How can I map out the elevations between two cities?
July 8, 2011 11:21 AM   Subscribe

How steep are the roads between Albuquerque, NM; Gallup, NM; Zion National Park, UT; Las Vegas, NV; Yosemite National Park, CA; and San Jose, CA?

I'm in the middle of a roadtrip with some friends. Our car, a little Honda, is pretty loaded down with stuff since one of us is moving with all their worldly possessions. We were thinking of picking up one of our friends along the way, but we're concerned about the steepness of the roads in the latter half of our trip, particularly as we go across whatever mountainous regions are out west. We've been driving up some slight ascents (from NC to New Orleans) and the car has strained up them, but we're survived. Can someone figure out a way to map our trip to see if there are any ridiculously steep ascents between the cities I posted above? We're planning on taking the major freeways that are direct between the cities. Will our car just throw up its hands and die with an extra medium-sized passenger and his small bag of stuff? I've tried looking up tools for mapping elevations between routes, but no luck. Thanks for any help whatsoever!
posted by jng to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
Best answer: To answer your question about ascents, you could map your trip using one of the mapmyx sites (i.e. mapmyride), that will give you climb info, and will even rate it on a scale of 1-5.
posted by effigy at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: vegas to yosemite, presumably from east to west will go over Tioga pass is pretty steep. Its also amazingly beautiful. If you really think its going to die, you could go via Truckee via Reno, or around the south but those both suck compared to going through Yosemite. The rest of the roads should be smooth sailing.
posted by H. Roark at 11:39 AM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: I can tell you from experience that Albuquerque -> Gallup is not terribly steep if you are taking I-40. The altitude is decently high, 7500' at the divide. It's a long, slow climb.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:16 PM on July 8, 2011

There are a few hills closer to Gallup, from Albuquerque.
posted by annsunny at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2011

Or you could take the southern route, going through Yuma to San Diego, then North.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:24 PM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: I did a route similar to this last summer--I did San Diego to Yellowstone, essentially--with all my worldly goods in an elderly Corolla.

What's worth mentioning is that you have to factor in whether or not the altitude increases gradually. That is, if a road suddenly climbs from 2000' to 7000' and back down to 3000' again in all of five miles, that's a much different concern than a slow climb to 7000' over twenty or fifty miles. I could do one in my car (the long, slow gain) but the other (quick, up and down) meant my car was straining quite a bit at freeway speeds. So when you look at the maps, look at that aspect in particular.

I used AAA, if any of you have the service, to get a free TripTik (um, it's an old fashioned map that just covers the areas you're interested in) and it was super helpful. You can stop at any AAA on your route and they should be able to help you. I just checked my TripTik from that cross-country trip and it does indeed note elevation of mountains nearby--very helpful to get a general idea of the elevation of an area! My agent also specifically advised against one route--the Sawtooth Mountains in Yellowstone--because of altitude concerns.

FYI, I had no problem leaving the A/C on during those mountain climbs, even though my car is so underpowered that turning the A/C on at all causes it to lose 5 mph no matter where I'm driving.
posted by librarylis at 3:02 PM on July 8, 2011

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