Washington Yellowstone National Park

From Seattle to Yellowstone: 11 places you can’t miss

Family-friendly stops on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone: waterfalls, caves, petrified forest, gardens and lakes, hidden gems, and local treasures.

Distance between Seattle and Yellowstone is a long stretch of road – roughly 12 hours of driving (one way). If spending that much time just driving does not sound exciting to you, check out the stops below! With little planning, the “boring” part of the trip can be just as good as the destination. 😉

All of the places below are free/cost very little money and family-friendly (we traveled with 14 months old, 4, 9 y.o., and grandparents).

One of the most beloved stops on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone: Spokane
One of the most beloved stops on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone: Spokane

From Seattle to Yellowstone: Important note

We split the road time in half and spent a total of 4 days driving from Seattle to Yellowstone and back:
– 2 days by the shorter or “upper” way (12 hours if driving non-stop)
– 2 days from Yellowstone to Seattle by longer or “lower” way via Grand Teton National Park (13.5 hours of non-stop driving):

From Seattle to Yellowstone National Park

Why you might want to go “Lower way” (and see Grand Tetons first) and make “Upper way” on the way from Yellowstone to Seattle, you can read here.

Sightseeing on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone. Upper way

1. Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

Ginkgo Petrified Forest interpretive center has one of the most diverse petrified wood collections in the US – 30 kinds, all near 15 million years old! We were fascinated by how something that appears to be a stone is in fact a petrified tree. Worth visiting even after closing time.

Park was named “Ginkgo” because the ginkgo tree is a rare species to find among petrified wood:

Petrified trees at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park outside area
Petrified trees at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park outside area

There is a nice open grassy area with multiple picnic tables, restrooms. Beware, it can be very windy at Ginkgo state park. Herds of bighorn sheep can be seen occasionally passing by. They are very shy. Please don’t try to chase them:

Herd of bighorn sheep at the entrance of the park
Herd of bighorn sheep at the entrance of the park

Time to spend: from a brief visit to a couple of hours.
Activities: interpretive center, swimming nearby on hot summer days.

2. Wild Horse Wind Farm

The Wild Horse Wind Farm is a unique chance for older kids and adults to know more about renewable energy, see a huge wind turbine close up, and go inside! We missed our chance twice, as it was too windy to go on a tour for us (it’s also colder on the ridge). We will come back for sure!

Wild Horse Wind Farm
Wild Horse Wind Farm photo credit: Greg Goebel

Time to spend: 1 hour.
Activities: guided tour (kids are welcome), visitor center.

3. From Seattle to Yellowstone. Spokane, Washington

For those who live in or near Seattle, “Spokane” is more than a city. It is the main direction East. I saw “Spokane” direction signs so many times during our first year in Washington, that I wanted to visit the city just because of that 😁. The city is the second-largest in Washington and located near the border with Idaho.

We were very impressed by Spokane and wrote a separate post about it.

Duncan Garden, Manito Park, Spokane, Washington
Duncan Garden, Manito Park, Spokane, Washington

Spokane can be enjoyed as a quick stop or as a full day of activities. It earned a spot in our bucket list for a huge waterfall in the very middle of the city – Spokane Falls:

Spokane Falls, Spokane
Spokane Falls, Spokane

Time to spend: from a couple of hours to a full day.
Activities: Huntington Park, Riverfront Park, Monito Park, Botanical Gardens.

4. Coeur d’Alene City Park and Beach, Idaho

Lake Coeur d’Alene looks really beautiful even from the highway as you pass it by. Take a dip in the lake, continue with a picnic lunch (there are lots of picnic tables), and if time allows, go paddling!

Our friends visited the lake and Fort Sherman Playground (massive wooden structure near the lakeshore) a year ago and said both were a hit.

Lake Coeur d'Alene on a summer's day in Idaho
Lake Coeur d’Alene on a summer’s day in Idaho. photo credit: Robert Ashworth

Time to spend: from a brief visit to half a day.
Activities: Fort Sherman Playground, swimming, parasailing, SUP, boat, kayak rentals. Lake can be crowded during peak months with limited parking.

5. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana

Lewis and Clark’s limestone caverns are fragile pieces of art. They are also known as Montana’s first and best-known state park. And for a good reason: caverns are unique and have a delicate ecosystem. If I could visit only one cavern in my entire life, I would choose Lewis and Clark’s!

There are a lot of rules and important nuances about visiting caverns.

Lewis and Clark Caverns
Lewis and Clark Caverns

Fun fact: The caverns are named after Lewis and Clark but were not discovered by them. The expedition camped nearby in the area. The caverns were discovered and explored almost 100 years later.

Sightseeing on the way from Yellowstone to Seattle, via Grand Teton

1. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho

Our first stop after Grand Teton National Park was at Shoshone Falls. Called “The Niagara of the West”, it is truly beautiful!

Although the picture you see below was taken in mid-September, fall time is when you might find minimal water flow or… an absolutely dry waterfall. At this time of the year, most of the water flow is used to recharge the reservoir system upstream.

Shoshone Falls - "The Niagara of the West"
Shoshone Falls – “The Niagara of the West”

There are several observation platforms where you can enjoy the waterfalls and the canyon with now crowds (during our visit):

Snake River, Idaho
Snake River, Idaho

Lots of picnic tables, plenty of space for kids to roam around, and restrooms located right near the parking lot. We had a nice picnic lunch at the stream in the upper corner of the grassy area. The heat was unbearable – kids were so happy to cool off a bit

Little Andrew enjoying the cool stream
Little Andrew enjoying the cool stream

2. Dierkes Lake, Twin Falls – a nice place to swim for entire family

Dierkes Lake, in the picture below, is a few minutes away from Shoshone Falls and has a beach, springboard, and some shade. It’s a great place for a picnic as well, where you can actually take a dip:

3. From Seattle to Yellowstone. Boise, Idaho

Boise is the capital of Idaho and the largest city in the state, with a population of over 200k. One of the most interesting facts about Boise – ethnic Basque community, the most concentrated outside of Spain 😉.

We liked Boise a lot! I wrote about how to explore the Basque community and other fun places in Boise.

Julia Davis Park, Rose Garden
Julia Davis Park, Rose Garden

4. Warehouse Beach Recreation Area (Lake Wallula), Washington

There is not much to see once you leave Boise and reach the Cascades Range. We found Lake Wallula to be a good pit-stop: long, wide beach for kids to run and play, swimming, picnic tables for a quick lunch, and restrooms.

Lake Wallula

Time to spend: a brief visit.

5. Yakima Arboretum, Washington

The Yakima Arboretum is 46 acres of green space: gardens, tree collections, lots of space to relax, walk, and enjoy nature. Nice stop right at the freeway. The arboretum is open from dawn until dusk 7 days a week. Admission is free.

Yakima Arboretum

Time to spend: from a brief visit to a couple of hours.

6. Lake Easton State Park

Once you reach the Cascade Range, there are tons of places for a quick stop, but Lake Easton remains our favorite.

The scenery is beautiful, amenities are clean and we’ve never seen crowds here, (pretty unusual for Washington state parks during peak season).

Lake Easton, Washington
Lake Easton, Washington

Everything is close and at the very edge of the water: beach, picnic tables, playground, restrooms. The nearest trail leads up the hill to a campground overlooking the lake and the playground – what a gem for camping!

Another favorite spot on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone: Lake Easton
Another favorite spot on the way from Seattle to Yellowstone: Lake Easton

Please verify all the essential information for the destinations before you go.

Thanks for reading, friends! We are glad you stopped by!

Read next:

How to Stay Inside the Yellowstone on a Budget; Best and Worst of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Tips With Kids: 11 Things we have learned only after visiting the Park

Washington Water Wonders: top spots for SUP, kayaking, swimming, camping. WA sleepaway family YMCA camp Orkila experience.

Hawaii on a budget with kids: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island, volcanoes

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

2 replies on “From Seattle to Yellowstone: 11 places you can’t miss”

Thank you for your feedback, Tom! That’s sound like an epic trip, so many states you explored!

Yellowstone, indeed, is a crowded place. I was overwhelmed by it during our trip there. More people we have seen only in Banff (Canada)

This spring my wife & I with our grandson visited the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado. It was very crowded especially Yellowstone, but we all enjoyed every minute or hours of our journey.
I love your article traveling from Seattle to Yellowstone and back. We are planning another trip next fall while following your ideas. Thanks. T& L Bennett

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