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  1. #1

    Default Chicago to Los Angeles by Blue Highways

    Hey guys.
    Planning a 14 day trip from Chicago to LA. Want to steer clear of interstates, hit Montana and generally repeat the wonder of last year's DC to SF trip (best bits of that trip? Utah and Nevada).
    Not worried about cities as we'll be spending a couple of days in Chicago and LA at either end of the trip.
    Any ideas for a route that will satisfy the above criteria?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Chicago to Los Angeles - the Long Way

    First and foremost, it makes a big difference whether you just plan on driving to Los Angeles in 14 days, or if that time will include a return to Chicago. If this is a round trip, then you barely have enough time to make the direct drive and spend a few days in LA, let alone wandering off to Montana on back roads. But if this is a one way drive, then pretty much everything is open to you, and what follows is just one of many possible routes.

    I'm somewhat partial to US-14 as a non-Interstate route across the upper Midwest, but there are other possibilities including US-12 (both US-12 and US-14 will take you by Lake Oahe) and US-2 (which will take you by the upper reaches of Lake Sakakawea. The target in any case is the town of Circle, MT and the start of a trek across, MT-200. This is as beautifully desolate a stretch of road as I've ever been on, but you will need to make sure that your vehicle is in good mechanical shape and fully gassed up before you start out. It traverses subdued Badlands topography through the heart of Big Sky country into the Great Falls area.

    US-89 would then take you down through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, then US-189 and US-191 would take you to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, and eventually Arches National Park. From there UT-24 and UT-12 offer a great back road through southern Utah, going through or near Capitol Reef National Park, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, as well as Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. All that would then set you up for the final run through Las Vegas, and the Mojave National Preserve on the way into Los Angeles


  3. #3

    Default Need a bit of Route 1 action

    Thanks. Most interesting. But I forgot to mention that my wife wants to drive at least a part of the west coastal road down to LA. Any suggestion for that?
    And, yes, it's a one-way drive.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default There are Always Alternatives

    But given that the best parts of the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) are farther north (from just south of Monterey to San Luis Obispo) and that the number of passes through the Sierra Nevada are limited, here's what I think would be your best bet. I'm going to assume that since you have posted in the Planning Summer RoadTrips forum, that this trip will take place sometime after the middle of June and that Tioga Pass will be open. In that case, and also assuming you've already visited Bryce Canyon and Zion, one option would be to head west from Arches on I-70 rather than using UT-24 and UT-12 as I suggested earlier. Then at Salina, UT strike out on US-50 and US-6 across central Utah and Nevada with visits to Great Basin National Park and Ely. You can then use either US-50 to Lake Tahoe or US-6 to Bishop before taking US-395 to Lee Vining, CA and CA-120 over Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. You can then exit Yosemite on CA-140 westbound to CA-33 south and CA-152 west which will put you into the Watsonville/Monterey area at the northern end of the Big Sur coast for a great trip down the coast road to Los Angeles.


  5. #5

    Default I sound like such an ingrate

    Thanks but we did that big old chunk of US50 last year [although it was our favourite section of the whole drive, so it's tempting to repeat it].
    Any interesting way to circumnavigate it?

  6. Default Go north...

    Not sure which way you're coming through Nevada, but a northly alternative is to and come in through Reno and Lake Tahoe, and then Sacramento. From there to LA you have the options of following down through Sonora and the California Gold Country along the east side of the California Central Valley, or meandering down through the California Central Valley on secondary roads (which I've always found in good shape, even if they are two lanes)

    You can cut over to the coast route either near Livermore and pick up the coast via San Jose at Santa Cruz, or go somewhat farther south and cut over at Los Banos through the Pacheo Pass to come out at about Gilroy and then Monterey.

    Since you're coming from Montana, you might even look at the 140 route west, which connects with 395 in the very NE corner of California, and you can come down through Burney, Lassen National Park, and then into the northern half of the Central Valley near Chico.

    If you're coming in through central/ southern Nevada, there's the Sonora Pass (on 104) somewhat north of the Tioga pass route, which will bring you out nearish to Modesto.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Only So Many Ways to Skin a Cat...

    ...and only so many ways to cross Nevada from the National Parks of central Utah to get to Big Sur. There are competing requirements that you've put on your trip: to see Montana, Utah and Nevada as well as see Big Sur, all while driving a minimum of Interstate miles. The biggest problem is that vast tracts of central Nevada are given over to weapons testing of one sort or another with the associated restrictions on travel. So to meet all your stated goals, you really are limited to the two choices I listed earlier: US-50 or US-6. If you did US-50 last year, try US-6 this year. Short of that, your only other alternative is to take the routing I initially suggested to Las Vegas and then take I-15 and CA-58 to I-5 just west of Bakersfield, head north and cut over to the coast using CA-198, US-101 north, and one of my favorite back roads, county road G-16 from roughly Soledad to Monterey. But that's a lot of backtracking.

    The other option is to skip Utah altogether and from Montana head down I-15 into the Snake River valley and southern Idaho before using ID-51 and NV-225 to Elko to connect with I-80 across northern Nevada to Reno/Tahoe and on into the Bay area as Larrison suggested.


  8. #8

    Default Road trip no. 9 - California-Arizona-Utah-Nevada?

    Two weeks beginning and ending in LA in first two weeks of April 2008. Not bothered about staying long in LA but we're taking some road trip newbies (separate cars) and we want to hit Death Valley, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Brice, Zion, US50 through Nevada, Yosemite and San Francisco.
    Now I have a yearning to try to head for Montana too as I've not been there for 2 years but I suspect that would be pushing it. Would I be correct in my assumption, oh wise and benevolent ones?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Welcome back, Paolo

    Well, I think trying to see all those other places plus Montana is not very wise. So, I'll be benevolent and help save you a headache by trying to cram in too much.

    If you skip all those other stops, you could have a relatively quick and fun trip to Montana and back, with time to explore while there and along the way. But no way would I suggest it if you want to explore the Southwest. Just focus on that area, imho.

    The CA-Utah-Nevada-Arizona loop is one of the most popular trips on these forums. You might want to do a search and read up about some of the other trips people have taken and advice given for these areas and then come on back with specific questions.

    And I'm sure others will come in and give you some more specific advise!

  10. #10

    Default What Judy said

    I agree totally with Judy. (Welcome back BTW!) Montana is a bridge too far IMHO. I'd stick to exploring the four states. Two weeks is still pushing it but it'll give em a good idea of what's there and I guarantee it'll leave em wanting to come back to see what they missed.

    Maybe something like this:

    LA --> PCH --> San Fran --> Yosemite --> Death Valley --> Vegas --> Zion --> Bryce Canyon --> Monument Valley --> Grand Canyon --> LA

    I would personally drop the US-50 idea as it could all start to get a little too rushed if you try and squeeze that in as well. But I'm not one to talk about rushed - I'm renowned for it - so feel free to ignore me!

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