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  1. Default Hanford, CA to California, MD AVOIDING MOUNTAINS

    We will be driving an RV from Hanford, CA (Fresno area) to California, MD (Southern Maryland, St. Mary's County), and we'll have two very nervous passengers who do not like mountains or big changes in elevation. Could someone please suggest the best route to take? Looking at driving down through LA and taking the 10 across, but no clue what is the best idea. Did this trip about 15 years ago, but don't really remember much. Just need a general route. Thank you!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default California to California?

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Sorry, I couldn't resist the 'obvious' title to this post. Actually, I think you might be making a slightly bigger deal of this than is necessary. The most direct, 'all-Interstate' route should actually be fine. That would be CA-99 (Interstate quality) down through the Central Valley to CA-58 east to Barstow and I-40 east. That would take you around the southern end of the Sierra Nevada. I-40 is then relatively flat and straight all the way to Knoxville TN. That's not to say you won't see some elevation. You'll get up to around 8,000 feet in the Flagstaff area, but there will be no 'mountain' driving.

    It is worth noting that Interstate highways are built to standards that limit the grade (steepness) of the road as well as the curvature radius (tightness of bends) to very strict standards. Remember that the official name of such highways is The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. They're built to allow heavily loaded trucks (think flatbeds full of tanks) to travel at highway speeds.

    On the eastern end of your trip, you can rely on the flatness and straightness of the Interstates to take you directly through the Appalachians by staying on I-40 to just east of Knoxville TN and then taking I-81 north to I-64 east. Yes, you will be driving through mountains and you will see them close up, but the road itself will be fine as you are basically driving in the valleys between the mountain ridges and using 'gaps' in the mountains between the valleys. Once east of the Appalachians, you should look at taking the shortcut VA-231/US-15/VA-20/VA-3/VA-206/US-301 to stay well north of Richmond.

    If you really want to avoid mountains at all costs then you're going to have to stay much farther south, leaving I-40 at Memphis and taking I-22 to Birmingham AL, I-20 to Atlanta, I-85 to Petersburg VA and I-95 north from there. That would add roughly 140 miles to your trip plus the hassle of driving through or around Atlanta, Charlotte and Richmond/Petersburg. Which of those two basic routes to use is up to you.

    In any event from Fredericksburg VA. you'll want to take VA-3/VA-206 east to US-301 north, as described above, crossing the Potomac well south of the Washington area, and then a final collection of state highways, MD-234, MD-238, MD-247 and MD-235 to California.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The reality is that you can't travel across country without going over mountains - you can't even get out of the central valley without going over them.

    Of course, if you're sticking to the interstates, you never have to deal with things like step dropoffs, sharp/hairpin turns, etc - as they are all built to standards to minimize those issues as much as possible.

    The direct route would be CA-99 to CA-58 to I-40 to I-81 to I-64. You'd be dealing with mountains on CA-58, a few passes on I-40 in AZ and NM, and then again as you get into the Eastern Mountains in Tennessee. You're looking at a 2800 mile trip, so you'd need 5-6 days driving all day, every day.

    If that's too daunting, then yes, you could go down to I-10 - you'd still have mountains leaving California, and I-10 still gets up to 5,000 feet in eastern AZ, but you could avoid any mountains in the east by going all the way to Jacksonville before heading north. Of course, going this way adds about 500 miles, so that's at least 1 more full day on the road just to cover the miles.

  4. #4


    Been to both places in CA and MD. Crossing US via I40 will be your best option. FWIW, Point Lookout State Park just south of California, MD is great day trip place.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Even I--40 gets up to about 6000 ft in Arizona. As the old kids' song says, "can't go over them, can't go under them, can't go around them, gotta go through them"...(Goin' on a Bear Hunt).

    I've been on the entire length of I-40 from Barstow to where I-81 intersects with it in TN. It's definitely built to standards, and you hardly know you're in the mountains except for the elevation signs and an occasional time when your vehicle might slow down because you're going up hill!


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