’re willing to veer a bit further off course.
You could head to southern Colorado to check out Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde National Parks. Swing into southern Utah to nab all five of that state’s famous parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon.
Hit up Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. Explore a bit more of Oregon, including Crater Lake National Park and the city of Bend, which is home to the last Blockbuster Video in the world! Pass through the charmingly weird city of Portland on the way north to Seattle.
You can also hook up with part of U.S. Route 20, aka the longest road in America! This road passes through Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.
Have you considered a Denver to Seattle road trip before? Which route do you prefer?