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  1. Default Sacramento to Butte/Anaconda MT in late December

    Any ideas on the best route - I know the quickest is 80 and then up through Idaho and into MT...have done that in the summer.
    Now that we are planning a winter route a bit concerned with all the mountain passes increasing the duration the trip.
    Would it be better to head up to Portland on I-5 and then connect with 90 over to MT?
    Which routes have the least amount of mountain passes that tend to be the best plowed?
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    There's really no way to avoid mountains here - just getting out of California, you are either going to face crossing the Sierras via I-80 or you'll be dealing with the Coastal mountains as you reach Oregon. Both of these can and do see severe winter weather.

    Generally you best bet is to stick with the shortest route - which is I-80. Going up I-5 adds 300 miles - which is another 5 hours you'll be on the road, and 5 more hours you could see winter weather. In this case, going up I-5 takes it from an easy 2 day trip, to one where you'd need a 3rd day if you hit any kind of slowdown or delay.

    Of course, the most important thing is to actually know what the conditions will be during the exact time of your travel, so keep an eye on the forecast just before you leave, and if it looks like I-80 will see poor conditions, then consider your alternate.

  3. #3

    Default How does one pass east of the Sierras strike you?

    Hello starfruit56,

    Once you clear the Donner Pass, staying east on I-80 to Wells, NV, thence US-93 north to Twin Falls, ID, thence I-84 and I-86 to Pocatello, ID, brings you to I-15 via a route which snakes across the Great Basin floor in between the ranges, with nary a pass. Monida Pass, at the ID-MT border, at just under 7,000' is the sole high pass between Donner Pass and Butte/Anaconda.

    From Reno to Pocatello, the route remains at or below 4,500' for the most part. From the bottom of the grade on the MT side of Monida Pass, elevations hold in the 5,000' range to and past Dillon to Butte.

    Unless you're seeing a major problem at Donner or some oddball local conditions in the Great Basin, that's your best route, for the shortest trip and the reasons cited by Midwest Michael, who aptly noted the risks associated with adding miles to "avoid weather".


  4. #4

    Default Update to passes issue


    While idly poring over a Benchmark Idaho map atlas over the weekend (I know, I know--but I don't care for regular TV and the NC State vs UNC game was over--Go State!), I found what is arguably a pass within a couple or three miles north of the NV-ID border. There US 93 rises to 5,600' before descending back into the Snake River valley towards Twin Falls, where elevations remain just over 4,000' on until reaching the base of Monida Pass north of Pocatello.

    This particular summit can be avoided by remaining on I-80 to I-215/I-15 at Salt Lake, but I-80 traverses a 6,900' pass between Wells and Wendover, it's some modest distance farther that way, plus you will have "earned" a trip through the northern suburbs of SLC, congestion which can and often does last to and beyond Ogden. Unless weather reports told me there were terrible conditions above 4,500' and clear sailing below it, I'd stick with the US 93 shortcut to Twin Falls.


  5. Default Thanks

    Thanks for all the advice...will keep a close eye on the weather and adjust as needed...have been caught in a winter storm over Donner before and would like to not repeat that!

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