Need best travel route to NW pulling a 40ft. 5th wheel

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Flowermom

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Illinois
We are not seasoned RV travelers yet. We have a 5th wheel and want to travel to the NW. So we are looking for the best route to get there from Illinois. We have plenty of time. So we are figuring 6-7 days to get there. Plus we want to make a detour to the Tetons.
Thank you for your thoughts!
 

Larry N.

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You don't mention where you are in Illinois, north south central, etc, so whether to start on I-70, I-80 or some other road is hard to determine. You also don't give a clue about where in the "NW" -- it's a big area -- nor about the time of year you want to go, which can sometimes make a big difference in roads and available campgrounds. Whether you have kids would be another factor to consider.

That detour to the Tetons could chew up most of your 6-7 days, since there's a LOT to see in that area, including Yellowstone -- those two alone could take one to three weeks to see, depending on your tastes.

Be aware that RV campgrounds near major tourist sites such as Tetons may need reservations a long time in advance (6 mo. to a year) unless you can boondock (dry camp, camp with no hookups at all).
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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"best" covers a lot of possibilities, e.g. fastest, least miles, least driving challenges, most scenic, lots of campsites available, etc. And as was mentioned, a "detour" to the Tetons (and Yellowstone?) will add at least 3-4 days and probably more like 7-10 if you want to see & enjoy the area.

I'd probably start on I70 or I80 (depending on where you begin) but converge to I80 to get into Wyoming. Maybe cut up to I90 if you want to see more of the northern Wyoming and Montana area. Leaving that area, I90 if Seattle area is the target; I84 if Portland region is more to your liking. Much depends on your style on enjoyment. Need occasional restaurants & shops, or is it rustic all the way? Full hook-up campsites or mostly boondocks? Things for kids to do, or just adult stuff?
 

LarsMac

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If you're anywhere near Chicago, I-80 west to just before Omaha is a good run, and follow I-680 west to connect with I-29 north. Take that to Sioux Falls, Iowa and catch I-90 all the way To Seattle. Easy run.
When heading home reverse the trip.
On the way back, when you get to Livingston, MT, take US-89 south into Yellowstone, to US-191 south to the Tetons area.
When done with the Tetons, sty on 191 South to Rock Springs, where you can take I-80 all the way back to Chicago.

If you're in Southern IL, Head west toward KC on I-70, and again, take I-29 to Sioux Falls.
or follow I-72 west toward Hannibal, MO, and US-36 West to St Joseph, MO. Again, I-29 to Sioux Falls.

IF you're more interested in Portland, then stay with I-80, into Utah, and take I-84 up to Portland.
To detour to the Tetons, Look at (again) US-191 at Rock Springs, or on the way back, at Mountain Home, ID, take US 20 and 26 eastbound to Tetons area, and US-191 South to Rock Springs.

When you say you are not "seasoned" does that mean you are not experienced with mountain driving with your 5er? This could be a show-stopper, because the routes have some serious hills to contend with. Nothing that can't be handled, but caution is recommended. The biggest concern would be US-26 between Idaho falls and Jackson, WY.
 

Flowermom

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May 6, 2021
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Illinois
You don't mention where you are in Illinois, north south central, etc, so whether to start on I-70, I-80 or some other road is hard to determine. You also don't give a clue about where in the "NW" -- it's a big area -- nor about the time of year you want to go, which can sometimes make a big difference in roads and available campgrounds. Whether you have kids would be another factor to consider.

That detour to the Tetons could chew up most of your 6-7 days, since there's a LOT to see in that area, including Yellowstone -- those two alone could take one to three weeks to see, depending on your tastes.

Be aware that RV campgrounds near major tourist sites such as Tetons may need reservations a long time in advance (6 mo. to a year) unless you can boondock (dry camp, camp with no hookups at all).
Central Illinois to Washington starting this summer Aug. maybe Sept. No Yellowstone this time around. So we figured we missed the boat this year to get a hookup site...
Thanks for your info.
 

Flowermom

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May 6, 2021
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Illinois
"best" covers a lot of possibilities, e.g. fastest, least miles, least driving challenges, most scenic, lots of campsites available, etc. And as was mentioned, a "detour" to the Tetons (and Yellowstone?) will add at least 3-4 days and probably more like 7-10 if you want to see & enjoy the area.

I'd probably start on I70 or I80 (depending on where you begin) but converge to I80 to get into Wyoming. Maybe cut up to I90 if you want to see more of the northern Wyoming and Montana area. Leaving that area, I90 if Seattle area is the target; I84 if Portland region is more to your liking. Much depends on your style on enjoyment. Need occasional restaurants & shops, or is it rustic all the way? Full hook-up campsites or mostly boondocks? Things for kids to do, or just adult stuff?
We are mature adults' so no kiddos this round. We want to go to Washington. Tetons are not a deal breaker. We figure we are out of luck this year for hook-up sites. We wanted to go Aug. maybe Sept.
 

Flowermom

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Illinois
If you're anywhere near Chicago, I-80 west to just before Omaha is a good run, and follow I-680 west to connect with I-29 north. Take that to Sioux Falls, Iowa and catch I-90 all the way To Seattle. Easy run.
When heading home reverse the trip.
On the way back, when you get to Livingston, MT, take US-89 south into Yellowstone, to US-191 south to the Tetons area.
When done with the Tetons, sty on 191 South to Rock Springs, where you can take I-80 all the way back to Chicago.

If you're in Southern IL, Head west toward KC on I-70, and again, take I-29 to Sioux Falls.
or follow I-72 west toward Hannibal, MO, and US-36 West to St Joseph, MO. Again, I-29 to Sioux Falls.

IF you're more interested in Portland, then stay with I-80, into Utah, and take I-84 up to Portland.
To detour to the Tetons, Look at (again) US-191 at Rock Springs, or on the way back, at Mountain Home, ID, take US 20 and 26 eastbound to Tetons area, and US-191 South to Rock Springs.

When you say you are not "seasoned" does that mean you are not experienced with mountain driving with your 5er? This could be a show-stopper, because the routes have some serious hills to contend with. Nothing that can't be handled, but caution is recommended. The biggest concern would be US-26 between Idaho falls and Jackson, WY.
We are leaving from central Illinois so we could go multiple ways just trying to avoid most of the mountains. We are not experienced with mountain driving. Tetons are not a deal breaker.
Thanks for your info.
 

LarsMac

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Colorado Plains
We are leaving from central Illinois so we could go multiple ways just trying to avoid most of the mountains. We are not experienced with mountain driving. Tetons are not a deal breaker.
Thanks for your info.
Well, I suggest making your way to the Quad Cities, taking the I-80 I-29 - I-90 route. You will encounter some hills through the Montana/Idaho area, but the highway hasn't a lot of surprises, as long as your rig is prepared. (That's a whole other discussion)
Though, don't wait 'til too late in September.
You won't like the Wyoming/Utah run on I-80 much, I think.
 

Flowermom

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Illinois
Well, I suggest making your way to the Quad Cities, taking the I-80 I-29 - I-90 route. You will encounter some hills through the Montana/Idaho area, but the highway hasn't a lot of surprises, as long as your rig is prepared. (That's a whole other discussion)
Though, don't wait 'til too late in September.
You won't like the Wyoming/Utah run on I-80 much, I think.
Ok now I have to ask what do you mean by "as long as you rig is prepared"??
As I mentioned we are not seasoned travelers....
Thank you
 

donn

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By prepared I would take it as enough motor for starters. The northern rockies passes can be pretty steep and generally around 5000 feet in elevation so the climbs can be taxing on marginal tow vehicles. Somewhere before WY you will want to move north to I90. That will get you into the Bad Lands. Custer Battlefield SP in eastern MT is worth a look.
What's in WA that has you so interested?
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Ok now I have to ask what do you mean by "as long as you rig is prepared"??
Engine power is not a big factor, in my opinion. You may get a bit frustrated by low speeds on long grades, but you will get to the top eventually. Engine/tranny cooling system performance is probably more critical, but most late model trucks do a decent job of heat management. Check engine belts & hoses if more than a few years old, and make sure all the tires (truck & trailer) are in prime condition and inflated properly for the load. And make sure the hitch (is this a 5W?) latches tight and is lubricated.
 

LarsMac

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Colorado Plains
Ok now I have to ask what do you mean by "as long as you rig is prepared"??
As I mentioned we are not seasoned travelers....
Thank you

To start with, What Gary and donn said.
Is your truck rated for the weight of the rig you're hauling?
Do you have proper braking system and power to handle the load coming down a long grade?
And are you familiar with handling a load on a hill?
Getting up a hill is the easy part. getting back down, takes some care. The grades on I-90 are not too bad, but the long easy roll down a hill can cause a false sense of security, and all of a sudden, you looking at a curve coming up that you are going too fast to handle.
It is actually a fairly easy run, as long as you "got your head in the game" so to speak.
 
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Skookum

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I've driven to Seattle from the Midwest many times. You're going to hit mountains. Big ones. Lots of them. But that shouldn't be a reason to worry. They make for absolutely fantastic scenery and adventure.

If you take I90 which is more of a direct-shot, you'll get some big rollers through South Dakota around the Black Hills. You'll start to huff and puff going up through Wyoming, big rolling grassy hills there. Eastern Montana is pretty chill. You'll see the Rocky Mountains before you feel them, and it's not a bad approach from the East. Missoula, MT through Coeur d' Alene, ID is another big huff-and-puff with some fairly steep and winding mountain passes. Once you hit Spokane, WA, it's smooth sailing until the Columbia River Gorge. The highway drops down and crosses the river, and then proceeds up an 8-mile grade that can bake a transmission if you're not careful. It's a lot of nice, flat ground after that until you start hitting the East slopes of the Cascades. That should feel pretty easy-going in comparison to all that you just crossed, and after that, it's down the West slopes into the Puget Sound area / Seattle.

Easy does it. Low gears, slow speeds. When in doubt, get behind a really BIG heavy truck (but don't follow too closely).
 

Flowermom

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Illinois
By prepared I would take it as enough motor for starters. The northern rockies passes can be pretty steep and generally around 5000 feet in elevation so the climbs can be taxing on marginal tow vehicles. Somewhere before WY you will want to move north to I90. That will get you into the Bad Lands. Custer Battlefield SP in eastern MT is worth a look.
What's in WA that has you so interested?
Thanks for the info. We just have never been to WA and that is the only state we have not been.
 

Flowermom

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May 6, 2021
Posts
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Illinois
I've driven to Seattle from the Midwest many times. You're going to hit mountains. Big ones. Lots of them. But that shouldn't be a reason to worry. They make for absolutely fantastic scenery and adventure.

If you take I90 which is more of a direct-shot, you'll get some big rollers through South Dakota around the Black Hills. You'll start to huff and puff going up through Wyoming, big rolling grassy hills there. Eastern Montana is pretty chill. You'll see the Rocky Mountains before you feel them, and it's not a bad approach from the East. Missoula, MT through Coeur d' Alene, ID is another big huff-and-puff with some fairly steep and winding mountain passes. Once you hit Spokane, WA, it's smooth sailing until the Columbia River Gorge. The highway drops down and crosses the river, and then proceeds up an 8-mile grade that can bake a transmission if you're not careful. It's a lot of nice, flat ground after that until you start hitting the East slopes of the Cascades. That should feel pretty easy-going in comparison to all that you just crossed, and after that, it's down the West slopes into the Puget Sound area / Seattle.

Easy does it. Low gears, slow speeds. When in doubt, get behind a really BIG heavy truck (but don't follow too closely).
Thanks for the info. I like the idea of getting behind a heavy truck.
 

Flowermom

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Joined
May 6, 2021
Posts
12
Location
Illinois
Ok now I have to ask what do you mean by "as long as you rig is prepared"??
As I mentioned we are not seasoned travelers....
Thank you

To start with, What Gary and donn said.
Is your truck rated for the weight of the rig you're hauling?
Do you have proper braking system and power to handle the load coming down a long grade?
And are you familiar with handling a load on a hill?
Getting up a hill is the easy part. getting back down, takes some care. The grades on I-90 are not too bad, but the long easy roll down a hill can cause a false sense of security, and all of a sudden, you looking at a curve coming up that you are going too fast to handle.
It is actually a fairly easy run, as long as you "got your head in the game" so to speak.
Thanks for the info. I agree it's the downside that worries me. When you have a 40ft. trailer helping push you down.
 

donn

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Nov 8, 2009
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4,358
Thanks for the info. We just have never been to WA and that is the only state we have not been.
Seattle is an absolutely horrible place right now. Traffic is outrageous about 22 hours a day. The north cascades are pretty as is the Olympics. Sadly there is not a whole lot of coast access except long beach penisular. Personally I would suggest getting up to hwy 2 from Spokane and take that west. From there you have a good chance of missing Seattle, at least until you decide to head south. I5 south and Olympia you can turn west toward the coast. BTW Sept is getting kind of late for the PNW. So be prepared for anything
 

jackiemac

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We were in the PNW August/September 2019 and it was very nice. Be prepared for humidity, that was the least pleasant thing for me as our trailer constantly felt damp, yuk.

Also it was much busier than I expected it to be. Obviously Seattle folks head that way any opportunity they get.
 
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