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Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco

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Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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Hi - we are driving between Denver and SF over the Christmas holiday. We have an AWD SUV, chains, and winter tires. We don't plan to commit to a route until a day or two before we leave and see the weather but I'm gathering info on our options. I would like to avoid highways that are not divided if possible for safety reasons. If you have any info on other potentially problematic spots to watch out for on these routes (so I can search for weather there, look for webcams etc..) that would be SO helpful. Thank you very much!

Option 1 (Cheyenne)

From Denver, take I-25 north, to I-80 west

- Potential high winds and white out conditions across Wyoming

- Donner Pass and Sierras

Option 2 (Provo)

From Denver, take I-70 west to I-15 north to I-80 (avoiding I-6 because not divided highway)

- Denver mountain passes

- Donner Pass and Sierras

- Any spots to watch for in Utah?

Option 3 (Vegas)

From Denver, take I-70 west, to I-15 south, to Hwy 58 to I-5 north

- Denver mountain passes

- How much of Highway 58 is not divided?

Option 4 (Albuquerque - longest route)

From Denver, take I-25 south to I-40 west to I-5 north

- Could be some snow in I-40 from Albuquerque/Flagstaff

- What is I-25 out of Denver like?

6 replies to this topic
Adirondacks, New...
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1. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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Regardless which route you take be prepared for winter conditions and have plenty of time to stay out for a day or two if there is a snow storm. From my personal experiences I know I-80 in WY can be challenging and I-70 not only in CO but also in UT along

San Rafael Swell where for 100 miles there are no services of any type, no towns, almost no cell reception.

Check the weather forecast and decide but I would take I-25 south to I-40 west.

Edited: December 02, 2022, 1:36 am
Tacoma, Washington
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2. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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58 is a full expressway now between Barstow and bakersfield

It’s US 6, not I-6.

You can go 25/40 to Barstow.

You can get snow everywhere in utah.

Tacoma, Washington
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3. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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If you go 40 to 15 to 5 you will have to go thru and back thru two 4000 ft mountain passes in the mountains around LA. You drive 50 instead

CA 99 is an expressway. It goes through cities while 5 goes thru nothingness so you willl have more hotel/food/ gas options

Anaheim, California
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4. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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CA-58 is a full freeway between Barstow (its east end) and Bakersfield. However, as you leave Bakersfield headed west to I-5, it becomes a regular two-lane, non-divided highway for 15 miles, which includes needing to turn north at CA-43 and then west on CA-58 again.

If you want to get to SF without ANY non-divided highway, you will have to take CA-58 west to CA-99 north, then CA-120 west in the city of Manteca (between Modesto and Stockton), then I-5 SOUTH (not north!) to I-205 west to I-580 west to the Bay Bridge. To me, it is not worth it but as Dan P said in #3, there are more places to stop along CA-99 than along I-5; you will go through Tulare, Visalia, Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Modesto on CA-99. CA-99 is also three lanes in each direction for much of its length in the southern San Joaquin Valley, whereas I-5 is only two lanes in each direction until you get to Manteca.

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5. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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Thanks all. Very helpful. Dan - can you provide more details on the 50 option? I'm not following the route you're suggesting.

Edited: December 05, 2022, 2:50 am
Anaheim, California
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6. Re: Winter roadtrip between Denver and San Francisco
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I think Dan P uses a lot of voice-to-text via his phone, and sometimes it's unclear. I suspect he meant 58, not 50. From I-40 west you go on I-15 south briefly and take the third exit for CA-58 west toward Tehachapi, Mojave, and Bakersfield. You will have to go over Tehachapi Summit which is just slightly lower than the Tejón Pass (Tehachapi is 4064', Tejón is 4144') but due to the orientation of the pass, Tehachapi is closed less often by snow.

Once you are in Bakersfield you will join CA-99 north for a little bit and then have to exit for CA-58 west again. It's a freeway through the built-up part but then becomes a regular two-lane undivided highway. You'll turn right on CA-43 and go one mile before turning left on CA-58 again to get to I-5.

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