I-80 vs. I-70
I have noticed that a couple people on this forum have recommended I-70 over sticking with I-80 for going to Las Vegas when coming from Chicago. Google Earth routes me on I-80, and my father in law seems to remember hearing that it's a better route. Can I hear some of the pros/cons of each route? I-70 looks to be a bit shorter, but perhaps it has more inclines?
Also for someone that hasn't driven in the mountains in a long time- are there any recommendations to keep from killing my brakes/engine? I drive a 99 Odyssey with 180K+ miles...
Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!
I-70 and I-80 are both Interstates, which means that, with rare exception, the hills are not going to be incredibly steep and shouldn't be too hard on your brakes. You won't be driving through narrow mountain passes or through hard switchbacks on either of these routes, though I-70 definitely has more "hills".
One thing recommending I-70 is the area in Eastern Utah, which you would miss by taking I-80.
I-70 goes through the heart of the Colorado Rockies, so you certainly go over higher elevation, but in return you get to travel over what is arguably the most scenic freeway in the world. As Tim mentioned, this is still an Interstate highway which is built for interstate truck traffic, and no modern car should have any problem traveling this road.
If you are pulling a trailer with your car, then I-80 might be the better choice since it would be a little easier on your car (even though I-70 would still be a perfectly safe and reasonable option). Another potential advantage of I-80 is that Salt Lake City is the largest city on the route - so you avoid the potential traffic problems of Denver.
I-80 is about 45 miles longer and takes about 45 minutes more. I believe the highest elevation on I-80 is in the 7000's but I-70 goes over 10000. Denver traffic is not too bad except in rush hour, but SLC can be bad in rush hour too. I had no problems maintaining at least 55 mph on I-70 upgrades in a full size pickup truck with a V-6, just take it out of overdrive going downhill to get some engine braking.
I-70 grades in CO
If I recall correctly, and I think I do, there are but 3 grades along I-70 in Colorado: Golden (suburb of Denver to the west) to Evergreen rises around 3,000' over many miles and drops back down to Idaho Springs. That one tops out around 8,000'. Georgetown to the Eisenhower Tunnels is the big one, climbing some 3,000' to enter the tunnel at around 11,000'. You drop back down to around 7,500' on the west side of the tunnels, at Dillon, CO. Some 15 miles further on you climb Vail Pass and top out at around 10,500' there. From Vail Pass to the UT line, I-70 follows the Eagle River and the Colorado River so you're losing elevation for a good 100 miles from the top of Vail Pass to the state line.
All 3 grades are within Interstate highway design parameters present in the late 70s and there are no switchbacks nor are there any hair-raising drop-offs. The grades ARE long, but most any vehicle in good enough condition to drive cross-country to Denver to begin with should have no problems.
I find the stretch of I-70 from west of Denver to Glenwood Springs to view one of the best examples of true alpine topography anywhere in the Lower 48.
Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip!
I-70 is gorgeous!
There is some spectacular scenery along certain stretches of I-70. I love that road.
The ride through and DOWN the Eisenhower Tunnel is something you won't soon forget. When you emerge from the tunnel, you feel like you're on top of the world. You'll drop down into a lower gear and cruise down at the speed limit without ever touching the gas. It seems like you'll never get to the bottom, but when you do you'll wish you could go back and do it again.
The scenery through Utah and the San Rafael Swell area is great as well. This is the area past Green River. There is actually a "Ranch Exit" into the Swell.
Hey, Traveling Man,
It's been a long time... Nice to see you back.
I did an entire article about the viewpoints along I-70 through the San Rafael Swell -- you'd probably enjoy the views. Click here!
I'm new to this forum, so I think you're thinking of another Travelingman. However, I do love the San Rafael Swell and enjoyed looking through your posts on the area. I might be heading there again soon, so I'll find all of that helpful. Thanks.
Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist
Thanks everyone for your input! I think we'll definitely stick with I-70, and perhaps visit friends in CO springs on the way now!
Does anyone know how much time going over "loveland pass" adds to the trip? I recall this being a very scenic detour, and since my family hasn't been in the mountains before- would like to try it if it's not too time consuming.
I would guess about half an hour plus whatever time you take in scenic turnouts.