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Old 06-29-2012, 12:05 PM
 
2 posts, read 3,025 times
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Hey there!

I'm looking to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles but I figure that the Denver to Los Angeles leg would be the difficult part of the trip (due to the elevation and ice?) so here I am!

I really want to see Denver before I had back to LA but I'm afraid that my little 2001 Toyota Echo won't be able to make the climb through I-70 (west).

Does anyone know what the elevation gain/grade is and whether it will be snowing too?

If anyone could give me any tips on getting from Denver to Los Angeles in mid-August, that'd be great.

Thanks!
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Old 06-29-2012, 12:43 PM
 
Location: OH>IL>CO>CT
4,747 posts, read 7,495,900 times
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The weather in August should be fine, unless there is a freak storm, which would not last long. The highest point is the Eisenhower Tunnel under the continental divide at 11, 158 feet. There are some 6% grade sections approaching the tunnel. That and Vail Pass @ 10,666 ft should be the worst for your 4 cyl 1.5 liter Echo. It will struggle some.

Make sure your oil, coolant and brakes are in good shape. Watch for overheating on uphills, and do not "ride" the brakes on downhills.
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:24 PM
 
Location: Greater NYC
2,857 posts, read 4,694,079 times
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Weather will not be an issue; you've essentially picked the "safest" weather month to travel that stretch. No snow, no ice.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:49 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,835,868 times
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Wink No worries

You should not have any problems driving through the Colorado Rocky Mountains in mid-August.

Weather-wise, expect warm but fairly temperate temperatures. Snow is possible on any given day of the year, but very unlikely in August; any snow that might fall would not only be unusual, but of a brief and minor duration. No concerns on this, and you can otherwise expect a quite scenic drive west of Denver on I-70.

From just beyond Denver west I-70 more or less continually climbs to its first true summit at the Eisenhower Tunnel (11,158 feet). Even higher if you are adventurous enough to turn off just before the tunnel to take the even more scenic alternative route over Loveland Pass (11,991 feet). There are some good climbs not far from Denver, but the most consistent grades of 5 to 6% are from Georgetown to the tunnel, with the highest point at the west entrance of these two tunnels. From there it is a relatively steep descent of about 7% to the town of Silverthorne.

Vail Pass (10,662 feet), between Copper Mountain and Vail, is similar in the grades encountered.

Most any vehicle should be able to traverse these passes, particularly on dry roads. Your Toyota should be fine, but do not expect it to feel very peppy. Altitude negatively affects the performance of all naturally (non turbo) aspirated vehicles, the more so as elevation increases. You'll feel this even in Denver, at about 5,000 feet. So in a vehicle of modest power to begin with, expect to spend most of your time in the right lane, down shifting to maintain sufficient power, and possibly not always being able to maintain the posted speed limit. Otherwise fine, as long as your vehicle is in proper working order. As a bonus, expect better fuel mileage.

The drive between Denver and Los Angeles can be great. Even if a slight challenge for one's vehicle, I-70 west of Denver is a beautiful drive. If with the time, one has the possibility of visiting such locals as Breckenridge, CO, being something of a postcard of a beautiful town.

From Grand Junction, and particularly once in Utah, you may begin to wonder what you've signed yourself up for, with all that vast dry and open space. But the Book Cliffs to your right in approaching Green River, UT are scenic, and the drive is often interesting. All the more once past Green River and entering some truly remarkable high desert country. You'll have no doubt of this in crossing into the distinct divide of a sheer rock casm and road sharply upwards.

The quickest and most practical route is obviously I-70 to its intersection with I-15 and then that on into LA. If wishing more scenery and places of interest, there are other longer routes through often striking country. But at times I-15 can be quite nice. Consider for instance that before St. George, UT one has the option of a short detour in visiting the ever so spectacular Zion National Park. Relatively close to I-15, and well worth it. Due time constraints, you may not wish to avail yourself of the mandatory public shuttle into the lodge area of the park; but the drive west to east through the park on UT 9 is freely open, and one of the most incredibly beautiful drives in the United States.

Beyond this you of course have the enticements of Las Vegas. One might consider that, if only to gain the fortitude or inebriation (if not driving) to withstand the final leg of I-15 on into LA. Not always the most scenic. Moreover in my experience largely avoiding it, highway conditions of speeding and rude SUVs of a vague precursor to Mad Max.

As an aside, today one might be detoured off I-70 near De Beque due a wildfire which just sprang up there near the interstate. That will likely be out by August, but without some serious rains this entire very dry state is on the edge of going up in flames, with a good portion presently so. That is no reason not to visit. It is well worth it. But conditions can vary.
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Old 06-30-2012, 05:29 AM
 
Location: Coos Bay, Oregon
7,142 posts, read 8,432,439 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eshiao View Post
Hey there!

I'm looking to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles but I figure that the Denver to Los Angeles leg would be the difficult part of the trip (due to the elevation and ice?) so here I am!

I really want to see Denver before I had back to LA but I'm afraid that my little 2001 Toyota Echo won't be able to make the climb through I-70 (west).

Does anyone know what the elevation gain/grade is and whether it will be snowing too?

If anyone could give me any tips on getting from Denver to Los Angeles in mid-August, that'd be great.

Thanks!
There is no snow or ice on I-70 in mid-August.

As for your car, the question should be, is your car in good enough mechanical condition to make the entire trip, without breaking down? If it is, then the mountains should not be a problem
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:13 AM
 
2 posts, read 3,025 times
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Thanks for all the replies! I'm definitely psyched about not having to worry about any snow or anything. Still, I don't know if it'd be a great idea taking my little Echo up a 5% grade for too long. As much as I love the little guy, something tells me that since he'll be weighted down, it might not be the best of ideas.

I'll probably talk it over with my family and see what their thoughts are. But thank you all again for the info!
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:44 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,095,377 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KaaBoom View Post
There is no snow or ice on I-70 in mid-August.
That may be true in most years, but not every one. I remember one Colorado Day (August 1st for the non-natives) when the snow was 6" deep in Leadville, with snowpacked and slushy roads in all directions. On numerous occasions in over four decades of Colorado driving, I've been in blinding snowstorms on the San Juan passes in August. Admittedly, those are relatively rare occurrences, but to infer that it does not ever happen is not accurate.

Oh, and 5% grades? 6%-7% is more accurate for the Eisehower Tunnel and Vail Pass. (Or most any other major highway pass in Colorado. If you want lower grades, go through New Mexico or Wyoming.)
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