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Suggestions for a winter road trip from MN to OR with little prep!
February 21, 2012 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Driving from Minneapolis, MN to Portland, OR at the end of the week. Looking for suggestions on what to do along the way. Bonus: Yellowstone for a day?

Late in the planning, apologies.

I'm roadtripping with a friend from Minneapolis to Portland this week. We're a little flexible time-wise, and we're looking for neat things to do along the way.

We're taking the I-90/I-94 route through ND, MT, ID, WA and OR.

One specific thing: we're considering Yellowstone for a day (from the North/Gardiner entrance) and wondering if it's doable (or a good idea) to do Yellowstone this time of year for just a day from that entrance. It's unseasonably warm up here, but I've never been to Yellowstone and my friend has only been in the summer, so we're wondering if it's worth making the detour.

Any other suggestions? Any things to look out for? Any advice weather-wise? From what we've looked up, it seems a relatively mild winter in most of the places on our route. We're driving a Subaru Outback.

We're outdoorsy-type people, but are interested in anything interesting, really - neat museums, points of interest, great sandwich places, etc.

Thanks much.
posted by JaiMahodara to Travel & Transportation around South Burlington - South, VT (8 answers total)
 
Do a chunk of Route 16 in Wyoming. The drive through Ten Sleep Canyon in the Bighorns is absolutely stunning. Route 16, overall, is a great drive, and takes you to Yellowstone. I'll let other address Yellowstone in winter.
posted by rockindata at 8:13 PM on February 21, 2012


I've done this drive, in January when ND had temps at -40. Here are some considerations:

-The weather will be nasty going across ND. Big surprise. I personally would only drive during the day. Saturday has a low of 9F, Sunday a high of 12F. Snow.
-There is very little by way of gas stations from Bismarck, ND to Glendive, MT. Do not get suckered and think you can get gas in Medora, ND this time of year.
-If you get hit by the snow in ND/MT: ND tends to plow the roads. MT may not. Be prepared. Carry chains?
-If you are driving a high-profile vehicle, be careful near Livingston, MT. The winds kick up in quite the nasty way this time of year. If it is bad, the DOT will close I-90 to tall vehicles and you will need to cut through the town. Do this. If it's really bad, they will just close it down.
-Yellowstone is still Yellowstone, but much of it is closed off. Only the North and Northeast entrances are open to vehicle traffic, and the road is cleared between those two. The South, East and West entrances are closed to normal vehicle traffic, snow tours only. There's still going to be wildlife. Also, there's no quick way to or from the Northeast entrance. The Beartooth Highway is closed for the winter. If you choose to drive in, turn around and go back out the North entrance.
-Bozeman and Missoula are your best bets for any nightlife along the way if you choose to stop for the night. Butte is your worst bet.
-Weather's been rainy here in Portland. Gorge is really pretty as the waterfalls are huge right now. Take the Historic Highway (exit 35).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:25 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you can time your trip to stop in Missoula overnight, I'd do it. Missoula is a fabulous town; just be sure to stay/hang out near the university and downtown core, not out on the west edge of the city that is a neverending wall of box stores.

2nding the Columbia River Gorge, too. So pretty. If you feel like meandering, you could pick up Route 2 and drive through some of eastern and central Washington, being sure to drive by the massive dry falls near Ephrata--then you can drop down to 84 and head through the Gorge.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:32 PM on February 21, 2012


I did basically this trip last September, and even asked Metafilter, too. It was definitely awesome, but certainly a different time of year.
posted by Corduroy at 10:54 PM on February 21, 2012


When I did this I stopped in Coeur d'Alene, which is a nice lakeside tourist town with some nightlife and outdoorsy stuff to do.
posted by pete_22 at 3:32 AM on February 22, 2012


Butte may not be great for nightlife, but do stop there for a Wop Chop!
posted by karizma at 4:31 AM on February 22, 2012


Keep lots of food, water and blankets in the car.

I've done that drive. Montana is the most beautiful place on earth.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:52 AM on February 22, 2012


If you can take the detour into Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs are very cool to see. Even more magical if there's a little snow on the ground. Also, in the wintertime, you're more likely to see wildlife that usually retreat into the mountains during summer.

When I was a kid, I got to see two bighorn sheep butting heads on a hillside visible from the highway, just near Mammoth. Spectacular.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:53 AM on February 22, 2012


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