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  1. Default December trip to the Gold Country


    I'm planning on a roadtrip holiday this December from SF to San Diego and back. I'm going to take the coastal highway 1 to San Diego, staying overnight at Monterey/Carmel, and possibly San Luis Obispo. On the way back I was thinking of taking a different route, I-5, highway 99 to Fresno and on to highway 49 to the Gold Country, spending a few nights along the way.

    My question is, will it be a challenging drive due to snow? I'm renting an AWD Audi Q7 but it doesn't come with winter tires. And I never installed tire chains before. Will I require those for the route?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default In a Word: Yes

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Driving in snow, or freezing rain or slush, is a challenge and takes considerable practice to do confidently and well. It is not something that you can learn in a day or two, or for which chains or snow tires are a substitute. If you have no experience in such conditions, then my advice to you would be that if you run into a case where the roads are snow covered and/or chains are required that you simply not drive that road on that day. You can either sit out for a while and let the road crews clear the road, or find alternative routing, But in any case knowing your limitations and being prepared, particularly with extra time which you seem to have, is the way to go.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Some good news

    I agree with everything AZBuck said.

    The good news for you is that the likelihood of running into snow on the road, especially in the southern portion of 49 is not all that great in December. Not zero, but not large either.

    Most of the towns on CA49 south of I80 are below 2000' elevation, few storms are cold enough to dump a lot of snow that low. For example, historically the town of Sonora (1825') gets about a half inch of snow each December.

    That won't help you if you're trying to get through when a storm-of-the-decade happens to hit, but the chances are low.

    North of I80, CA49 is a little higher (Nevada City is 2700' for example), so your chances of snow increase (3" average snowfall in December).

    Your options are to wait it out, or head down to 99 (where it never ever snows) and use it to bypass the snow.

    You can use the Caltrans Road Information website to monitor conditions, if you have web access on the road. Just plug "49" into the road number box. You can also use this site to find out about road work on your proposed route.
    Last edited by CalOldBlue; 11-02-2009 at 11:32 AM. Reason: added Caltrans link

  4. Default

    Thanks for the information. I'm re-considering the route now. With 2 small kids who never experienced winter, I'm opting to choose a less challenging route. Save it for the summer!


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