How To Drive From Seattle To Chicago: Route Options, Tips, And Road Trip Ideas

Looking to drive from Seattle across the country to Chicago? A Seattle to Chicago road trip covers over 2,000 miles, crossing the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Montana mountains, and Great Plains states. With careful planning and preparation, the long haul between these iconic cities can be an epic adventure. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to drive from Seattle to Chicago.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick overview: The fastest route sticks to I-90 E, though taking I-94 E through North Dakota offers a more scenic road trip. Plan for at least 3-5 days of driving. Make sure your vehicle is road-trip-ready, pack smartly, and plan stops along the way in places like Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and Wall Drug.

Route Options

When planning a road trip from Seattle to Chicago, there are a couple of route options to consider. Each route offers its own unique attractions and experiences along the way. Let’s take a closer look at the two main options:

I-90 Route

The I-90 route is the most direct route from Seattle to Chicago. This route takes you through beautiful landscapes, charming small towns, and iconic cities. Driving along I-90 will give you the opportunity to explore places like Spokane, Montana, and South Dakota’s Badlands.

You can also make a pit stop at the famous Mount Rushmore and experience the breathtaking beauty of the Black Hills.

One of the highlights of the I-90 route is the chance to visit Yellowstone National Park. Known for its geysers, hot springs, and wildlife, Yellowstone is a must-see destination for nature lovers. Be sure to plan for extra time to explore the park and take in the awe-inspiring sights.

Another great feature of the I-90 route is the chance to visit the city of Chicago. As you approach the end of your journey, you’ll be greeted by the stunning skyline of the Windy City. From world-class museums to iconic architecture, Chicago offers a plethora of attractions to explore.

I-94 Route

The I-94 route is another popular option for driving from Seattle to Chicago. This route takes you through a different set of cities and landscapes, providing a unique road trip experience.

On the I-94 route, you’ll have the opportunity to visit cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Madison. These cities offer their own distinct charm and attractions. Minneapolis, for example, is known for its vibrant arts scene and beautiful lakes.

Milwaukee is famous for its breweries and the Harley-Davidson Museum. Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, offers a mix of natural beauty and cultural attractions.

One of the highlights of the I-94 route is the chance to visit the beautiful state of Michigan. You can explore the stunning coastline of Lake Michigan, visit the vibrant city of Detroit, or relax in the charming beach towns along the way.

Both the I-90 and I-94 routes offer their own unique experiences, so it ultimately depends on your preferences and interests. Consider the attractions along each route and plan your road trip accordingly. Whichever route you choose, make sure to enjoy the journey and take in the sights along the way!

Road Trip Planning and Tips

Preparing Your Vehicle

Before embarking on your road trip from Seattle to Chicago, it’s crucial to ensure that your vehicle is in optimal condition. Schedule a maintenance check-up to inspect the tires, brakes, fluids, and overall performance.

This will help prevent any unexpected breakdowns or inconveniences along the way. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s manual and emergency procedures.

Packing Essentials

When packing for your road trip, it’s important to consider both comfort and practicality. Make sure to bring a roadside emergency kit that includes essentials such as a spare tire, jumper cables, flashlight, and first aid supplies.

Additionally, pack enough water, snacks, and entertainment options to keep you and your fellow travelers satisfied during the journey. Don’t forget to bring a phone charger, maps, and a GPS device or smartphone with navigation apps for easy route guidance.

For a smoother travel experience, it’s recommended to pack a cooler with perishable items and consider using reusable water bottles to minimize waste. It’s also wise to pack a small bag with essential toiletries and a change of clothes, as well as any necessary medications or personal items.

Lodging Considerations

When planning your road trip, it’s essential to consider your lodging options along the way. Research and book accommodations in advance to secure the best deals and ensure availability, especially during peak travel seasons.

Whether you prefer hotels, motels, campgrounds, or vacation rentals, there are plenty of options to choose from along the Seattle to Chicago route.

If you’re looking to save money, consider camping at national or state parks along the way. They often offer beautiful scenery and a chance to connect with nature. On the other hand, if you prefer a more luxurious experience, indulge in a stay at one of the many charming bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels that dot the route.

It’s also worth noting that there are several online platforms, such as Airbnb and, that can help you find and book accommodations that suit your preferences and budget. Take advantage of these resources to make your road trip even more enjoyable.

When to Go and Length of Drive

Best Time of Year

When planning a road trip from Seattle to Chicago, it’s important to consider the best time of year to embark on this journey. The weather conditions and road conditions can vary greatly depending on the season.

The summer months, from June to August, are generally the most popular time to travel due to the warmer weather and longer days. However, it’s worth noting that this is also peak tourist season, so expect more crowds and higher prices for accommodations.

Spring and fall can offer a more pleasant travel experience with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. Winter can be challenging due to snow and icy conditions, so it’s recommended to avoid this season unless you are comfortable driving in winter weather.

Expected Drive Times

The drive from Seattle to Chicago is approximately 2,000 miles, so it’s important to plan for the length of the journey. The duration of the drive can vary depending on several factors, including traffic, weather conditions, and the route you choose.

On average, the drive can take around 30 to 35 hours, but this can be longer or shorter depending on your pace and stops along the way.

If you prefer a more direct route, taking major highways such as Interstate 90, the estimated drive time is around 30 hours. However, if you have more time to spare and want to explore scenic routes, you can consider taking detours and making stops at national parks or attractions along the way.

This can extend the drive time, but it offers a chance to see some of the beautiful landscapes and landmarks of the United States.

It’s important to plan your drive time wisely, taking into account rest breaks, meal stops, and overnight stays if necessary. Remember to factor in the time zone changes as you cross different states, and be sure to check for any road closures or construction updates before you hit the road.

For more information on road conditions and real-time traffic updates, you can visit websites like Washington State Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation.

Key Road Trip Stops

National Parks

One of the highlights of driving from Seattle to Chicago is the opportunity to visit some incredible national parks along the way. A must-visit park on this route is Glacier National Park in Montana. Known for its stunning landscapes, glaciers, and diverse wildlife, Glacier National Park offers breathtaking views and endless outdoor activities.

Be sure to hike the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road for an unforgettable experience. Another notable national park is Yellowstone National Park, located mostly in Wyoming but also extending into Montana and Idaho.

With its geothermal wonders, such as the famous Old Faithful geyser, and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone is a true natural treasure.

Mountain Towns

As you make your way from Seattle to Chicago, make sure to take some time to explore the charming mountain towns that dot the route. One such town is Bend, Oregon, nestled in the Cascade Mountains. Known for its outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking, and skiing, Bend also offers a vibrant downtown area with breweries, restaurants, and shops.

Another mountain town worth visiting is Jackson, Wyoming. Surrounded by the stunning Teton Range, Jackson is a gateway to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Take a stroll through the town’s famous antler arches or enjoy some skiing or snowboarding at the nearby Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Quirky Attractions

No road trip is complete without a visit to some quirky attractions along the way. As you drive from Seattle to Chicago, keep an eye out for unique and offbeat stops that will add some fun to your journey.

One such attraction is the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota, where you’ll find a series of giant metal sculptures lining the highway. These larger-than-life artworks make for great photo opportunities and are sure to spark your imagination. Another quirky stop is Wall Drug in South Dakota.

This famous roadside attraction offers everything from free ice water to Western-themed souvenirs. Don’t forget to take a picture with the iconic Wall Drug dinosaur!

For more road trip inspiration and detailed information on specific attractions along the route, websites such as Roadtrippers and Atlas Obscura are great resources to consult.

Chicago Arrival

Getting Around

Once you have arrived in Chicago after your long drive from Seattle, it’s important to know the best ways to get around the city. Chicago is known for its efficient public transportation system, so you may want to consider using the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) to explore the city.

The CTA offers a network of buses and trains that can take you to various neighborhoods and attractions. Don’t forget to purchase a Ventra card, which will make your travels on the CTA much easier.

If you prefer to drive around Chicago, be prepared for heavy traffic, especially during peak hours. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the city’s parking regulations and find parking garages or lots in advance.

Additionally, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are widely available in Chicago and can be convenient options for getting around.

For those who enjoy biking, Chicago offers a bike-sharing program called Divvy. With numerous bike stations located throughout the city, you can easily rent a bike and explore Chicago’s beautiful lakefront and neighborhoods on two wheels.

Where to Stay

Chicago offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels, boutique accommodations, or budget-friendly hostels, you’ll find plenty of choices in the city.

If you want to be in the heart of the action, consider staying in downtown Chicago, where you’ll be close to popular attractions like Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Magnificent Mile.

The Loop and River North neighborhoods are particularly convenient for exploring the city on foot or using public transportation.

If you prefer a more laid-back vibe, you can opt to stay in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park or Lakeview, which offer a mix of residential charm, trendy shops, and restaurants. These neighborhoods also provide easy access to the lakefront and popular attractions like Lincoln Park Zoo.

For a unique experience, you might consider booking a stay in one of Chicago’s historic hotels, such as The Palmer House Hilton or The Drake. These iconic buildings offer a glimpse into Chicago’s rich architectural and cultural history.

To find the best deals on accommodations, it’s always a good idea to compare prices and read reviews on reputable travel websites like or These websites provide a wealth of information and user feedback to help you make an informed decision.


A road trip from Seattle to Chicago is an epic way to see the diversity of American landscapes and attractions. With strategic planning for your vehicle, route, timing, stops, and lodging, you’re sure to have an unforgettable drive. This guide outlined key considerations and tips to make your Seattle to Chicago road trip smooth sailing.

The most important things to remember are to ready your vehicle, pack wisely, time your trip well, and plan fun stops along your route. Enjoy the beauty and adventure of driving from coast to coast!

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