Results 1 to 6 of 6
  1. Default Madison to Pasadena. What car and which way through the Mountains?


    I was wondering what type of road conditions could be expected on Highway 40 through Arizona and New Mexico, particularly mountainous driving.

    I am having a debate with my group of travelers as to what car to use and which route to take. We can either take a 2000 VW station wagon or a 2006 Ford Explorer. We are also debating on either taking highway 40 through NM and AZ, or 70 through Colorado and Utah.

    We are going to the Rose Bowl so we will need to arrive by the 31st. We are thinking of leaving either the 29th or 28th.

    The key issue is type of car and the way we pass the mountains. I have a little mountain driving experience but not in winter and not in the Rockies. We all have a lot of snow driving experience being from WI. The issue is safety not speed, we are willing to go out of the way to find a safer path through the mountains.

    An help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default More than a road

    Welcome to the RTA Forum - from someone's who's a little jealous that you're making the trip!

    The thing to remember is that any route between WI and CA is going to cross the Rockies - as well as the plains - which are all areas that can and do see snow. There's no way to go far enough south to avoid that risk. There's also the element that going south can mean running into ice instead of snow, and road crews that are less able to handle the conditions.

    I will tell you that I've made this exact trip in reverse, in February, in a moving truck - and I took I-70, and the weather was fine the whole way.

    Personally, I'd plan to take US-151 to I-80 and take that all the way to western Nebraska. I'd double check the forecast at that point, and decide if going down to Denver, or staying on I-80 towards Salt Lake City is the better bet based on the specific forecast.

    I-40 adds about 200 miles to the trip, unless you're certain that there will be bad weather across Colorado/Wyoming/Nebraska, its not the route I would use.

    And in any case, you're looking at a trip that's about 2000 miles. I'd certainly leave on the 28th to give yourself enough time to safely make this trip. In fact, considering the possibility of bad weather, and the fact that you are under a deadline, I'd try to leave on the 27th if possible (worst case, you get an extra day in the California sun - not a bad thought on a day like today, when we're under a blizzard warning!)

    As far as your vehicle, the Explorer is newer, larger, and likely has 4 wheel drive (which is overrated, but still useful) so its the one I'd take. However, if you didn't have the choice, the VW would likely still be a perfectly fine option.

  3. Default

    Thank you for the response and the warm welcome.

    So would you say that I-40 is no safer than I-70? Is that because it has the same likelihood of bad weather, or is it because that the road crews are more prepared on I-70?

    How much snow on the road is dangerous? For some reason I imagine that any amount of snow on those steep roads would be dangerous.

    Any help is appreciated as well as anyone with a second or supporting opinion.

  4. #4

    Default I'll second, and add.............

    Quote Originally Posted by billharford View Post

    So would you say that I-40 is no safer than I-70? Is that because it has the same likelihood of bad weather, or is it because that the road crews are more prepared on I-70?

    How much snow on the road is dangerous? For some reason I imagine that any amount of snow on those steep roads would be dangerous.
    Hi Bill,

    The reason I-40 is inherently no "safer" than I-70 is that it reaches elevations in excess of 7,000' in both NM and AZ and as such receives its share of winter weather. It is entirely routine for the "southern route" along I-40 to have a weather system providing snow while the I-70 and I-80 routes are enjoying clear weather.

    As to how much snow on the road is dangerous, the reality is you're unlikely to see substantial accumulation on the roadway inasmuch as the Western states' DOT crews have the best people and equipment anywhere. If it's coming down hard enough to accumulate on the roadway in between plow passes, you're going to be stopped to let it pass to begin with. In addition, the Interstate system is designed and built to standards related to minimum grade (steepness) and curve radii (no switchbacks) so generally speaking it's no different than your everyday Winter driving around central WI's rolling hills.

    If you end up crossing WY on I-80 to avoid weather farther south, be aware you can avoid a few tens of miles of + 5,000' elevation and a 7,000' pass along I-80 in UT by turning west on I-84 where it joins I-80 east of Ogden. From that junction at Echo Canyon, UT, I-84 drops down a fairly gentle canyon to I-15 as opposed to I-80s route through Park City and Parley's Summit (the pass referred to), and the 15 mile rather banzai downhill run into downtown Salt Lake City. Cutting through Ogden does add a few miles, but it also enables you to access the I-215 loop route around downtown SLC where I-15 runs.

    Enjoy the RoadTrip and the bowl game!


  5. #5

    Default The proof in the pudding

    I should hasten to add you can and should consider familiarizing yourself with your optional routes by spending an hour or two watching current weather systems passing through the Rockies on websites like while simultaneously looking at the various states' DOT webcams for real-time look at what those weather systems are doing to the roadway, and by virtue of that, what the DOT plowing "cavalry" are doing to the snow.

    The states of CO, WY, and UT have webcams at major passes and at various other locales along Interstate and non-Interstate routes. I reach them with simple searches such as "Utah DOT webcams", and you'll find some states link their border states right from their own webcam pages.

    Traveling equipped with smartphone and/or laptop w/wireless card gives you the opportunity to look ahead while enroute.

    Safe travels,


  6. #6


    I'll have already left on my trip, but welcome to Los Angeles. I hope you have terrific weather. AFAIK, January first has always been rain free for the parade in Pasadena. There's some mighty fine eateries in Old Town Pasadena. If you travel a little to the west of Pasadena, you'll hit Eaglerock which has a Tommy's Burgers, world famous for their chili burgers. It's just a few miles outside of Pasadena, across Suicide Bridge.

    If you have an interest in architecture, be sure and see the Gamble House, also in Pasadena.

    Best wishes for a great road trip with your friends!

Similar Threads

  1. Madison, WI to Washington DC
    By ewok1626 in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-23-2010, 04:11 PM
  2. Madison WI to Orlando FL
    By dihause in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 03-05-2010, 03:21 PM
  3. las vegas-pasadena
    By phil49 in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-05-2005, 12:45 PM
  4. Madison, WI to San Jose, CA in Nov
    By sidhu in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 12-23-2004, 02:33 PM


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts