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  1. Default Wilmington, NC to Big Sky, MT

    Hi all & thanks for adding me. I am hoping to help our son & his buddy plan their route from Wilmington, NC to Big Sky, MT. The plan is to leave on 11/10 & they are interested in a route that would be fairly quick but also scenic-they'll be in a 4-wheel drive pickup. We have not discussed the exact number of days they'd like to be on the road, but I know they also need to keep their accommodations budget affordable, so fewer nights is preferable. Thank you in advance for your help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default What's Doable

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Since cost and time seem to be your major considerations, let's start with the route that minimizes both. Your son could, with an extra driver and roughly an extra hour of daylight each day as they progress westward, just make 600 miles a day. But that is absolutely the limit for safety. It would mean that they'd need four days to complete the trip, so just three nights' lodging if they plan ahead and space those stops appropriately. The route I'd suggest is not the absolute shortest, but is close and manages to avoid the toll roads and major industrial cities of the Great Lakes region.

    My suggested route is I-40 to Winston-Salem, I-74 to Mt. Airy, I-77 to Beckley WV, I-64 to Charleston, US-35 to Dayton OH, I-70 to Indianapolis, I-74 to the Quad Cities, I-90 to Iowa City, I-380 to Waterloo IA, US-218 to Charles City IA, US-18 to Clear Lake, I-35 to Albert Lea MN, I-90 to Bozeman MT, and finally US-191 down into Big Sky. As complicated as that sounds, it should make a lot more sense when you/they map it out, and having a 'navigator' sitting right seat will help on the drive itself. Overnight stops to break the trip up into three equal segments would be very close to Washington Court House OH, Waterloo IA, and Wall SD. While not major cities, those three locations are either along major Interstates or at significant crossroads, so there should be a range of lodging choices available. I would recommend making reservations beforehand and sticking to them to both shop for the best price ahead of the trip and to keep from pressing on 'just a little bit farther' into the unknown at the end of a long day's drive.

    The above route is relatively scenic in its own right, and as noted avoids many toll roads and large cities. They can also take short breaks at small parks along the way to see something of the country they're driving through ant to break up the tedium of the drive.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would like to suggest a route that's only 50 miles longer, avoids ALL tolls, and keeps you on Interstate highways almost all the way. The only non-Interstate is US-74 from Wilmington to I-95, which is multi-lane divided all the way, and US-191 from I-90 to Big Sky.

    US-74 to I-95 to I-20 to Columbia
    I-26 to I-40 to Nashville
    I-24 to I-57 to I-64 to STL
    I-70 to KC
    I-29 to Sioux Falls
    I-90 as previously posted

    Recommended city bypasses:

    TN-155 (Briley Pkwy) around Nashville
    Stay on I-64 through downtown STL, pick up I-70 in Wentzville
    I-435 around KC


    Cookeville or Lebanon TN
    Northern suburbs of KC or St. Joseph MO
    Wall or Rapid City SD

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    to Beckley WV, I-64 to Charleston, US-35 to Dayton OH, I-70 to Indianapolis,

    I just recently went through this section from Beckley to Indianapolis. I-64 section from Beckley to Charleston does have two $4.00 tolls. With the exception of about 15 miles just outside of Charleston to the Ohio River US 35 is a four lane divided road the whole way, to the point parts of it are interstate standard and has a 70 mph speed limit in Ohio. This portion is a pretty scenic drive, esp in West Virginia.

  5. Default

    Thank you so much for your very detailed & thoughtful response. All the best!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thank you so much-this is very helpful!

  6. Default

    Thank you so much-this is very helpful!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Cookeville TN has an America's Best Value Inn, which is known for lower priced accommodations. Wall has a couple of reasonably priced places, one of which is an EconoLodge. St Joseph has a number of good choices.


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