Crossing the Rockies
Assuming one is approaching from the Katy Trail or elsewhere in MO, where is the best bike crossing of the Rockies? Also, when does the snow season begin? When is the latest a bike should be through there to avoid the bad weather?
Where do you want to cross? What do you want to see?
Ski season is underway in CO and UT and will be until mid-april. If your not camping, you can cross any time, just watch the weather and avoid big storms.
I'm speaking hypothetically. I don't have any plans to ride across the US currently.
Originally Posted by Joe_Gardner
But, if I were, and camping, and aiming for LA, where would be best to cross, and when to avoid snow or bad weather?
What do you mean by best? Scenic? Shortest route? Easiest elevations?
I70 is the most common passing with heavy auto traffic. You could bypass the mountains completely by going extreme north or south if that is what you want.
As far as timing - you can get snowed on at any time of the year. Colorado gets daily monsoon storms in the summer which is predictably in the form of hail or snow at high elevations.
I just got back last week from a tour that took me from my home town of Flagstaff to Santa Fe - Taos - Pagosa Springs - Durango - Ouray - Telluride - Cortez and back to Flagstaff. Surprisingly, temps were only in the mid 60's in Ouray and Telluride. Different story this week tho...
You have lots of options for when and where.
I've crossed the divide by bike in at least 10 different places in the US and 2 in Canada. Plus a couple of other divide crossing points by car. The prettiest is Logan Pass (aka Going to the Sun Road) in Glacier NP in Montana. The 2nd prettiest and most challenging was Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn. NP in Colorado. The easiest crossings would be in Yellowstone NP and in New Mexico, because you barely can tell you're crossing anything. The divide in New Mexico along the interstate (done in a car) has virtually no scenic value. Yellowstone, of course, has amazing scenery, though very different from the mountain scenery on the other divide passes I biked over. I would imagine that the Southern Tier crossing in New Mexico would be fairly easy, but I haven't done it myself.
Take the ACA Western Express route (southern Colorado) in the second half of June, or the Southern Tier route (New Mexico) if earlier or later.
I really want to see Logan Pass some time.
If you want to really see the Rockies, you might want go go along them a ways and maybe cross the continental divide more than once. I think the TA crosses them something like 9 times.
If you are more interested in avoiding them as much as possible going farther south might be good. This could work out pretty well if you are shooting for LA and if you go far enough south you can do it real late, even in winter. From the Katy Trail you could go to Santa Fe following the route of the Santa Fe Trail and then continue to the Southern Tier. I did the Santa Fe Trail part last Spring and it was a nice ride. Kansas was surprisingly hilly in the section I rode, but very doable. Oklahoma was my least favorite part, but OK. The New Mexico portion was great riding.
Check out my journal from the Spring if you are curious about the SFT route. Also check out this thread. I think that might work well for you.
Other than Yellowstone which we enjoyed, I don't think most of the passes I have done would make much sense if you are headed for LA, but if you have questions about any of the passes on the TA I can answer questions.
There are dozens of places to cross the Rockies - it depends on your preference.
Here's a short synopsis of route and climate -
Technically, the Rockies begin in Santa Fe, NM and stretch all the way up almost to the Yukon in Canada. But if you are going from Missouri to Los Angeles, I think that Banff would be out of your way - even Glacier National Park, which is simply stunning. It sounds like it would be best to head through southern Colorado or northern New Mexico if you are heading to L.A. Be forewarned, the prevailing winds are southwesterly in the Four Corners regions, so you are likely to be bucking headwinds much of the trip.
In addition there is a series of landforms you will cross like books on a bookshelf that alternate cold and hot in the summertime. The Rockies have late springs and early falls and cool summers. The Great Basin has moderate springs and falls and hot summers. The Mojave Desert has summer temps in spring and fall and blistering temps in summer. If you cross the High Sierra, you have a climate regime similar to the Rockies. The Central Valley is extremely hot in summer. The coast is cool.
That said, I would advise crossing the Rockies no earlier than mid-June. Why cross the Rockies if you are trying to get through them as quickly as possible and cannot enjoy them? Late June is wildflower season and is truly spectacular. But then you would be looking at a late-June / early-July crossing of the Great Basin. Since that is the case, it is better to be north than south of the Grand Canyon. If you were to follow the Western express to Cedar City, Utah - you could continue across to Tonopah, Nevada - then head south to Los Angeles via Bishop and US 395. That route avoids the worst extremes of the Mojave Desert. Another option. is to continue from Tonopah to Yosemite National Park - truly worth the ride - and cross over to the coast and down. That would be further, but would have very little riding in the hottest areas.
You might think that a late trip could sneak you through the Rockies in early fall and get you into the hotter regions when they have cooled off. But the days are really getting short after the fall equinox and California is at the end of its summer dry period - thus many park and forest areas are closed due to fire danger or actual fires.
Weatherwise, you can get snow well into June and early snows in September in the Rockies. You really need to be extremely cautious in May or October. In addition, snow depth is asymetric - early snows in September melt quickly, but snow remains at higher elevations into June and July.
My experience is that there is an abrupt weather shift sometime in mid June from a high rainfall pattern to occasional afternoon thunderstorms. The Rockies fall into the Great Plains precipitation pattern - with half of all annual precipitation occurring in May and June. Similarly, in the early fall you may get a snow or two in late August or early September - but they are usually only dustings. But after about the 20th something changes. Some years it is later, some years a little earlier. But after the 20th of September, the window for touring closes rapidly.
Have you considered it the other way?
Because leaving from California in May and heading east is almost ideal. Perfect in Calif.; lovely in the desert - especially if it has been a cool, wet winter; and you get to the Rockies just in time for the wildflowers.
Colorado - West Elk Mountains
Nevada - Railroad Valley & Kawich Range
Now, don't get me wrong.
I live in Wyoming and I ride all year.
But I live in Wyoming.
Best - J
Last edited by jamawani; 11-15-09 at 06:28 PM.