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  1. Default Billings, Montana to Seattle Road Trip

    Hello,

    A buddy and me will be flying into Billings, MT from the East Coast in late September to do a 5 day road trip through Montana, Northern Idaho, and finally Seattle. We will spend 2-3 days getting from MT to Seattle (typically a 12 hour drive) to allow us to do as much exploring as possible. A day in Seattle is all we really need since we are more interested in seeing the wilderness than cities.

    The area that is of particular interest to us is the Lolo National Forest in Western Montana. I realize that 90 is the main interstate route through here, but we are looking for suggestions on even more scenic highways or roads that you can take through this area.

    Also, does anyone know of any hiking, fishing, or white water rafting outfits that service tourists? We are not experienced in the wilderness and out in bear country the last thing we need is an encounter (excuse my ignorance, it's just something I wouldn't want to risk exploring the forest on our own).

    Any other suggestions on famous towns and restaurants along the way would also be helpful.

    Thank you,
    Joe

  2. Default

    I have actually done more research and will be venturing south into Yellowstone Park for 2 days then up along 90 through Northern Idaho (Coete D'Alene), through Spokane, and eventually into Seattle. Stops will be made at Indian reservations and national forests.

    Again, any advice would be great.

    Thank you.
    Last edited by AZBuck; 07-19-2010 at 09:17 PM. Reason: Good Neighbor Policy violation. Please do not berate people and then expect their help.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Think Again

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Billings to Seattle is over 800 miles, a solid two days of driving, NOT 12 hours, if done safely. There are many good scenic alternatives to I-90 including US-12 which follows portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail over Lolo Pas and down the Lochsa and Clearwater Rivers. From around Lewiston, I'd head north on some combination of ID-3 and/or ID-6 to Coeur d'Alene, then over to Spokane where I'd pick up US-2 the rest of the way into Seattle. That will certainly be a scenic drive with plenty of opportunities for short hikes as you pass through Clearwater, Wenatchee, and Snoquaqlmie National Forests, but it will also eat up a full three days without wandering off into the wilderness. If you really plan to spend two days in Yellowstone, you will have to get all your white water rafting and other adventures there.

    AZBuck

  4. Default

    AZBuck,

    Thank you very much! We will take these alternative more scenic routes on our drive to Seattle.

    Also, per mapquest.com it still says it takes only 11 hours 37 mins to get from Billings to NW Washington on I-90.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Mapquest as always lives in the virtual world where a driver would never have to slow down for construction or traffic, and never needs to stop for fuel, food, or a restroom.

    When I plug Billings and Seattle into Mapquest it says its a 12 hour/821 mile drive, however, that doesn't pass the common sense test. They are assuming you can average more than 68 miles per hour, which simply isn't possible without spending most of the drive in excess of 100 mph.

    Even on a speed run, driving slightly above the speed limit and making just the bare minimum of stops, this trip would take 14+ hours. As Buck mentioned, its also far more than is recommended for a single day. To do the trip safely, its a minimum of a day and a half drive.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    3 years ago, I made a "speed run" out to the west coast. I did in fact do 805 miles in one day. It also in fact took 14 hours. It was from Dallas to Lordsburg NM. I had the cruise control set at 85 mph for a good portion of I-20 and I-10 through west Texas. I made 2 fuel stops, one quick Mickey D's lunch stop, and a couple quick bathroom stops. Average speed came out to less than 60 mph. Would I do it again? Most likely not, it was exhausting.

  7. Default

    Sorry. I was not trying to be argumentative, just was going by what mapquest indicated. I agree, 14 hours in one day without a stop is impossible. Even with 7 hours sleep the night before and 3 stops for food, restroom, water, and coffee this would take 17-20 hours. No thank you!!!

    I am sure completing this trip in 2-3 days will allow us enough time to drive on the roads AZBuck indicated. It will also give us 2 days to see Seattle. We will probably have to skip Yellowstone. I hear it is too crowded anyways even though it is after Labor Day.

    Thank you all again!

  8. #8

    Default Just returned from Lolo NF

    Howdy Joe,

    The vacation RoadTrip I returned from about 12 hours ago included the Rock Creek section of the Lolo NF, east and south of Missoula. Rock Creek is a Blue Ribbon trout stream with several NF campgrounds and almost unlimited access from about the 10 mile post (Mile 0 is at I-90) all the way up to MT 348 near Philipsburg, a distance of 31 miles from the 10 mile. The road is a little bumpy in places, but during the week I spent at mile 30 (where a NF-owned cabin known as the Hogback Homestead is located), I saw many conventional autos pass by. There is a modest NF cabin at Stony Creek (just across the dividing line between the Lolo and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF) and it's possible there are still open dates at either Hogback or Morgan-Case during September. Check with the Philipsburg District Ranger's office (Beaverhead-Deerlodge) or Missoula Ranger District (Lolo NF) for cabin rentals at Stony Creek or Hogback/Morgan-Case, respectively).

    To the best of my knowledge, much whitewater rafting takes place in the Whitefish/Kallispell area, but check ahead to determine when they close up for the season. There is probably some to be had along the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, or Clark Fork Rivers in the Missoula vicinity, too. Call the REI store in Missoula and ask for general info.

    In my humble opinion, the Big Hole valley is one of the most spectacular sights in all of the Lower 48. A loop down US 93 from Missoula takes you to MT 43 to the east. Remaining on MT 43 through Wise River to Divide gives you a look at the northern section of the Big Hole and brings you back to I-90 at Butte. Turning south on MT 278 at Wisdom takes you to Jackson (and the hot spring!) then Dillon. Another alternative is the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway from Polaris, MT to Wise River, an all-paved parkway of some 50 miles. Be sure to stop at the Grasshopper Inn and have a beer. Tell Tom that Foy sent you.

    I have to wonder why go to Seattle for just a day, when it'll take you 3 days round-trip from the Missoula area? On this just-completed trip, our traveling partners were a couple from Seattle. They travel fast and light and it took them around 9 hours to get to Missoula to meet us for Rock Creek. When we departed from the Grasshopper Inn 2 weeks later, they planned to overnight in Missoula before the trip back west. Absent some compelling reason to go to Seattle, I'd bag everything west of the ID-MT line and fully embrace Montana.

    Enjoy planning and taking your RoadTrip!

    Foy

  9. Default

    Hi Foy,your name caught my eye and wanted to take the oppotunity to see if we are related.Have been looking for the Foy side of my family for awhile now.I am planning to move back to Missoula/Whitefish area.I was born in Whitefish but left when I was 2 years old.Always wanted to go back and see what it is like there.Maybe find some family there if any still live there.My fathers family(the Foys)lived in whitefish for years from what I hear.I would love to find out if any of this rings a bell for you.If not,thats OK it is worth a shot even if it is a long shot.Anyway I am worried about driving over Bozeman and Homestake Passes since I have a fear of hieghts.Are there high cliffs where you can tell how high up you are.I'm Ok as long as I have some ground not to far off the side of the road.Looking forward to your reply. pmusicfoy

  10. #10

    Default High passes and the Foys

    Quote Originally Posted by pmusicfoy View Post
    Hi Foy,your name caught my eye and wanted to take the oppotunity to see if we are related.Have been looking for the Foy side of my family for awhile now.I am planning to move back to Missoula/Whitefish area.I was born in Whitefish but left when I was 2 years old.Always wanted to go back and see what it is like there.Maybe find some family there if any still live there.My fathers family(the Foys)lived in whitefish for years from what I hear.I would love to find out if any of this rings a bell for you.If not,thats OK it is worth a shot even if it is a long shot.Anyway I am worried about driving over Bozeman and Homestake Passes since I have a fear of hieghts.Are there high cliffs where you can tell how high up you are.I'm Ok as long as I have some ground not to far off the side of the road.Looking forward to your reply. pmusicfoy
    Hello cousin (?),

    I doubt we're related inasmuch as Foy is my given middle name and to the best of my knowledge, it did not arise from an ancestor's surname. My namesake grandfather (I'm the 3rd) was given the name Foy when he was born in 1897. While never exactly a common name, it was given to boys and girls alike in the late 19th/early 20th century, so when seen today as a first or middle name, I usually see a Jr or a III behind it. I'm told Foy means "gift", so both boys and girls were so named. The side of my family from whence the name arose are Scots-Irish and settled in southeastern Virginia and northeastern NC from the late 1700s onward, and my grandfather and father grew up near Nashville, NC.

    While I would not characterize I-90's trip over either Bozeman or Homestake as "cliff-like", the west (Butte) side of the slope down from the pass does pass along the side of the mountain for a few miles and there are some drop-offs away from the roadway near the crest of the pass. Everything is heavily guardrailed or Jersey-barriered so it would take quite the effort to get off the highway. From Whitehall, you can get off of I-90 and take MT state highways around the pass. Never done it, but possibly it's a little less daunting (but I don't consider it daunting to begin with). Bozeman Pass is even more "normal". Long grades uphill and downhill, and little, if any, in the way of mountainside/dropoff.

    I've got to be honest and say I've never understood phobias about elevation/drop-offs, etc, along Interstate highways. Anywhere there is a serious drop-off, there's almost always some heavy-duty guardrail or barrier sufficient to keep a tractor-trailer on the roadway, so we in our cars should be unconcerned about taking the plunge.

    Foy

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