“Tell me, is it reasonable to think that we could arrive in Spokane around 11 a.m., begin driving to Kalispell, stopping only occasionally for photo ops, and arrive by early evening to spend the night?”
Easily. Here’s a route suggestion. When you get off the interestate at St. Regis, take the left to Plains then at Plains take the right to go north to Hot Springs and Elmo in to Kalispell. (or for you city people, "Take 135 then 200 to 28 to get to 93).
Why? 93 is the direct route between Kalispell and Missoula and has heavy traffic. It’s not FUN drive. The other route has way less traffic. If you insist in going across, you could stop in Moiese at the National Buffalo Range.
If you drive into Plains and go just north of town, you can get you picture taken with a 6 foot tall jackalope.
In Hot Springs, you can take a dip at the Symes Hotel. It’s a old refurbished hotel with a natural hot springs.
“Could we get up early the next morning and explore Glacier NP for a few hours (not in depth exploring, but more “scenic drive” exploring), then head back to Spokane to arrive late in the evening?”
Yes, if you get up early and translate “a few hours” to mean “6-8 hours”. Glacier is a big place. If nothing else, do the Going to the Sun road to St. Mary and the turn around. FYI, check the Montana department of Transportation website to look for all the construction around Glacier.
“Mapquest gives a 238 mile driving distance and 4.5 hour driving time between Spokane and Kalispell. And since my experience with Mapquest is that it typically inflates the driving time, I’m figuring that we could make this two-day trip without any problem.”
3 hours is excellent time, four is around average. Beware that once you leave the interstate, everything is two lane. And unlike Texas, our roads have corners and hills and rivers and stuff, when limits chances to pass very slow motor homes.
You’ll have a good time, just some long days. But that’s a good thing.
In Kalispell, the Kalispell Grand Hotel is a funky old railroad hotel right on Main Street. The rooms that aren’t in the back can be noisy, but it’s a cool place. Right next door to it is the Painted Horse Grill. And if you go to Kalispell, you have to go to Moose’s (two blocks north), a pizza and beer joint with sawdust on the floor.
You could also stay at the West Coast Cavanaugh’s (or similar name). It’s attached to the mall, but that isn’t a problem.
Book your room now - it’s still the tourist season when you plan to visit.
Whistlepig, who travels everywhere in Montana. But I won’t be in Kalispell until that Sunday night.