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MN to Jackson Hole in a day

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I'm leaving central MN Christmas day and driving through the night to Jackson Hole for my first ever BIG MOUNTAIN ski trip. I have a question on the routes however and was wondering if anyone familiar with the area or the journey would have friendly advice.

I'll be taking I-90 through South Dakota and into Wyoming. Once I reach Buffalo WY I have a choice.

1. Drive south on Hwy 16 to Riverton, and follow Hwy 26 up through Dubois to Moran Junction and down into Jackson.

OR

2. Take I-90 north through Sheridan and the Bighorn forest to Cody on Hwy 14, then navigate through Yellowstone NP and head south for Jackson.

Thanks in advace for the adivce/help!
post #2 of 28
No clue on how to get there from there. If Ullr cooperates, you will have a blast in JH.
post #3 of 28
Try search. But here's the quick intro.

First of all, you can not drive through the park in winter. Period. And many people find 14 a challenge even in summer. So option 2 is out. Likewise, 16 is no small item to drive. Check out the elevations of these passes - and by many people's standards these roads are tiny and go straight up.

It is clear from your post that you are not familiar (as many people are not) with the class of driving you are considering embarking on. Services can be few and far between in that part of WY. And we are not talking about 20 miles instead of 10 miles apart. If the weather goes bad on you, ground blizzards in those parts of WY can take visibility to zero. Also, IIRC (and if my info is not out of date) some of the roads you are considering are not plowed at night - so if your timing is off and it is snowing, enjoy the nearest town you can make your way to...

I'm not saying driving in this area is impossible. Or trying to scare you or anyone else away. Just that it is a different beast than what most people are used to. Sometimes hours between services. Variable and potentially dangerous weather. Imposing mountain driving (9K foot passes on dramatically switchbacked marginally 2 lane road), etc. I'd suggest you make sure you have a good winter driving safety kit (chains/cables) sleeping bags, water, shovel, maybe some sand, etc, etc) and if your goal is to get to Jackson rather than have a winter driving adventure, consider a default route on major roads (= mainly interstate) with the option of doing something like driving through Riverton and Dubois if the weather is expected to be good and you are comfortable with tiny remote mountain roads. Just be realistic...
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
I realized the drive would be..ahem, challenging. But tickets to the area at the time (christmas) are running 1k+ and I'm not willing to foot the bill. I'm a seasoned winter driver (MN) with a fully equipped Jeep that has a huge itch to ski JH.
On the Yellowstone park website they said *some of the roads would be closed, so it was already a second choice. However there are no major roads leading to Jackson. (Probably the reason it isn't as crowded as many other locals) so I'm left with what I mentioned above.

I appreciate the advice spindrift and will throw in a shovel and tow strap in addition to what I already carry in my vehicle.
post #5 of 28
Depending on weather and road conditions (and comfort with mountain driving in general), you may have to opt out of 16 through the Bighorns. Instead, you would drop down I-25 to Casper, then head west on 20/26 to Riverton. While this would cut out some mountain passes, it would not cut out wind and drifts and very lonely driving from Casper to Riverton.
post #6 of 28
If the goal really is to get to Jackson, consider flying nonstop into Idaho Falls renting a car & driving about 2 hours-ish to Jackson. Easily done within one day. I believe there are shuttles available as well. Alternatively you could do the same for SLC and drive about 5 hours or grab a bus/shuttle.

I know I sound down on driving through that area. I'm not. But winter driving there can border on unimaginable to people used to winter driving in the east and midwest. If the weather is good, you'll ask what was all the fuss about? And likely think I'm lame. If it is bad, you'll very possibly end up taking several days or just turn around without ever having seen Jackson.
post #7 of 28
I used to live in Jackson. Two pieces of advice...reread spindrift's postings...reread them again.

You may have blue skis and clear driving. You may have light snow and not much problem. You may have very heavy snow and slow driving--if you can even find the road. You may have high winds, big drifts, and the roads are closed...or not closed but should'a been. Be ready for anything...few services, lots of areas with no phone coverage, lots of very lonely miles at night. Wyoming's Basic Chain Law...use whatever equipment you need to stay on the road. If you slide off the road, you didn't use the equipment you needed, so you're in violation.
post #8 of 28
Are you going alone? If so, please, please, please take note of the earlier posts. Make sure you have chains and no how to put them on. They may be required at some point. Meaning you have no choice. You will be stopped and not allowed to proceed until you chain up. Also, take notice of the "no services for XXX miles". This means NOTHING. You can not get gas, find a phone, hit a biffy, NOTHING. This part of the country makes N. Wisc. or the UP look like metro areas.

As an option. Look for a hostel or super cheap motel and make it a two day trek. You really, really want to travel the passes in the daylight.

Other than all that. Have a great trip. Consider Grand Targhee.
post #9 of 28
Hi, triath...

I'm not going to minimize the cautions at all but I will tell you that I used to make the drive from Iowa (not too far from you) to Jackson Hole twice a year for years and years.

If the weather cooperates and you're a relatively good winter driver (chances are not bad in that department given that you're from MN), it can be done in a long day. We drove from Des Moines every year. It was about 1050 miles door to door and it usually took us about 17 hours.

Obviously, people drive those routes every single day all through the winter and not very many of them die in the process. The advantage you have now is that you can check web cams all along your route and weather forecasting is far better than it ever used to be.

If you don't know about the Wyoming DOT web cam site, here it is:

http://www.wyoroad.info/highway/webc...TetonPass.html

If you don't know about the best weather forecasting site on the internet, here it is:

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick...2=-110.764&e=0

Given that, I would still say that if the weather looks threatening at all, don't try it. South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming can be absolute hell in a blowing snowstorm. Even if you CAN keep it between the ditches, you'll be going about 20 miles an hour in an area where, as Spindrift says, services might be a hundred miles apart.

If you try it, make certain (not just sure, make certain) that you take all the winter survival stuff in your car. Water, food, sleeping bags, shovel, hats, gloves, goggles, flashlights, candles, a pan for melting snow, tow strap, flares, chains, etc.

If the weather cooperates, you'll be fine. If it doesn't, you'll wish very fervently that you were somewhere/anywhere else.
post #10 of 28
Rent one of these.

post #11 of 28
What about doing the drive in late march? Is that more do-able?
post #12 of 28
The way to go is to Gillette, to Casper(via 387 if the weather is good) to Shoshoni to Riverton to Dubois to Moran to Jackson. When I lived in Jackson I dated a schoolteacher in Casper for a couple of years. Around 280 miles of mostly total desalation. Fresh out of U of Wyoming I lived two memorable years in Gillette and drove to Jackson 4 or 5 times then I got a job and moved to Jackson.

If you haven't figured it out yet Cody thru YNP is not an option.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hvatum View Post
What about doing the drive in late march? Is that more do-able?
You can't predictably answer this. I've driving through WY in May and had lots of snow. And I've driven through WY in feb and there wasn't any snow.

-Brian
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
I ordered up some chains last night. I'll be making the drive with my wife, and will make sure to pack everything extra I can. I have a couple of options of places to stay if the roads don't look good. Right now I'm not sure if I should be praying for good weather (driving) or bad weather (skiing)...a definite catch 22. Thanks all for the advice. It sounds like one way or another this is going to be a memorable trip!
post #15 of 28
Good luck... They are not kidding about the possible nasty conditions. Also watch for wildlife, it's everywhere out here. Even on a clear day, the wind can pick up snow and reduce visibility to nothing very quickly. Watch for black ice. It forms as the wind moves snow across the road where it melts and flash freezes. It can be very hard to see this ice and the road may look clear. Not trying to scare you, just be very prepared. I would do it in a minute. You probably stand a better chance of getting here with all of your gear in a timely fashion than you do with the airlines. If you come in and out from Dubios over Togwatee pass you are a short detour away from Huckleberry/Polecat hotsprings.
post #16 of 28
I'm leaving on the 26th for Big Sky from Minneapolis. Did the same trip in a day last year in February. I'll tell you it's a far less treacherous route and the skiing at Big Sky/Bridger/Moonlight (even with the lame snow) last season was great!
post #17 of 28
PM me and if you make it alive I'd love do take some runs with you.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by tetonpwdrjunkie View Post
PM me and if you make it alive I'd love do take some runs with you.
What do you have against skiing with zombies?
post #19 of 28
Triathleteski - this drive (or ones similar to it) seem to come up routinely wrt to getting to Jackson. You should take some pics along the way. And whichever way the weather works out for you, do a TR of the drive...
post #20 of 28
I'm in Riverton Wy. please give a call if you need anything while in the area (PM sent). I'll be in Targhee during that period but can offer some advice & help if things go south for you.
Please drive careful, Wyoming's traffic stats are by far the worst in the nation.
post #21 of 28
Remember... In a state the has about 500,000 people in it there is a LOT of EMPTY space.
post #22 of 28
I did this trip as a senior in high school with three other friends and I remember leaving Minneapolis at about 9 am and driving through Montana because there was a snow storm through South Dakota at the time. I do remember sitting in the parking lot of some lonely gas station at 6 in the morning. We had to wait until 7 for it to open & we couldn't drive any further hoping to find another station somewhere down the road.

I love Jackson Hole - best ski trip of my life (and I've been on quite a few). Better than knee deep powder every day at the top & we cranked out more than 150,000 vertical feet in a week. Beauty.

Have a good time.
post #23 of 28
Today was a powder day. We have great coverage up high.
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deviations View Post
I We had to wait until 7 for it to open & we couldn't drive any further hoping to find another station somewhere down the road.
In my teen years of driving all night without planning a damn thing, my bacon was saved several times by pay-at-the-pump working at gas stations that were totally closed, all lights off, etc. Then in the west you get the places designed to run that way full time as well these days.

I just looked this drive up on the map. Only 338 miles of it aren't on Interstate. Read the other posts and indeed be certain you are prepared and willing to postpone/go earlier if the weather demands it, but this is WY, not Kazakhstan.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triathleteski View Post
I ordered up some chains last night. I'll be making the drive with my wife, and will make sure to pack everything extra I can. I have a couple of options of places to stay if the roads don't look good. Right now I'm not sure if I should be praying for good weather (driving) or bad weather (skiing)...a definite catch 22.
Well, to avoid the catch 22, you should pray for a high enough snow level to keep the roads clear, but one that's not too high to affect skiing ( that's usually not the case ), and then you'd choose the lowest elevation route, even if it may seem like it's out of the way.

Personally, I think you're NUTS. I've driven through WY and it's the definition of desolation (even more so than eastern Utah, LOL ) IMHO, you'd be better off taking I-80 to SLC ( I think the highest pass is like 8000 feet, but I'm probably not right about that ) and skiing in Utah. It'd be a safer trip, the roads are better ( but still you go through a lot of isolation ) and you'd most likely not notice the differences between jackson and snowbird unless you ski alot, or hit jackson on an exceptionally good day ( which is unlikely if you're driving ).

Quote:
Thanks all for the advice. It sounds like one way or another this is going to be a memorable trip!
Hmm, I hope it's a *good* memorable.
post #26 of 28
Bump... I think a solid photo TR, of both the drive and the skiing, is in order...
post #27 of 28
Thread Starter 
I'm recovering from the drive. Plan to post soon as pics are downloaded/uploaded from the camera.

It was good.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triathleteski View Post
I'm recovering from the drive. Plan to post soon as pics are downloaded/uploaded from the camera.

It was good.
^^ Oh man why come on here and tease us?? Come on man give us details!!!:
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