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Cross country trip in April-May?


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Hi guys,


We're planning a trip Seattle - Key West starting in mid April, and return in Mid May. My main concern is whether that's too early for crossing the mountains. I'm particularly interested in local opinion along the mountain portions of the route.


We'll likely do this: Seattle - Boise - Salt Lake - Zion - Big Bend NP and then along the gulf coast to the Keys. Return trip will be Atlanta - Mammoth Cave - Kansas City - Mt Rushmore - Yellowstone - Seattle.


Whaddaya think - is mid April too early? How 'bout early May through Yellowstone and over the pass? Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks! Eric



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My personal experience was a trip to Colorado from Chicago (my first long distance motorcycle trip) in mid April many moons ago. Got snowed in, 17 inches of snow on top of 1/2 inch freezing rain. Fort Collins...what a memorable trip, not to mention a great learning experience.

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This spring I went from Enumclaw to San Antonio starting April 25. I had to follow the Columbia through the Cascades due to snow in the passes. I went through the Rockies in New Mexico and had no problems at all. But there was quite a bit of snow on the passes in Colorado; snowing on the Million Dollar Highway when we were in Durango, and some of the passes were still closed in Utah. Kind of a crap shoot.



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Why not just head south and skip Co all together? I have been in the passes in mid summer and it has been ugly @ times. Freezing rain and the like. Why not head to AZ and then southern NM to Carlsbad Caverns and/or WSNM and on to big Bend?

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You'll have to cruise along on or near I-10 to avoid the mountains and snow that time of year - easpecially in April. I did a crouss country trip earlier in 2008 and hit some very cold weather and snow as late as the end of May in the Rockies and other mountain passes in NM and AZ.


You can make it through the cold, snowey stuff but you'll need to be real careful...


Good luck.

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Can you post a more exact suggested route? Not sure what mountains you think you are going through on this route, other than Yellowstone to Seattle. Not sure what you mean "the pass".


Generally speaking I think your route sounds fine so long as you watch the weather closely.


The high pass roads will most likely still be closed, but these are few and far between. Boise - SLC - Zion almost certainly fine, unless a major storm comes in right then.


Pretty sure you can usually get through Yellowstone in early May, but confirm that with the park service. If not, you can go through Teton/Jackson or up through Bozeman.

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Can you post a more exact suggested route?


Well, that's about as precise as I've gotten with the route. I've got a handle on Snoqualmie pass (I-90 near Seattle), since it's in my backyard. And then the next big pass would be the Blue Mountians East of Pendleton OR on I-84. Not too sure what to expect there in mid-April. After Boise, turn south (on or near I-15) and head toward the Grand Canyon. I'm not terribly familiar with Utah, but I get the impression that I-15 pretty well skirts the mountains.


Coming back, "the pass" I refer to would be the Continental Divide, preferrably through Yellowstone, if it's not too early in the year for that. I suppose skirting Yellowstone to the South would be better than going North over Lookout Pass on I-90 (as far as avoiding bad weather and snow goes). On the other hand, Jackson sounds like a lousy spot to hope for warm spring weather too...


Mostly I would expect reasonable motorcycle weather, except for a little bad luck along the higher protions. And I should think waiting out a freak storm wouldn't take more than the next day. It does seem likely that we'll push the trip back two weeks: departing May 1st, and return June 1st.


The main thing I'm trying to avoid by going early, is the terrible heat down south and the crowds after the kids get out of school. I'm just not sure how early is unreasonable when it comes to some of the passes over, and near, the Continental Divide.


Anyway, that's the scheme I've got for the moment, such as it is. Thanks for the advice!


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Why not just... skip Co all together?


Hmmm... I think you may have misread my post. Colorado wasn't on the list. The ride down would skirt CO to the West, and the return portion would skirt CO to the North. Give or take. Thanks though - You did suggest pretty much what I was thinking, so I feel better that I'm not totally nuts over here.... :-)

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You may be fine, or you might encounter disaster.


The trick is to find a way to get good weather information and to avoid situations where you have few or no options.


Early April in Utah can still be dicey. This means I-15 could have ice or snow. With certainty you will be in cold weather in the mornings and afternoon. What's cold mean? 30's for sure. Except for the duration of any actual weather event, I-15 will be cleared of snow. Black ice may be present.


I did I-84 from Portland to SLC in mid-May. Probably never so cold in my life, and that was good weather, meaning no precipitation.


You can do it but you need a really good way to keep up in the weather. Frontal systems come in fast and certain key passes will be "interesting". By the way, the Weather Channel is notorious for taking in the big picture and missing completely the important details you will need.


Good luck

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Karen and I usually head out in February from Eugene, OR to Arizona.

The safest route is down the coast (as the Sisques on I-5 south of ashland get alot of snow) so down the coast, at Eureka cross over to I-5 at redding then down to Bakersfield to Barstow and on your way.

this route avoids big Cities and high elevation. (we'll be leaving around then also for our Iron Butt national Parks tour)

Only thing that's iffy is the wind on the coast.......

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I'll say this with a grain of salt, as it were. We had a major storm as last May's Torrey event approached and riders were stranded for up to 48 hours in CO. Anything is possible. However, most probably you would have fine weather on the interstate highways in ID and UT in April. Certainly, from Zion on there would be more an issue with heat then cold. Worst case conditions would be reletively brief delays of a day or two, but really these are unlikely on the interstates in April. You should be fine. I would not hestitate to plan a trip in that time frame on an interstate highway route.





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Thanks for all the help guys. Looks like we've settled on the 3rd week of april to depart. Now that we've established that, I just hope my bike holds together! :-)

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