It is really going to be weather dependent. You need to check state Department of Transportation websites for Washington, Idaho and Montana as well as a weather site like weather.com BEFORE you set out. You will traverse several mountain passes, Snoqualmie Pass, 4th of July Pass and Lookout Pass which could be fine or could be bad if a storm is blowing through.
Do you have winter driving experience? I assume you are renting a car?
(Sorry i cant provide you with DOT links, Im posting from my phone.)
I am from London England. I've not driven in any crazy winter environments. Is it scary? I will be renting a little compact. Would it be worth getting a 4x4? Have you done this particular journey? Would you recommend it??
The scariness if the drive will be directly dependent on what the weather conditions are at the time. There would really be no clue until a few days ahead when you could see whether a storm would be moving in. Here typically storms would be moving in from the pacific heading eastward, the same way you are traveling. Go to weather.com today and see the coverage of the storm that is moving in to seattle today.
I have not driven Seattle to Kalispell as I live in N. Idaho. I will tell you I do not plan a trip to Seattle in the winter over Snoqualmie Pass unless the weather forecast is clear. In fact had plans for the 3rd weekend in Nov. But cancelled due to a storm. I do have a 4WD (Honda CRV) with snow tires and am used to driving in harsh winter weather. That is a heavily traveled highway but occasionally it does close for weather related reasons.
A 4 wheeled drive is not going to help a lot altho it will give you extra weight. The problem with 4WD is that it does not help you stop. It does help you go if the road is snow covered and traction is a problem.
Any chance you could hop a flight in to Kalispell or Missoula?
After your scary reply, I've decided on taking the short flight. It works out at $250 and I'll be there in one hours 20 minutes. As apposed to 10 hours of who knows what nightmare driving. Kinda makes sense! Then I will hire a car in Kalispell.
Any comments regarding Kalispell? Will it make a good base for some adventures?
Sorry, cant give you any information on Kalispell, but I am truly relieved you have decided to fly in. You know, the weather might be fine, but you take such a risk in the winter! You would hate be stuck in Seattle and delay your vacation!
You might wind up having to post another question regarding fun things to do in Kalispell if no one replies to this one.
Great idea to fly instead of drive given your experience level.
Thanks for your replies. Regarding the overall idea of flying and staying in Kalispell. Would this make a good base for checking out Glacier? My idea is to stay in a cosy hotel then travel early morning to Glacier and take some photos and hike around then return to the hotel. I was going to do this from Monday until Sunday? Do you think it would be worth a drive to Yellowstone to cut the trip up, too?
It's a full day's drive from Kalispell to the Yellowstone area. The road across the Northern edge of the park is open all year to wheeled vehicles (Mammoth to Cooke City MT) but otherwise the park is open only to oversnow vehicles (snow coaches or snow mobiles) in February.
If you are going to include Yellowstone (and hopefully you have not actually made your flight reservations yet) you might want to fly in to Kalispell and out of Bozeman which is closer and would save you a day of travel time.
I agree with the other posters - thank goodness you are flying! As far as what to do - most of Glacier is closed, but Apgar is open. You could check out Lake McDonald. The main lodges are closed up. You can cross country ski and snowshoe in the park. If you are coming here in February I hope you are a winter weather lover. Kalispell is a great base for Whitefish Mountain Resort (Big Mountain). You could ski, snowboard or snowshoe on the mountain. Also great spas! Whitefish has many great shops, restaurants and bars. Blacktail Mountain is just 20 minutes south of Kalispell in Lakeside, also providing good skiing. Something that could be really fun is taking the train from Whitefish to Essex, MT and staying at the Izaak Walton Inn. The train stops right at the Inn and they have several different activities you can participate in. It would be a true Montana experience!