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  1. Default Minneapolis to San Francisco in Winter

    Hi all,

    Looking for advice on an upcoming road trip/move across country. My boyfriend and I are moving right after Christmas and would ideally like to get to San Fran by the 1st of January. This gives us 6 solid days of travel. My main fear is the driving conditions in various parts of the country. I would love to hear some advice from people familiar with the road conditions on optional routes. Google says to take I-80 but I'm concerned about going through the Sierras and also some of WY and UT. It looks like another option could be I-80 then southern California and up. I know it depends on the weather and it's impossible to know anything until it gets closer but I'd like to have an idea of a route laid out. Any tips are appreciated!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Standard Winter Advice

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Winter travel is fraught with weather hazards. That's simply the nature of the beast. There are a few things you can do to minimize the chance that you'll run into bad weather and to maximize your options of how to deal with any that is unavoidable.

    The easiest way to run less risk of hitting a winter storm is to spend as little time on the road as possible. That means finding the most direct route available rather than driving hundreds or even a thousand miles out of your way in a vain attempt to find roads that won't see any snow. Such roads do not exist in the continental United States.

    While finding the shortest route, you should also temper that by using the best roads. A general rule-of-thumb is to use the Interstates whenever possible. These roads are the nation's commercial arteries and are the most aggressively plowed, salted, and sanded. They are the last roads closed and the first re-opened for any storm. They are also built to specifications that limit both grades (steepness) and sharp curves.

    Another option is to have multiple routes available that don't differ much in overall mileage, but do cover significantly different geographic areas. This becomes easier the farther your starting and ending points are from each other. You would then choose your actual driving route only a day or so before departure when long-term forecasts (out to about four days into the future) become meaningful. Unfortunately, this option is not always available.

    The other thing to do, and that is probably the most useful, is to simply build enough time into your travel plans and to remain flexible enough that you can sit out any inclement weather, let the road crew do their job, and only return to the roads when they are again clear and dry and the sun is back out.

    In your specific case, yes, I-80 from Salt Lake City to San Francisco is absolutely the route of choice. There are simply no good alternatives. But you do have some choices in getting to Salt Lake City. The most direct route uses a mix of Interstates and US Highways: US-169 down to Mankato, MN-60 to I-90 at Worthington, I-90 to Rapid City, US-16T/SD-79/US-18 southwest through eh Black Hills to US-85 south to I-25 (north!) at Ammon WY, and finally WY-220/US-287 south to I-80 at Rawlins. That would be just under 2000 miles and would take about 3½ days under good weather conditions. It should be easy enough to budget an additional half day, just in case.

    An alternative route, if the weather looks bad through South Dakota, would be to head a bit farther south and stick to the Interstates: I-35 down to Des Moines and I-80 all the way from there. That only adds about a hundred miles and could be driven in roughly the same amount of time - plus and hour or two.


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


    Buck's general advice about the best way to deal with winter travel is spot on, I do have to slightly disagree with the recommended route.

    If it's me, I'm taking his "alternate route," which is the straightforward I-35 to I-80. I think that's going to be a lot easier, and likely a big faster than dealing with the 2 lane roads to get from Rapid City to I-80 in Wyoming. Plus, if a storm does pop-up, you're going to be a lot closer to services in sticking to I-80.

    That's not to say Buck's suggestion is a bad one. If it looks like there is a storm in Nebraska that can be avoided by staying north, I'd certainly use it, and if you just wanted to see the Badlands and/or Mt. Rushmore as part of your trip, it certainly could work just fine. But as my baseline, I'd stick to the All-Interstate route in this case.

  4. Default

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, I will remember those tips! I think we will plan the I-80 route through NE and have the SD route as a plan b.

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