The Great Northern is a route that features nearly 3,600 miles of mountains, lakes, badlands and valleys. This epic cross-country road trip closely parallels US-2. U.S. Route 2 (also known as U.S. Highway 2) was nicknamed "The Great Northern" in commemoration of the the historic transcontinental railroad that helped pioneer the settlement of the West. Highway 2 is the Northernmost east-west route in the country, and driving it continuously will even take you into Canada! Plus, as one of America's longest transcontinental road trips, you'll enjoy unsurpassed scenery as you journey from coast to coast, bisecting the North American continent, just like Lewis and Clark over a century ago.
Start at the Pacific Ocean to make your Great Northern trip truly cross-country. Besides, the beaches here are utterly breathtaking. The misty waves, the jagged cliffs, and the tidepools filled with enchanting sealife all add to the experience. Plus, Olympic National Park boasts a stunning temperate rainforest that's worth exploring as well.
Seattle has tons of great hotels, but come on, you can't pass up the chance to stay in one of the country's most beautiful treehouse resorts! Treehouse Point in Issaquah, WA is more like camping, since not all of the treehouses are equipped with running water, but it's worth it to sleep in among the branches of one of the Pacific Northwest's many gorgeous forests.
Even if you've never seen Twin Peaks, you'll still fall in love with Twede's Cafe's "damn fine cup of coffee" and incredible cherry pie the way David Lynch (and, of course, Dale Cooper) did from the cult TV show. In fact, the town of North Bend is rustic Pacific Northwest charm at its finest. Plan on spending the day exploring, and visit nearby Snoqualmie Falls.
The Pacific Northwest is also known for their funky arts scene, and Dick and Janes Art Spot is a great example of everyday folk art. The couple has adorned their fences, yard and the exterior of their home with bottle caps, reflectors, and other found objects, turning their house into a work of art! Since it's a private home, be respectful when taking pictures from the side of the road.
Riverfront Park is a central feature of Spokane and features tons to see and do. It's got the pavilion, a carousel, an IMAX theater, a small theme park for kids, a skyride over the waterfall, and a massive red wagon, just like the one you probably had as a kid. Great photo op!
Once you've hopped the border from Washington to Idaho, You'll feel right at Ida-Home at the Ida-Home B&B! It's got everything you could want in a bed and breakfast, from hot tubs and campfires to stunning sunsets and spacious, elegant rooms with private bathrooms. Oh, and the gourmet, locally-sourced, organic breakfast you can enjoy on the porch as you wake up in the morning is pretty great, too.
The Swan River Inn in Bigfork, MT is a little hotel with a room for every taste, literally. It features themes like "leather and lace", "exotic Arabian nights", "Tuscan", "French Country", "Geisha", "Art Deco", and "Log Cabin", just to name a few. When you're not basking in the quirky decor of your accommodations, you can enjoy the rooftop garden or walk into the rad town of Bigfork.
Mystery Houses are a classic roadside stop, and the Montana Vortex and House of Mystery in Columbia Falls has been bending brains since the 1970's. Once you step inside, forget everything you learned in high school physics, because gravity will appear to stop working, you'll be able to see your aura, and you can soak up the healing energy from the labyrinth.
Definitely plan on spending at least a day exploring Glacier National Park. You'll want to drive along the Going-To-The-Sun Road, and take a boat tour on one of the park's stunningly clear glacial lakes at the very least. Plus, be on the lookout for the adorable mountain goats and huckleberries along the way (you can pick up to a quart to carry out for road snacks!)
Lewis and Clark made a journey that was just as rad as the Great Northern, so stop at the Lewis and Clark National Interpretive Center in Great Falls. This super comprehensive museum will teach you everything about their cross-country excursion. As you travel across the country, learn about what Westward expansion meant to the country, and the struggles of Lewis and Clark's adventure.
When you're hungry, head to Great Falls for some cold drinks, great campfire-style steaks and chops, homemade mint ice cream and other steakhouse classics. Eddie's Supper Club and Coffee serves old-school cuisine in an authentic 1960's atmosphere, which makes this a fun place to stop for dinner or coffee on the road. You might need a nap after digging into their prime rib and shrimp scampi, though.
Pheasant Tales Bed and Bistro is a casual B&B that mostly caters to those looking for hunting and hiking in Montana, which is a really fun way to experience that side of the state. It's a very relaxed (but still super accommodating) place, and the views from the sun room are just as good as their dinners.
The best time of year for a Great Northern road trip is late spring, summer and early fall. Since you're traveling along the northern part of the states, weather definitely will play a role in your trip. Also, consider getting a National Park pass if you plan on hitting up several national parks along the way, because it will definitely save you money.