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  1. Default SF to Denver Solo Road trip

    Hello All,

    I'll be in the Bay Area for Christmas and was planning a solo road trip from San Francisco to Denver - starting from SF on 28th Dec and reaching Denver on 30th Dec. I then plan to fly out from Denver to Chicago (Home!!) on the 1st. Ideally, I would like to drive a max. of 8 hours each day and spend a night in between (Salt Lake City? Moab?). I have experience driving with snow, but the main intention of the road trip is for it to be a scenic pleasant drive, some of which is through the mountains preferably. I don't mind snow as long as it's not falling while I'm driving, and as long as the roads are clear. As far as experience, the longest I have driven in one go was 9 Hrs, and I have some experience with mountains - having driven on treacherous Himalayan roads.

    That said, nothing is confirmed yet and I have very limited time to do my research (specially with so many resources on the internet) ,so I'm glad I came across this wonderful website and now seek the advice of experienced road-trippers! (:

    I'll split my question in two parts:

    Assuming I go ahead with the SF to Denver trip:

    • What is the best route to take - based on scenery and traffic - I-80 all the way? or I-15 and then I-70? (This way I can see the Hoover Dam too, and this is my first choice as of now, specially after coming across pics of the Utah landscape in the winter) . If I take the latter route, I do have the option to spend a night in LA at my cousin's place . However, on a recent and similar post , I read that I-70 should be avoided. My main intention is for it to be a scenic drive without much traffic. Thoughts?
    • What is a good city/town where I can potentially stop and rest for the night? Salt Lake City & Moab and/or Zion come to mind.
    • Last but not the least, what attractions, hikes, short stops are recommended for both, on the way - and after I reach Denver (I'll only have a day over there from the looks of it)?

    Alternative Trip:

    • Alternatively, I am open to other routes which would be good during that time frame. Is SF to Seattle a good drive? I'm not aware of this at all and would like input on any recommended road trip? I have only seen California in that side of the country. Again driving through a scenic route preferably with mountains is what I would prefer.

    Again, I do understand that after the halfway point for the SF to Denver trip, weather conditions will play a major role.
    Thank you ! (:

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    If you want to take this trip with only one overnight, you only have 2 viable options:

    1. I-80 to I-25, overnight SLC
    2. I-80 to US-50 (The Loneliest Road) to I-70, overnight Ely

    Either way, 2 full days is pushing it, you may want to look at 2 overnights.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    8 hrs/day for 1250 miles equates to 78 mph average (including fuel, food, bathroom stops). Unless you're doing a cannonball run that ain't gonna work out. You're gonna have one long day and another good sized one - at best.

    I-80 across Wyoming might be a smoother run than I-70 thru the mountains but only if the weather is good. I-70 is subject to heavy traffic to/from ski areas as well as volume on weekends. Google Earth shows I-70 as a toll road because they instituted a toll lane just this week with variable pricing due to time of day and traffic volume.

    Re-reading- 3 days gives 52 mph average 8hrs/day. That can work but it won't be sightseeing.
    Last edited by noFanofCB; 12-19-2015 at 03:22 PM.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    With 3 full days available for this trip, you have some options. Your idea of using I-15 and I-70 could work for you. It adds about 100 miles vs. the more direct route of I-80 to I-25, so it will take you 7 to 8 hours each day just to cover the miles - not leaving too much time left to explore any of the parks along the way. If you go that route, spending the night in LA - or even going via LA - isn't really an option, as it is too far out of the way. You could look to spend your first night in Las Vegas, then your second night you'd have some flexibility, but Moab would be an option, depending upon what else you stop to see and do.

    Of course, you're going to have to keep an eye on the weather no matter which way you go, and that could impact your ability to really do any extras other than cover the miles. I-70 goes over the heart of the rockies, and can see a lot of snow, but on the other hand, I-80 across wyoming sees high winds, along with snow that can make for very challenging driving conditions. If there is a storm forecast either way, I would focus on covering miles before you see bad weather (note, bad weather could be an issue even in California, especially going over mountain passes), so you can still make it to Denver on your timeline.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Bad weather across I-70 and I-80 may require you to take I-40 to I-25, which will really pack on the miles. Even that isn't immune to bad weather.

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