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  1. Default Edmonton to Salt Lake City

    I am planning a solo drive from Edmonton to just north of SLC between Christmas and New Years using the Coutts border crossing. I was wondering if anyone has done this drive, especially in the winter around Christmas, how long it should take, how long I can expect to be at the border, and if I can realistically do it in one day? Do i need chains? I've mapped it out and while Great Falls doesn't seem far enough to stop if I have to, by the time I get to Idaho Falls I may as well drive the extra 2 hours! Any info would help. Thanks!!!!
    Last edited by pseudowolf; 12-06-2010 at 02:05 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,748

    Default No.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums!

    I have not done the drive nor had experience of the border crossing, but what I can say categorically is that No, you can't do this drive in a day. It is going to take you all of 20 hours I would imagine, and that is with no major delays or disruptions, and at this time of year there is a real possibility you will be subject to weather disruption. So that is a minimum of 2 x 10 hour days on the road with basic stops for food, gas and mental/physical breaks.

    Is there a reason for using the Coutts crossing ? According to my mapping program it would take an hour more than crossing at Carway.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,063

    Default middle ground

    Quote Originally Posted by pseudowolf View Post
    I've mapped it out and while Great Falls doesn't seem far enough to stop if I have to, by the time I get to Idaho Falls I may as well drive the extra 2 hours!
    This really isn't an either/or - Great Falls and Idaho Falls are nearly 400 miles apart, so I find it very odd that you'd act like those two point - 6 hours apart - are the only 2 points that you could stop.

    If you hit perfect weather and don't see any major delays at the border, then you could probably make it a little farther than Great Falls. Helena would likely be a good choice, and at the absolute maximum you've got Butte. However, pushing beyond that would be very foolish and unsafe.

    As Dave mentioned, Edmonton to SLC is a full two day drive in good weather, and even trying to make the drive to Idaho Falls in one day is far too much, but you've got plenty of other options.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,063

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Is there a reason for using the Coutts crossing ? According to my mapping program it would take an hour more than crossing at Carway.
    Dave, are you using Google? I noticed they recommend the Caraway crossing, and if you use the Coutts alternate they then modify the route to bypass Calgary/Hwy 2 and take some lower quality roads that increase the travel time. Considering the quality of roads (mostly Interstate or similar) taking Hwy 2 through Calgary and then heading to I-15/Coutts via Lethbridge would seem to be the best bet to me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default I was.

    Dave, are you using Google?
    Yes, and you are right the redirected route was on lower quality roads, the reason for the hour's difference. Going via Lethbridge cuts that time difference down to 16 mins longer, [according to Google] which really is insignificant anyway.

  6. Default

    I was planning on Coutts because the smaller border crossing is closed in the winter much of the time and the roads are all secondary, 2 lane traffic while Highway 2 south through Calgary and Lethbridge is all 4 lane.

    As for stops, I had considered Butte and will most likely stop there, it just simply didn't appear that large a city on my map so i was worried about hotel room availability. However, if the drive will truly take 2 days, I will be sure to pre-book accommodations.

    Anyone know about tire chains? Are the mountain passes high enough to warrant carrying them?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    9,270

    Default

    Great Falls, Helena, and Butte all have a wide selection of hotels, and you should not need to prebook. If you use hotels.com, you will see how many hotels each city really has. FYI, my mapping program recommends a stop between Great Falls and Helena.

    I would carry chains just in case.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    Butte and Helena both have more than 20,000 people - which in this part of the country makes them cities of significant size. (4th and 6th largest cities in the state!) so motels certainly won't be an issue, however, also remember that when you are traveling along an interstate, you don't need a major city to have plenty of motel choice. Most every town with just a few thousand people along the interstate will have a handful motels. For example, Shelby MT with a population of under 4,000 has a half dozen motels. Farther down the road, farther down the road, the even smaller Conrad also has a couple.

    Having said that, I don't think you should need to prebook - but if you do decide to, I would strongly recommend against booking in Butte. As I mentioned, that is the absolute limit for what you should consider driving (it will require a good 12 hours on the road) and if you hit any sort of delays for weather or border crossings (both which are fairly likely) then even that will really be too far. By prebooking here, you're taking a best case and then will be pushing yourself to meet that goal even if you don't see best case conditions. It really is a recipe for to put yourself in a very dangerous situation.

    If you are going to prebook, Helena is the farthest I'd consider.

    I would also recommend that you carry chains - and practice putting them on before you leave. Also noting that if you do need them the first day, making it to Great Falls would then likely becomes an optimistic goal.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 12-07-2010 at 07:40 AM. Reason: typo

  9. #9

    Default Dillon, Monida Pass

    FWIW, Dillon, MT is some 60 miles south of Butte and is home to around 7,000 and a small college is located there. There are a couple of large fuel/travel plazas, restaurants, and a handful of chain motels.

    I-15 re-crosses the Continental Divide at Monida Pass, the MT-ID border, some 120 miles south of Butte and 60 miles south of Dillon. The pass is almost 6,900' in elevation and is the highest point in the US part of your trip.

    I think I'd review the MT, ID, and UT DOT websites for their respective chain laws and how your exact vehicle is set up for compliance (4WD or not, tire types, etc).

    Foy

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Default

    Dillon is more than 700 miles from Edmonton, which really makes it too far to call that a safe or reasonable distance for this trip. It would be tough if that was the final destination, and there were multiple drivers, but as a solo traveler, in winter, with another full day on the road after this, it really shouldn't be considered as a possible overnight stopping point.

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