Winter Trip from CA to MT

So I figure this is the most appropriate spot to post this as it will eventually turn into a trip report. Headed out in the morning from Hanford, CA to head towards GFC and a Monday install appointment. Currently the plan is to take Tioga Pass through Yosemite and the Sierras and try to get to City of Rocks in ID before it gets too late.

My question is what should I be checking out taking into account it’s mid-November in the Northwest and I’ve never been to Idaho, Montana or Wyoming. Need to be in Belgrade Monday morning and back in San Diego before Thanksgiving but open to suggestion for everything in between.

1 Like

bring a heater. I went a month ago and had a massive storm following us south from Montana. There are some great dispersed camp spots off the last road out of Big Sky headed south towards Yellowstone. Had a bathroom, fire ring and everything. And it was free. Another great spot was just south of Yellowstone and just before Grand Teton. We camped right on the Snake River. Free dispersed camping and again had a toilet, picnic table and fire ring. From there we went farther south to Alpine, camping off a forest road just out of town. More primitive as there were no amenities but lots of spots on the river that were taken by hunters.

I would be surprised if any of it isn’t covered in snow at this time of year. They have been getting hit with storm after storm. If you want any specific spots hit me up and I can send you GPS coordinates I have saved in GAIA.

My Mr Buddy heater saved me. One night I went to sleep knowing snow was coming late but before I turned in it was clear and quiet. By midnight, it was howling 40mph + and snowing. Woke up to a couple inches. Key is to crack the side windows a few inches to help with condensation.

On the way home, we went through CO but I’m sure its all snowed in now. We did the Alpine Loop out of Silverton and ended up in Durango, then shot towards Moab and then ended up camping at Toquerville Falls in UT. The trip felt a bit rushed to stay ahead of the storm but we also had a lot of distance to cover too. We left Belgrade on Monday and took our time, 8 days to come home. Utah is pretty boring and youll have shorter days to contend with because of daylight savings.

oh, and the BEST THING IS GAS IS CHEAPER ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF CA! It was 2.50 in UT and cheaper in MT. Also, dont buy beer in UT. They max everything out at 4% and even their light beers are like 2.5%. Before entering UT make sure you stock up on the good stuff and there are some great beers in MT.

As long as they don’t make me drink a Montucky Cold Snack I’ll be good with some MT beer.

Good tip on the Mr. Buddy, the dog probably won’t be enough when it get’s windy. This will quite a change from being a hammock camper for years.

It would be cool if you could send me the gpx files,hopefully you can attach them to a DM.

1 Like

There’s a new law in Utah! It’s all the way up to 5% now :joy::joy::joy:

2 Likes

If you get into Bozeman or Belgrade the night before your install I would recommend Mountain Walking Brewery. Really good food and IPA for only $5. That’s happy hour price here in Cali.

Also if you want the brake light on your GFC to work before you get home you should bring your own wrench or socket. GFC will not do this for you. I asked them to borrow a 10 mm wrench and they said they did not have one. Really? So I drove down the street to O’Reilly Auto Parts and borrowed one from them.

Good luck on your trip. Have fun stay warm.

1 Like

I haven’t gotten around to this yet. Is this difficult? I saw the other thread here about blown fuses and it made this task go even lower on my to-do list!

OP, check to see if Tioga is open right before you leave/return. More scenic but probably slower than I80.

I just got back from my install. Camping is obviously an option, but hotels are CHEAP right now.

I’ve got my full toolbox with me, always bring it with me as I’d hate to have to burn the truck to the ground and report it stolen just because I don’t have an axle nut socket.

2 Likes

Tioga is open and from where I’m at only adds about 30 mins to the total trip time. When I went to Yosemite a few weeks ago I only went to Glacier Point so I’m excited to drive to through the valley.

Likely gonna get a hotel in Bozeman Sunday cause hot showers are cool and I like beer but cold beer in a cold campsite is less fun.

It’s pretty easy. I just posted a how-to in the Forum

Beginning of the trip in a Hilton parking lot in Hanford, CA

A big ol beast in Yosemite

Tunnel View in Yosemite

Tioga Pass




3 Likes

Looks like some good weather to start!
Yeah Kwood posted a nice write up for us 2nd gen people about the 3rd brake light install. I didn’t find it necessary to drill a hole to get it through the frame like some have mentioned, just slid it in the gap between the body and the brake light housing.
I haven’t had any issues with blown fuses yet. Maybe that’s a 3rd gen thing with them silly push start ignition buttons.
I initially tried to just stab the thing through the wiring cover but found it didn’t work well, so I stripped back a little bit of the covering to get better contact and it works fine

The weather has been great to me so far. So some sprinkles this morning going through City of Rocks but otherwise pretty awesome.

Woke up in a passable campsite in Sawtooth National Forest in NV


Was very to happy to find that the only gas station for 40 miles that I arrived at running on fumes only charged $3.21 which is less than I paid to start the day yesterday, hooray for Idaho.

City of Rocks National Reserve is worth the detour if you find yourself between I-80 and I-84.




The next stop was Hagerman, ID where I was checking out the Fossil Beds Visitor Center and noticed a blurb about the Owsley Bridge which crosses the Snake River. It rang a bell as there is a picture of the Bridge in my grandmother’s house as her maiden name is Owsley and the bridge replaced the ferry crossing her father and uncle ran in the beginning of the 1900s.


Next stop was Craters of the Moon which is an otherworldly spot, a volcanic flow in the middle of the high plains




I have found the less obvious drawback to a winter trip is the lack of daylight. Way too much of my driving through what is likely really amazing terrain is in the dark. Seeing every single star is cool but I’m sure I’m missing out on some amazing things driving past in the dark.

3 Likes

What’s going on with your rear doors? They looked smashed in at the same spot in all your pictures.

Check out the dog’s paw in the one photo.

Yep, that’s Belle’s handiwork. She’s a fan of getting as much of her body out the window as possible.

Spent the night in Lolo Pass at the spur of a closed FS road, again passable but nothing to come back to. Lolo Pass was interesting and the USFS dude gave me the advice to cross over from the West side of glacier to the east via US 2 and get the view of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Stopped at Glacier NP but the weather stopped cooperating between rain and fog there want much to see


About halfway through the pass the weather started to clear, even saw a rainbow at the continental divide.


And the weather was great in East Glacier Park

I headed south via 89 and 287 with amazing views of the Rockies to my West. I’d highly recommend this route to Glacier to anyone making the trip.

1 Like

Picked up the camper this morning, plenty of people have taken pictures of the shop so I skipped that, wired the 3rd brake light and headed towards the North entrance to Yellowstone NP, which is the only one open now. Found a convenient if muddy and icy Forest Road to get a solid first GFC picture.




Realized I’d hit the limits of my snow wheeling abilities and headed into the park

The campsite @RileySB recommended was both a bit too cold and was already occupied. So I used the MVUM to find another suitable spot closer to West Yellowstone. Currently in a cold but flat spot off a FS road about 15 minutes north of town.

4 Likes

Are you home yet? Be sure to take a look at the passes over the Sierra…

My trip North started with Tioga Pass so I got to experience a bit. Right now I’m in Utah and will kinda stay along 15 all the way home. The truck is due for some TLC after 6 weeks away from home.