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Old 10-22-2015, 01:35 AM
 
Location: Japan
6 posts, read 5,173 times
Reputation: 14

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I need to get from Kayenta, AZ, to Denver this coming November 23. I am aware that the weather conditions at this time could be horrible, maybe impassable, but I am locked in to trying on the 23rd and to driving.

In terms of safety, it looks like my best bet is 160 from Kayenta, follow it east through Durango, Wolf's Creek Pass, until it crosses Interstate 25, then take I-25 north to Denver.

Three questions:

(1) Is this actually the safest way to go Kayenta to Denver through the mountains?

(2) Is there a way I can cut out some driving time on the east side of the mountains?

and the big one...

(3) Because of road conditions, could it possibly be faster to go from Flagstaff on I-40 to Albuquerque, then north on I-25?
(I really, really want to see the desert in Monument Valley, but getting to Denver is a priority... dang.)
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Old 10-22-2015, 04:14 AM
 
11,256 posts, read 43,199,644 times
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At this time of the year, any road condition can present.

You may find the:

1) roads almost all clear and dry with no inclement weather to slow you down.

2) roads impassable or very difficult winter driving for just a few miles on any given route.

3) some slick spots on an otherwise clear route. Prudent driving skills and a properly equipped car for winter driving may have nothing more than a minor slow-down for a few miles, and then you're in the clear again.

4) regional widespread storms which make all the routes in the mountains a challenging drive no matter which route you take. (Don't forget that the Flagstaff area can get some wet/sloppy cold storms in their mountain area until the highway descends to lower elevations just West of Albuquerque, or that I-25 in Southern Colorado has Raton Pass, which can get some intense localized storms ... you can encounter winter driving conditions anywhere in the areas North of Santa Fe).

5) Any combination of the above road conditions.

Your "best" approach will be to watch the weather forecasts and road condition reports in the days just ahead of your departure, then pick the clearest route when you depart on your trip.
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Old 10-22-2015, 08:31 AM
 
Location: Western Colorado
11,053 posts, read 12,403,387 times
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Chain law was in effect for Wolf Creek Pass yesterday, additional snow up to 8" forecast for tonight. Check the CDOT conditions page.

http://www.cotrip.org/home.htm
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Old 10-22-2015, 09:11 AM
 
2,514 posts, read 3,487,858 times
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Wolf Creek Pass is scary. I broke down there once in good weather. Fuel pump died. There was no shoulder to pull off on and no place to get out of the vehicle to get away from it as it was pure rock on one side and a drop off on the other. The drop off on the other had a big piece of broken railing where a trucker went over the edge the day before and died.
The Durango Herald 01/08/2012 | The state’s No. 1 dangerous pass is ...

We had to put out our cones and triangles and wait for help like sitting ducks. Our cell phones didn't work either to call for help. Truckers who had passed us called the state patrol when they got to the top. The state patrol came and gave us some flares. The state patrol had to drive to the top to get their cell phones to work. They called the tow truck for us. Eventually got a tow truck but that was after the flares died.

Not a pass I would attempt in bad weather.
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Old 10-22-2015, 11:39 AM
 
16,508 posts, read 20,906,955 times
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mic111 is right. Wolf Creek isn't for the "faint of heart." And if people think it is challenging NOW, you should have driven it in the 1960's! A lot of work was done on that road a few decades ago.

A safer and much easier alternative is to stay on hwy. 163 to 191. And stay northbound on 191 to I-70. Then east on I-70 to Denver. Hwy. 191 is a pretty drive in it's own rite as you are going through some beautiful red rock country. If you have time, visit Natural Bridges National Monument and Arches National Monument which is just north of Moab. Denver from Moab is a little more than 350 miles. I've been on that highway a few dozen times and there has been quite a few passing lines put in about 15 miles north of Moab over the last several years. Not that it doesn't snow on I-70, it does, particularly east of Rifle. But as a general rule you won't see much snow going that way until early December. I live a quarter mile off the interstate in Mesa County, I know.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 10-22-2015 at 01:26 PM.. Reason: addition, spelling
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Old 10-22-2015, 01:18 PM
 
Location: OH>IL>CO>CT
5,194 posts, read 8,321,826 times
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What Double H said.

https://goo.gl/maps/ybY9ByqzTVp
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Old 10-22-2015, 07:42 PM
 
284 posts, read 617,209 times
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I'd say there's a better than average chance that you won't have any issues, you may run into snow/ice towards the top of Wolf Creek but nothing major. In the 4 years I lived on the Western Slope I never had an issue getting together with family on the front range for Thanksgiving.

I'll second what others have said about Wolf Creek, but if you have any experience driving in the mountains it shouldn't be an issue at all. La Veta Pass is a mere hill compared to some of the mountain passes I've driven in Colorado.
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Old 10-23-2015, 12:55 AM
 
Location: Japan
6 posts, read 5,173 times
Reputation: 14
Thanks for everyone's replies!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
A safer and much easier alternative is to stay on hwy. 163 to 191. And stay northbound on 191 to I-70. Then east on I-70 to Denver.
Quote:
Originally Posted by reed303 View Post
Double H & reed303,

Are you guys really serious about I-70 being better?
My brother lives in Denver and goes up there to ski. He specifically said I should not go that way. He says the driving time Kayenta to Denver is more like 10 hours than 8 hours (so I could be driving in the dark) and that at night the highways are full of tractor-trailers and that he has driven in sleet and heavy snow in late November.
You guys would definitely bet on I-70 over Vail being safer than 160 over Wolf Creek?

Of course, I will continue to monitor the weather conditions as I get closer to Colorado.

Here's another question:

How far ahead is a good time to make a final check of the weather conditions? If I check the weather at 7:00AM when I am in Kayenta, can I be pretty sure of the conditions I will find in the mountains 6-8 hours later?

Thanks very much!
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Old 10-23-2015, 03:32 AM
 
11,256 posts, read 43,199,644 times
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You asked: "How far ahead is a good time to make a final check of the weather conditions? If I check the weather at 7:00AM when I am in Kayenta, can I be pretty sure of the conditions I will find in the mountains 6-8 hours later?"

It depends upon the recent passage, present, and forecast conditions of the area of your travel.

It's possible that:

1) area widespread storms have dropped snow, brought cold temperatures, and certain areas haven't had the time or opportunity to get cleared or snowpacked to a reasonable condition, or

2) the roads are all reasonably clear and there's a forecast for clear weather along one (or more) of your possible routes, or

3) any possible combination between those two extremes.


Do not count on completing this journey in the same amount of time and speeds that you'd drive in warm weather months.

Be prepared for some very slow going at times, if only for a few miles to well in excess of 50-100 miles. It only takes an isolated storm cell or two to make a mess of a roadway and traffic will back up in that area.

Even if you have the world's best winter driving equipped snow car and you're the best inclement weather driver in the world ... a rally champion level skillset ... you must allow for the other drivers on the road who do not have your skills and equipment. You simply cannot go through the traffic appreciably faster than the lowest common denominator driver/vehicles, of which there may be many on the road.

Don't count on being able to pass the slower traffic at your pleasure in places where the roads are messed up and down to less useable lane space than dry road conditions. And do understand that the "pro drivers" in semi's may create moving white-out conditions on the road from their splash; they may either be slower than you on the climbs, so you have to drive through that wall of obscuration, or they may be faster than you'd like to travel in places and can present a challenge to you to simply stay on the road with them.

RE: Wolf Creek Pass route vs I-70. Given that WCP is already showing some serious inclement driving conditions this season, I'd be planning on I-70 as a better route unless the Hwy 160 region is showing clear weather for several days before your trip time and forecast to remain so during your travels. Even in modest snowstorms, Vail Pass is a piece of cake compared to WCP.

PS: the key to a pleasant journey at this time of the year in the high country is to be prepared for anything, including slow going delays or having to take alternate routes to avoid some messed up roads ... or even to get a motel room and wait out some nasty road conditions. Keep in mind that just because a road is "open" to traffic doesn't mean that it won't be a "white-knuckle" drive for your travels.

Last edited by sunsprit; 10-23-2015 at 03:40 AM..
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Old 10-23-2015, 04:53 AM
 
Location: Washington Park, Denver
6,904 posts, read 6,499,225 times
Reputation: 7355
The Wolf Creek route is a windy, 2-3 lane highway over a very steep mountain pass. I've driven it many times and it is not a place to be in a storm. Especially if you don't have snow tires and lots of winter driving experience.

I-70 can be bad as well in a storm, but it is an interstate highway. I would rather be on the interstate.

My advice is to monitor the weather ahead of the trip. If it looks like you are going to be driving in a storm, postpone or go the long route through ABQ.
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