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  1. #1

    Default Los Angeles to Montana in April

    Hi guys! I am planning a trip from L.A. to Billings & Missoula in mid-April and have a couple of questions that I hope someone might know the answers to.

    Mainly I'm concerned about the weather that time of year. I have not been to the northwest at all. I am familiar with mountain driving and with snow driving but not really at the same time. How much snow should I expect and will I need chains?

    I haven't decided yet whether to take I-15 through Idaho to get to Billings or if I should use the I-15 to I-80 to I-25 through Wyoming to get there. Any suggestions?

    I'm mainly going up there to see a couple of concerts so I'm not counting on any national park visits (as far as I can tell, most are closed still anyhow) but are there any must-see things along that stretch that are open early in the year?

    Ok this last question is a little silly but I'm curious about whether or not animals in the road are a problem out that way. I'm used to deer and smaller mammals of course but are elk/moose/bison known for chilling in the roadway? I'm pretty sure I won't see anything at all from the freeway or in any form of city/town but, should I decide to take a backroad anywhere, is that something to be aware of? I just don't want to be, like, that guy that doesn't know honking at a grizzly is a good way to get yourself attacked or anything crazy like that. :)

    I think that's it for now but feel free to clue me in on anything I didn't know to ask about!

  2. #2

    Default Getting off of the Interstates

    Hello Shauna80,

    I haven't punched it into mapping software, but just a glance at a map shows the Wyoming route (I-80 to I-25 to I-90 to Billings) to be WAY out of the way. It also exposes you to one of the most difficult segments of Interstate in the US--I-80 from Rock Springs to Cheyenne holds elevations of nearly or over 7,000' most of the way, with the high point east of Laramie summiting at 8,640'. The result is a substantially greater likelihood of encountering bad weather. I-15 into southern ID remains in the 5,000' or lower elevation through virtually all of UT and ID. Passing through West Yellowstone, MT enroute to Bozeman brings you to just under 7,000' at West Yellowstone (but having crossed a stretch of high country south of West Yellowstone). Most of I-90 between Billings and Missoula is relatively low, with Bozeman Pass and Homestake Pass at around 5,700' and 6,800', respectively, but with the balance of the segment running in river valleys at between 3,500 and 4,500'.

    For more specific routing recommendations, please confirm you're heading to Billings, then Missoula, and then back to LA. With that in mind, better routing suggestions can be offered.

    Once you're off of the Interstates, parts of NV, UT, WY, and MT have "open range" status, meaning domestic cattle can and do appear on the highways from time to time. Add mule deer and moose to the mix, and there are certainly some hazards to keep an eye out for. Most of my RoadTripping in the region has been during summer, and I can recall but a small handful of times I've seen big game animals or cattle on the roadway or even close to it.

    As to needing chains, you're much better off building a bit of flexibility into your schedule. Spring snowstorms can be severe, yes, but in the great majority of cases it's but a matter of hours before plow crews have the Interstates and major US highways cleared. If you're astute and smartphone or wireless laptop-equipped, you can readily learn of snowfall potential and actuality, and can simply pull over at a convenient place and wait it out for a short while.

    Enjoy the planning and the RoadTrip!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default out of the way

    Foy's impression that I-25 to I-80 being a long way out of the way is right on.

    Taking I-80 all the way to I-25 makes your trip almost 1600 miles, which is 250 miles longer than taking I-15 to I-90, and 350 miles longer than if you take I-15 to Idaho Falls, and then take the shortcut through West Yellowstone. So really you are talking about an extra half day on the road minimum to go that way.

    If you were still thinking of going via I-80, you'd want to take 2 lane highways between Rawlins and Casper to shave off a couple hundred miles - although even that would be longer than I-15 to I-90.

    If time is not a major factor, you could look at taking I-70 through Colorado to I-25, which is one of the most scenic freeways in the world. The distance for this route is about the same as I-80 to I-25, and it also runs very close to several national parks. While you might not be planning to stop at this point, you should know that your thinking that "most of the parks are closed" is false. There are roads in high elevation areas that will be closed - Yellowstone is the big one where most of the park is not reachable by car over the winter, and those roads will just be starting to open up during the time of your travel. However, even there, the park is open year round, and there are areas that are accessable.

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