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  1. Default Houston to Seattle in January.

    I have a Subaru Outback, but not equipped with winter tires, though I have driven in the snow often being from ohio... not sure how much the tires matter exactly... but I will have 4 small to medium animals and want to avoid winter conditions and mountain areas if possible... want to stay on major interstates (I think thatís the correct wording... but trying to avoid 2 lane highways). A border control agent during my global entry interview said if I head out through Amarillo, then sideways to cali, then up I would avoid winter conditions.... but interaction was very brief and I couldnít get many details. Iím moving for work so care less about sight seeing just want to get there with the critters safety. Iím really hoping to do the drive in 5-6 days, due to work wanting me there ASAP... but am very ignorant how to find routes as fastest go through Colorado which unless someone tells me they have done some safe route in winter, I want to avoid.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Winter weather gets everywhere !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Allowing for 5-6 days of travel gives you some 'wiggle' room for possible weather disruption. Going miles out of your way to try and drive around poor weather can be counter productive, often it is best just to get off the road early (or set out later) if there is a weather front going through that's likely to cause delay and disruption and rest rather than adding miles. One thing is for sure, there is no route you could plan now that would 100% guarantee you would avoid winter weather, that pesky stuff gets everywhere including California. My advice would be to wait until a day or two before departure and check the weather forecasts and road conditions and then make an informed decision, you may get lucky and slip into a settled period of weather. So I wouldn't book lodgings in advance, especially as there should be no need at that time of year and leave my options open. What you shouldn't do is to try and cover too much ground in the first couple of days when you are feeling fresh as this is a marathon and not a sprint and you want to avoid fatigue setting in. Keep your daily mileage to a maximum of 550 miles which would be around 10 hours on the road with appropriate rest stops and including lunch re-fuelling etc.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Even though it's almost 400 miles longer than the shortest/fastest route, I'd recommend you basically take I-10 to I-5, with appropriate bypasses around Phoenix and LA. There's no way to avoid mountains, but this would limit your exposure.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Specifics

    As Dave said, this is a five day minimum drive in the best of weather, even taking 'shortcuts' on two lane roads. There aren't a whole lot of Interstates that run southeast-northwest in the western US, but it is possible to take an all-Interstate route that can still be done in five days in good weather, and that would be to take I-45 up to Dallas-Fort Worth, I-35 to Wichita (partly toll), I-135 to Salina KS, I-70 to Denver, I-25 to Buffalo WY, and I-90 to Seattle. Taking that route would have you on Interstates all the way and still leave you a day in hand to sit out any inclement weather.

    If you were to try to stay south by taking I-10 to Los Angeles and then I-5 up the Central Valley to Seattle, you'd already have to use that sixth day just to drive the 400 or so extra miles and there would still be no guarantee of good weather. Note that we have snow in the forecast for Tucson AZ tonight.

    I totally agree with Dave's general advice that you should map out at least a few alternative routes, the above two and maybe one other even more direct than either of them, and then make the final decision of which to use only once you have some idea of what the overall weather pattern looks like for the time you'd be on the road. But keep in mind two things: 1) Even the most up-to-the-minute forecast from the National Weather Service will be useless for anything past two days after your departure and 2) Two-lane roads in the southwest aren't that bad at all. They're mostly wide-open with little traffic and 65-70 mph speed limits. So don't write off US-84 between Abilene TX (I-70) and Santa Rosa NM (I-40) or US-550/US-491/US-191 between Albuquerque NM and Salt Lake City if the weather is good.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 12-27-2019 at 08:52 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Quote Originally Posted by Zeifka View Post
    A border control agent during my global entry interview said if I head out through Amarillo, then sideways to cali, then up I would avoid winter conditions....
    That advice is perhaps one of the biggest and most dangerous myths of winter travel.

    Case in point, just yesterday, a snowstorm basically shut down I-5 and I-15 in southern california. If you had just assumed that would be a route to avoid winter weather, because it stays farther south, you could have been stuck on the highway for hours - meanwhile if you'd taken a more direct route, you could easily have seen no problems at all.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I see MWMichael beat me to it: Yesterday, I-5 was shut down through "The Grapevine" (AKA Tejon Pass), I-15 through Cajon Pass, and I-8 east of San Diego was shut down for a short time. There were several accidents in the mountains east of San Diego yesterday, including a Border Patrol car who spun out on the Pine Valley Bridge and sustained a lot of front end damage. Also, CA-58 over the Tehachapi Pass was closed. All of this was due to snow, something dumped on the higher elevations. We just can't imagine the gridlock! I-10 and CA-60 were probably the two ways out of LA, but they wouldn't take you north.

    Going I-10 to I-5 not only has you wondering about the Grapevine north of LA, but also the Siskiyou Pass on the state line between CA and OR.

    I'd suggest "the most direct" unless you have extra time to play with in the first place!


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Go North as soon as you can -- less ice (perhaps less snow)

    As others have suggested -- attempting to go south in January is almost a guaranteed route if you are seeking ice and problems.

    It all depends on what weather systems are pushing through, but if it were me, I would go north as soon as possible to avoid icy conditions on roads that are not equipped to deal with ice all that well.

    I-45 to Dallas > I-35 to Oklahoma City

    West on I-40 to Albuquerque. Look at the weather -- if conditions are good -- no major winter storms than due west to I-15 in California and then north up I-5 to Seattle.

    If snow storms are predicted for I-40 west of Albuquerque -- I would go north again I-25 skirting the edge of the Colorado Rockies. Pause again at Denver -- If road conditions are good -- I would suggest I-70 west to I-15 -- Colorado has some of the best highway management crews in the nation. If the high passes have extra snow storms -- you might consider continuing on I-25 to Cheyenne and then west on I-80.

    I-25 and I-80 can be notorious for ground blizzards -- but it the preferred choice of trucks in the winter months -- if the roads are open.

    Once you reach Salt Lake City -- take I-84 on the diagonal to Portland and then north on I-5 to Seattle.

    Again, winter travel is all about watching road conditions and weather reports.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    I just arrived in Colorado from Seattle this morning. Ground blizzards indeed!
    20 mph gusting 30 mph direct crosswinds with snow on I-25 between Casper and Cheyenne.

    On my way out I was one day late for a snowy crashfest on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass. I crossed it in torrential rain the next day. On the way back I was in 4WD with M&S tires over the pass and sometimes in 4WD in the middle of Washington, and definitely over the pass from Idaho to Montana.

    It's winter. Don't count on it being easy. Be prepared. Have extra flex in your schedule. And don't do anything foolish like try to drive 14 hrs in snow and ice. Good car, good tires, good wipers, good washer fluid, good judgement.

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