Motorcycle Touring Ideas on the Great Northern between Seattle and Minneapolis

Nov 25, 2021


The western half of US Highway 2 stretches between Seattle and Minneapolis and mirrors an early pioneer route known as the Great Northern. US-2 is the longest and most legendary transcontinental road trip in North America. It presents the widest array of geography you can see from a motorcycle. From Washington State’s Cascade Range to the Great Lakes region, US-2 provides a multitude of stunning natural and architectural destinations to choose from. 

You can admire the quaint late-Victorian aesthetic of Snohomish, the turn-of-the-century beauty of Duluth, and the impressive engineering of Spokane. When you’re tired of the cities, ride off into the wild, untamed nature of Glacier National Park and make contact with the great unknown at the House of Mystery in Hungry Horse, Montana. Either way, you’ll be riding through lands once dominated by herds of buffalo and Native American nations as fierce as the Shoshone, Blackfeet, Sioux, and Cheyenne.

Visit these five key destinations and conquer the cold landscapes of the North with a motorcycle rental service you can count on. Riders Share is a renters-to-riders platform that removes all the uncertainty associated with traditional rental company’s stock and selection. Find the perfect motorcycle and get ready for an adventure through a country that has barely felt the presence of human civilization.

1. Blackman House Museum — Snohomish, Washington

Snohomish is a pleasant location to start a long journey. This orderly little Victorian town takes up the north bank of the Snohomish River and is another example of Western America’s postcard-perfect architecture. Riding into town along 1st Street, you’ll see the sawmill across the river, steepled churches, and quaint Victorian homes. The Blackman House Museum resides in one of these beautiful abodes. Restored to its original grandeur, it displays period furnishings and offers information about Snohomish’s founding and early years. Snohomish also has the good fortune of being filled with antique shops, cades, and taverns, making it the perfect day-trip for the ride-weary road tripper. Getting to Snohomish from Seattle is no great challenge—it’s only a 40-minute ride. Tip: Snohomish’s Pie Company has the pastry market covered. Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse will help you wash down your slice of pie with a hearty drink on the river’s bank. 

2. Bing Crosby House — Spokane, Washington

For a more sprawling, but no-less-stately, alternative to Snohomish, try Spokane, Washington’s second-largest city. Perhaps Spokane’s biggest claim to national fame is it’s Bing Crosby House Museum, located on Gonzaga University’s campus. Yet fans of the famous crooner will find so much more to see in Spokane than the museum dedicated to his memory. In fact, they’ll find a whole world of monumental architecture, including a beautiful opera house, convention center, sandstone clock tower, IMAX theater, and carousel complete with wooden horses. Browne’s Addition, a turn-of-the-20th-century residential district full of regal housing, and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, which collects Native American artifacts, are other quality Spokane destinations. And then there’s Riverfront Park, which perfectly frames the waterfall that divides downtown in half. Nature-lovers will want to take the gondola sky ride which hits the top of Spokane Falls and then descends to their base. They’ll also want to walk around the park to take in views of the Spokane City Hall building (constructed out of cast concrete) and visit Auntie’s Bookstore and cafe.

Gear up for a five-hour trip down US-2 between Snohomish and Spokane. The hungry and weary are encouraged to check out Frank’s Diner, Spokane’s best breakfast place. Hill’s Restaurant and Lounge makes for the perfect dinner, especially if you’re looking for beer and Reuben sandwiches. Elk Public House also offers a variety of bistro-style grub. Stay at any of the motels along the main highways leading into and out of Spokane, including I-90. The Historic Davenport Hotel, located in downtown Spokane, is a turn-of-the-century wonder and a great place to stay if you have the resources on hand.

3. Glacier National Park — Flathead County / Glacier County, Montana

We can’t recommend or praise Glacier National Park enough—it’s simply the best national park in all the untamed Rocky Mountain Wilderness. The park stretches 1,500 square miles over Flathead and Glacier Counties. Within, you’ll find over 200 lakes, innumerable rivers and streams, and 700 miles of hiking and riding trails. Long ago, glaciers carved steep valleys into the sedimentary rock rising tens of thousands of feet into the air. All manner of wildlife call Glacier National Park home, from grizzly and black bears to mountain lions and wolves. How does the motorcycle enthusiast take in the best this monster of a national park has to offer? 

By taking the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road, which snakes through limitless forest and prairie.

This road is perhaps the most scenic you’ll ever have the privilege of riding across, and it's the only road that crosses the park’s one million acres. Just make sure you time your trip properly—Going-to-the-Sun Road’s middle portion is usually closed from October to June.

If you’re going on foot, Avalanche Creek is the most beautiful short hike in the park. It’s only two miles, but takes you through thick forests, past a cascade, and all the way up to Avalanche Lake, itself enclosed by massive cliffs. Lake McDonald is the park’s largest lake and features a lodge, campground, and summer boat tours, while Logan Pass is home to blankets of colorful wildflowers once the snow melts.

4. House of Mystery — Hungry Horse, Montana

Hungry Horse’s unique name hints at its unique brand of roadside kitsch. Billed as “The Friendliest Dam Town in the Whole World,” Hungry Horse’s main attraction is it’s House of Mystery. The House of Mystery, located three miles east of Columbia Falls, is “Montana’s Only Vortex”, which claims to be the center of a gravitational anomaly where the normal laws of physics don’t apply. 

In essence, it’s a whimsical-yet-crooked shack with plenty of indoor optical illusions to take pictures of. Don’t forget to stop at the store next door for souvenirs! Adding to the mystery, this establishment is located along the Flathead River at the mouth of Bad Rock Canyon, which Native Americans consider to be haunted! 

Hungry Horse is on your way to Going-the-Sun-Road and sits just outside Glacier National Park. Follow the same directions mentioned in the previous section, but instead of continuing along US-2 without a rest, stop in the first town after Columbia Falls. This is Hungry Horse. The House of Mystery is located on US-2, on your left. Once you’ve finished exploring the Vortex, indulge in a classic American dessert with a milkshake or slice of pie at The Huckleberry Patch in the center of town. This little diner turns into a full restaurant during the summer and offers over 25 berry and cherry concoctions guaranteed to bring out your sweet tooth.

5. St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center — Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is a city of contrasts and the perfect way to cap off your Great Northern road trip. Situated on tall granite slopes and overlooking a harbor off Lake Superior, Duluth’s varied architecture has something for everybody. Downtown is reminiscent of other gentrified holdings in the Midwest, redbrick roads and all.

But atop the bluff, you’ll get a grittier scene more in tune with the city’s maritime and timber origins. And speaking of timber, Duluth is surrounded and penetrated by the natural world, including harbor preserves, shorelines, parks, and forests. Museums and mansions make a scenic backdrop for boat and walking tours all across the city. The main attraction in town might be the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center. 

This waterfront building was recently restored to its original state as a prime example of Duluth’s early architectural style. It currently holds the city’s artistic and cultural centers of note. It’s also located right next to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and dozens of shops designed to recreate early 20th-century Duluth. Fans of music history will be pleased to discover that Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and grew up only a few miles from the arts center. If you’ve already parked and paid a visit to Aerial Lift Bridge, a massive bridge connecting the mainland to the harbor mouth, you’ll want to visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in the gentrified Canal Park warehouse district. Another landmark, the SS William A. Irvin, will be of interest to those who love maritime or U.S. industrial history (the Irvin was an ore ship and measures two football fields). Cross the Aerial Lift Bridge to get access to Lake Superior’s long beaches and get some sand between your toes.

Riders can expect a 150-mile ride to Duluth on moderately twisted roads. Once you’re in Duluth, Canal Park has all the amenities you could desire, especially when it comes to food. Grandma’s Saloon & Grill is located at the base of Aerial Lift Bridge and serves delicious Italian-American dishes, while Northern Waters Smokehaus makes sandwiches of all styles its specialty. Those in search of lodgings should check out the Inn on Lake Superior.

At either end of the Great North motorcycle route lies a bustling city ripe for further exploration. Minneapolis’ motorcycle routes bend around lakes and rivers and run through forests of great beauty, while Seattle’s roads will take you through several top-tier national parks. And as always, click here for the best motorcycle rental in Minneapolis.