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  1. Default Question of Road Conditions Portland to LA to Albuquerque

    We are driving from Portland, OR to Philadelphia, PA leaving on January 5th. Our plan is to drive down to LA to visit friends then stop in Albuquerque to visit family, then to Fort Smith, AR for another visit, then maybe stop in Nashville since that seems a reasonable driving distance, then to Washington DC for one more visit before going to Philly. We will be driving a Ford Fiesta with manual transmission.

    I have a fair amount of experience driving in the snow being from upstate NY, but I wondering what to expect for road conditions especially between LA and Albuquerque. My ILs said there are about 3 mountain passes we will have to go through, and they are talking about them as if they equal certain death. Realistically, what conditions can we expect in this area and how safe would you say it is to drive. We plan on having chains in the car. Also, we will have a baby with us if that changes anyone's opinion on the safety.


  2. Default

    Hello and welcome to RTA forum.

    RE Los Angeles: There is always the possibility that the mountain passes and interstates (5 and 15/40) may close. You should be prepared to check the weather + highway conditions and have enough time for alternative routes (along the coast entering LA and a more southern route leaving Southern California.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Time is important.

    Whereas winter weather can cause disruptuions and you should allow extra time for your journey 'just in case', you have to remember that the country doesn't shut down in the winter and that Interstates are the top priority to keep open and everyone on the move, so no, winter driving does not equal certain death and you can't drive across the country without tackling mountain passes. It should also be noted that Interstates are designed with gradual curves and gradients for ease of driving for the biggest of rigs.

    Now about the time factor, you haven't mentioned how long you have in total for the trip, but LA to Albu is more than a days drive as is the onward journey to Fort Smith and even Nashville to Washington is beyond what we would recommend, so I hope you are planning on breaking those legs of your trip up differently and they are not daily targets. You will not know what the weather will bring or what the road conditions are like until a couple of days before so it's important to keep up with to date with whats going on and plan from there. Snow chains are handy back up tools in a crisis but if it gets to the stage that you would need them then the safest thing to do is hold up somewhere until the storm passes and the road crews have done their job of making the Highways safe.

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


    Mountains are a reality of cross country travel, and that becomes even more true as you add lots of extra miles heading south before heading east. It is one of the reasons we dont recommend people take such a route as a way to avoid winter weather. Taking such a trip because there are things you want to see, and people you want to visit, on the other hand, is a perfectly good reason to take such a route.

    Heading down the coast, you will have mountains that pretty frequently see winter weather in Oregon and Northern California, and then in southern California you have another, previously mentioned, pass that sees snow a couple times a year. On I-40 in Northern Arizona and New Mexico, there are about 3 more passes, and even much of the freeway in between is above 5,000 feet with the chance of snow. East of New Mexico, Freezing Rain and Ice are more often the problem for winter travel.

    Now, having said that, there is no way to know what weather you will see during your trip. You could see one or more storms, you could see perfectly good weather. You really just need to be flexible enough to deal with the conditions, and potentially wait for roads to improve.

    Having said all of that, I have to agree with Dave that if the cities you have listed are your stopping points, then that is as big, if not bigger, safety concern than the weather. They really are just too far apart, especially when traveling with a baby. LA to Albuquerque is nearly 800 miles and Albq to Fort Smith is also well over 700 miles. (Portland to LA is nearly 1000 miles, so I am going to hope you were already planning a stop there.) Despite what online map programs might tell you, those trips are going to take you 14+ hours, which just isnt sustainable on a multi day trip, especially not with just 2 drivers and when traveling with a baby. 600 mile really should be considered a full day on the road in your situation, knowing that weather may make even that too much.

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