Crossing the Rockies: Interstate, or No?
July 22, 2011 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Crossing the rockies from Wyoming...heading to Portland, need some advice! Stick to the I-90, or...smaller roads?

We're driving west! Tonight we're in Sheridan, Wyoming, and want to get to Oregon.

We're trying to decide if we're better off following the I-90 up through Montana, and into Washington, and THEN driving south to Oregon, or...should we take the 14 through Yellowstone and hook up with the 20, and connect to the I-84 straight to Portland?

I'm concerned that perhaps the second route is on a smaller highway, and might be scarier through the mountains. Maybe the I-90 is a better road for this crossing? The downside of course, is that the I-90 seems to mean driving a ways north for no real reason, given that we wanna get to Portland.

Anyone have any experience with either route?
posted by Richat to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unless you're in a gigantic hurry, take 14. The road speed limit is lower, but the distance you're saving plus the overall scenic appeal of the trip through Wyoming really wins out.

I've driven I-90 through Montana several times. It's reasonably good, but there is a severe pass just east of Bozeman that I would honestly avoid given any reasonable alternate route, which you have.
posted by cog_nate at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2011

you know I would definitely suggest looking at going from missoula montana using 12 through to lewiston along the snake river and the lewis and clark trail. It is an AMAZING 120 miles or so. From there you could continue on 12 down through walla walla (a little wine and b&b town).

That will take you down to oregon on an amazing route.
posted by TheBones at 7:36 PM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: The phrase "severe pass" is kinda what worried me! Is it really nutty, or just one that you definitely need to heed the posted speed limit?
posted by Richat at 8:09 PM on July 22, 2011

You're gonna be fine either way. You might like going through Coeur d'Alene on I-90. The lake is beautiful.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:00 PM on July 22, 2011

I lived in Bozeman for two years, and drove over Bozeman Pass, the one just east of Bozeman, dozens of times. It is not severe. Not particularly steep, not twisty.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:51 AM on July 23, 2011

Seconding TheBones.
posted by DarkForest at 4:33 AM on July 23, 2011

there is a severe pass just east of Bozeman that I would honestly avoid given any reasonable alternate route

?? Unless it's February and you're driving a RWD with slick tires, you'll be fine going this route. But it's relatively boring. What exactly are you scared of? It's July FFS. There won't be snow, there aren't any fires that I'm aware of.

Anyway,my vote is for 20 through the park, then 191 from West Yellowstone into Bozeman, where you can catch I-90. Then do whatever TheBones said from Missoula.
posted by desjardins at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: Unsure of stuff in the winter? yea stick to the interstates, sooner a later a trooper will be by before you die of exposure if the worst happens. In the middle of summer? enjoy yourself and stay off the interstates. No state highway is going to be especially danegerous or difficult in clear weather during the day and you see a whole lot more of the country, eat at interesting establishments, read a historical marker or two and the like you will actually have fun in your trip rather than just driving. I even avoid state highways if possible and seek out county and scenic highways if there are any. I don't cross the country in record time but i really like the journey and have found stuff I never even suspected existing.

So yeah, whatever route you choose stay off the interstate if you can, it is worth it.
posted by bartonlong at 3:39 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mainly I was concerned about driving a way's north for no reason....and alternately concerned about scary passes on smaller highways. We ended up heading down through Yellowstone, then west on 20, then....I-86 I think? We made it to Twin Falls, ID tonight, and tomorrow will head onto Portland! Thanks for the input everyone!
posted by Richat at 10:01 PM on July 23, 2011

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