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Thread: DC to Chicago

  1. Default DC to Chicago

    I am driving home to Chicago for Christmas and being from the flat midwest I am nervous about some of the mountain driving in West Virginia and what not. Are there any suggestions for the best route to take in the winter? I've planned 2 days for the drive so I'm not looking for the fastest way to get there just the safest and least scary. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default For My Money

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The best advice for such a trip as yours is to plan two (or more) separate routes and be ready to take whichever one promises the best weather. You won't know that last bit until just a day or two before you leave. So let me lay out two possible routes, and then tell you which one I'd take in the event that the weather will be good on both of them and you are free to pick either.

    The shortest route is relatively straightforward. You'd just leave the DC area on I-270 to Frederick, MD and then follow I-70/I-76/I-80 (the Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana Turnpikes) to Chicago. Halfway would be around Cleveland and the drive would be two relatively easy days of just about 350 miles each.

    The other route would have you take I-68 at Hancock, MD and follow that to Morgantown, WV. There you'd take I-79 north to Washington, PA and I-70 west through Columbus, OH to Indianapolis and finally I-65 up to Chicago. That route is somewhat longer but can still be done in two days of about 390 miles each with an overnight in the Columbus area.

    Now, if I were making this trip and planned to take two days, and all other things - especially the weather - being equal. I would take the longer route. This is NOT because it's the 'southern' route, but because the roads are generally newer and in better shape. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, in particular, is now pushing 60 years old and design criteria for Interstate Highways have been upgraded considerably in those years. Then there's the fact that the I-76/I-80 route is nearly all toll roads, and that will add to the expense of the trip. For the small difference in miles, the I-68/I-70/I-65 would be my route of choice, but again take the route that is dictated by the weather if that becomes a factor.


  3. Default

    Thanks for the route suggestions...I'll pay attantion to the weather and choose the one that seems best. Guess theres no real way to avoid some of the mountain driving. I was scared doing the drive from Chicago to DC in the mountains in good weather, I am freaking out about doing it in the winter, roundtrip.

  4. #4


    The only way you would be able to avoid mountains would be do head south and double your trip by going around the Appalachians. Not possible.

    I have driven both the PA turnpike and I-68 across PA and MD respectively and find that Maryland is less mountainous as far as the road itself. I don't recall as many steep hills or sharp turns on I-68 when compared to the PA turnpike. Personally, I would go the southern route as well. You'll miss the lake effect snow in the great lakes region of your trip.

    Whichever way you choose, stick to the interstates. The crews get out to the interstates first and even in the worst blizzards they do a great job getting at least one lane clear.

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