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  1. Default Edmonton, Alberta to California over Christmas

    We are thinking of a road trip to LA/San Diego area from Edmonton over Christmas holidays to take a break from snow. We have lots of winter driving experience in the city and on flat highways (in good weather), but none in the mountains. (We've done mountains in the summer a few times though.) We have 16 days to make a roundtrip and have a 4x4 with really good winter tires. I know we won't know the weather until closer to departure, but is it doable in winter? Is it safe...especially when traveling with young kids? I want to give ourselves 4 days (3 days plus an extra...just in case) on the road each way.

    What's the best route to take, and where should we cross the border?
    Where should we do overnight stops if we want to do a bit of sightseeing along the way?
    Is the route fairly busy with towns along the way, or will we be driving in the middle of nowhere for miles and miles?
    Is the route as twisty as the rockies to Vancouver?
    How far down does the snow disappear?

    Any help/tips would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    The drive is as safe as you make it, I'd recommend you drive only during daylight hours if you are at all apprehensive. If you want the fastest, most direct route cross the border at Coutts/Sweetgrass and take I-15 all the way to San Diego. In good weather this is a 3.5 day drive with NO sightseeing delays, so I'd allow 5 days just in case. You won't have much time to do any sightseeing along the way unless the weather holds up and you get ahead of schedule.

    Target overnights should be Great Falls MT, Provo UT, and Barstow CA. If you can make it farther without compromising safety (i.e. driving into the night) you could possibly make it to LA or SD on the 3rd day, but don't count on it. I-15 does go through some sparsely settled areas, but you will never be far from towns with services.

    I-15 is not particularly twisty, but it does go over some passes. You can conceivably see snow all the way to Las Vegas.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Years ago, we came south from Banff, through Calgary, Lethridge, and crossing the border at Coutts/Sweetgrass (recommended by glc above). Since this was just prior to 9/11, I won't comment on the border crossing. However, we took I-15 all the way south till we got to San Diego.

    Montana can be a bit windy at any time of the year. At Great Falls, you can check into the Lewis & Clark, and the Great Falls. You will have a pass to cross at Butte. In Idaho, right around Blackfoot, there is Fort Hall, which is one of the stops along the Oregon Trail. In Utah, turn east on UT-83 to Promontory and the Golden Spike National Historic Site, if you are interested in railroad history, (Recommended only if the weather is nice.) Most of the way south on I-15, you are traveling through the forests with the mountains off to the east of you. You start to drop into the desert after Cedar City, where your chances for snow will decrease dramatically. But, as glc said above, you won't have a lot of time for sightseeing unless the weather holds and you get ahead of schedule.


    Donna

  4. Default

    Thanks for the tips! Really appreciate it. We will try not to make any lengthy sightseeing stops, unless we've stopped for the night. The plan is to take little breaks and only drive during daylight. I hope we won't run into any trouble!!

    Is there a website where we can check the highway forecast for I-15?

    Driving through the rockies in winter months, you're required to either have winter tires or carry chains. Since, we have winter tires, I'm assuming that we're ok to drive through Montana/Utah, etc. We won't need to carry chains, will we?

    We aren't planning to book hotels in advance because of the uncertainty of the weather. Is there a chance we might run into issues with not finding a hotel for the night, without advance booking?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Safetravelusa.com has links to every state's road conditions site. I highly doubt that you will need chains, if the Interstates are bad enough to require them, they will usually just close the road. If not, it will be bad enough where you should just get off and find a hotel to wait it out. I wouldn't worry about advance booking as long as you get off the road at a decent hour.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    I like this site, on Weather Channel: Interstate Forecast.

    However, I also use the Weather Channel's app for my smart phone and just check cities along the route.


    Donna

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