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View Full Version : Best VFR route to fly over the Rockies


sgfreeman
09-30-2009, 08:56 AM
I am planning my first long distance trip to visit family from southwestern Virginia to Provo Utah. The trip is planned for early November depending on weather. I would like to take a southern route due to the time of year. I am looking for some sage advice about the safest route to either cross or skirt the Rockies. I don't have a problem with entering from southern Utah and then flying north to Provo. Suggestions?

rv620mr
09-30-2009, 09:31 AM
. . . as in interstate highways. I fly into Provo, and then on to Las Vegas, on a regular basis. IMHO, the southern route will not have substantially better weather than picking up I-80 at Cheyenne, following it to the Utah border, following the low terrain to Heber City, and then shooting through Provo Canyon.

The southern route, like the one just described, will put mountains off one wing for several hundred miles. But, you'll be following I-15 instead of I-80. :D The latitude won't make that much difference. The weather pattern you happen to get during your trip will make more difference.

If you depart Provo, intending to reverse the I-80 route, heading east, then be sure to climb to altitude before entering Provo Canyon. Just fly south of PVU for a few miles and start circling up. There's no place to land in Provo Canyon!

Bubblehead
09-30-2009, 12:40 PM
I've flown Fort Worth to Roswell NM to Farmington, NM and Pueblo. CO to Farmington before. Either way you should be able to get to Provo just fine from Farmington. Expensive gas in Farmington but nice people and a loaner car to go into town for lunch.

Lots of wide open spaces. I used flight following almost all the time and carried water and snack bars and a KX-99 just in case.

Vern
09-30-2009, 12:55 PM
Just remember, it you stray far from major highways and go down, you may never be found alive!

Ironflight
09-30-2009, 12:56 PM
We're hopefully headed to the Oregon Coast in the RV-6 on Saturday, and after looking at a number of options, I think that if the weather allows, we'll probably run up the front range from Houston, then take I-80 across. It adds about 100 miles to the straight-line distance, but the fuel stops look a little better, and it will get us out of this dang southern heat quicker. Since we'll be at Gross (travellign for about ten days), I don't want to DEPEND on getting maximum altitude capability!

Paul

dmaib
09-30-2009, 02:15 PM
We did this about six years ago in the old Bonanza with Seattle as the destination. Headed NW out of Ft Collins and picked up I-90 in Gillette, as I recall. I-90 all of the way to Seattle. I seem to recall that the highest pass was about 6500 ft. Beautiful trip. Good route if the NW coast is your destination.

L.Adamson
09-30-2009, 10:53 PM
Just remember, it you stray far from major highways and go down, you may never be found alive!

True. And most of our airline pilot friends (who also fly RVs), won't think of rougher mountainous areas in a single engine, thanks to getting very use to high altitudes and engine redundancy.

However, since I can see the mountains above Provo from my back door.......... a lot of us pilots around here tend to fly across mountains that are not exactly close to a major highway. There are usually dirt roads, that criss-cross these areas, and meadows, but smoothness is far from guaranteed if you have to land on one. Most of us have taken numerous mountain flying courses. There are tricks when flying up canyons in rising terrain, to give your self an out. Also, a lot of mountain ranges "peak out". As you climb towards the peak on one side, you have the option of turning and gliding downhill, should an engine problem arise.## (see below) Once over the peak, the other side is downhill. And of course, there are areas where you just have to trust the engine..........about the same as flying over a heavy populated city.

For those who are not familiar with the Rockies, I'd follow the major highways also. Most RV's have plenty of power to stay well above the freeways from the Wyoming direction, as well as the southern Utah route.

If coming from the southern route, you would probably feel easier about coming up from the St. George direction, and following the freeway. It's much flatter along the freeway, than a route such as Moab (Canyonlands), Price, and then Spanish Fork canyon. For some reason, I just don't like Spanish Fork Cyn. as a potential landing spot.

## make sure you have enough excess altitude to make the turn.

L.Adamson --- RV6A (And we carry SPOT)

glenn654
09-30-2009, 11:01 PM
Scott,
If you happen to be an AOPA member, they have in their education section on their site about mountain flying numerous routes across the Rockies. It is well worth a look.

Glenn Wilkinson

rvmills
10-01-2009, 02:24 AM
One thing to consider as you plan a trip towards the front range is mountain wave activity and the associated turbulence on the lee side of the front range (especially as we move into the time of the year when the jetstream migrates south and gets lower). If the winds are high above the mountains, it can get really rough east of the mountains. Just flew a trip into Denver tonight, and the winds were >100 kts in the flight levels, and over 50 kts in the descent...even down low where we cruise in our RVs. It was rough as a cob from FL230 right to the deck. Strong moderate turbulence in the 737, and it would have been severe in the RV (would not have wanted to be there in an RV!) We get turbulence plots that show mountainwave areas, and the worst spots are typically from CO Springs to north of Denver, and another area from S of Pueblo (around Cimmaron) to COS.

For Scott, the great circle route from VA to Provo, should get you north towards Cheyenne anyway, so the north route along I-80 might work out better. Just be sure to ask the Wx briefer about airmets and sigmets for turbulence, and ask how far north mountain wave activity extends, so you can determine if Cheyenne is far enough north to steer clear (it often seems to be).

For Paul, these present conditions seem to be moving east pretty fast...I think they are from the same system that caused 40+ kt gusts in Reno yesterday. But if they persist in the Rockies, either a southern route (like towards Farmington) or a northern route that stays well east of Denver might be good choices (and I'm sure your looking at it already!)

For the Pagosa trip, I tried out a route that stayed east of the Nellis ranges, and south of the Fallon ranges (Saint George-SGU to Wilson Creek-ILC to Mina-MVA to Reno. That has the added benefit of stayin clear of the Vegas Class B, and keeps you well east of most of the Sierra (where it's also starting to get bumpy). Either way has it's terrain advantages and disadvantages, but thought I'd mention the ride I experienced east of the front range as a heads-up for something to consider.

Hope you both have great trips...should be great adventures! :)

Cheers,
Bob

L.Adamson
10-01-2009, 08:21 AM
I am planning my first long distance trip to visit family from southwestern Virginia to Provo Utah. The trip is planned for early November depending on weather. I would like to take a southern route due to the time of year. I am looking for some sage advice about the safest route to either cross or skirt the Rockies. I don't have a problem with entering from southern Utah and then flying north to Provo. Suggestions?

Just wanted to mention.....

As long as the weather is cooperating, November is one of the best months of the year to fly around here. Mornings and afternoons are both usually smooth flights; where in the summer we tend to get turbulence nearly every afternoon.

L.Adamson --- RV6A

tom paul
04-28-2021, 01:54 PM
This is an old thread but full of wisdom. I wonder if there are new thoughts about crossing the rockies in an RV. I am the excited purchaser of a gorgeous RV7A with an IO360 and CS Prop. I plan to pick her up in the northern Cali Bay Area and fly her home to NYC, with stops up in Bend, OR and Boulder, CO to see people.
I will check the AOPA info that someone mentioned, but any new thoughts are welcome!

Fred.Stucklen
04-28-2021, 02:20 PM
I helped a new RV-7A owner, whom was a glider pilot, ferry it from Sacramento to the East coast. Not knowing the plane, we decided to keep the legs only three hours long (fuel gages un-calibrated), and follow US 80 over the Rockies...

This is an old thread but full of wisdom. I wonder if there are new thoughts about crossing the rockies in an RV. I am the excited purchaser of a gorgeous RV7A with an IO360 and CS Prop. I plan to pick her up in the northern Cali Bay Area and fly her home to NYC, with stops up in Bend, OR and Boulder, CO to see people.
I will check the AOPA info that someone mentioned, but any new thoughts are welcome!

FlyingBanker
04-28-2021, 02:31 PM
This is an old thread but full of wisdom. I wonder if there are new thoughts about crossing the rockies in an RV. I am the excited purchaser of a gorgeous RV7A with an IO360 and CS Prop. I plan to pick her up in the northern Cali Bay Area and fly her home to NYC, with stops up in Bend, OR and Boulder, CO to see people.
I will check the AOPA info that someone mentioned, but any new thoughts are welcome!
We flew my newly purchased 6A from Livermore, CA to central Georgia a couple of years ago. We did 3hr max legs, 2 legs per day (we were in winter so not wanting any night flights). We went southern route, down to LA basin, across southern AZ and NM to El Paso, TX for first night stop. Remainder of trip was fairly low terrain, so no further restrictions.

krwalsh
04-28-2021, 03:11 PM
I flew from the Bay Area to the Chicago Area and back a week or so ago. I took the route that basically follows I-80 both times. On the way back I got snagged by cloud decks twice, but it was easy to divert to alternate airfields.

The worst part really is the stretch from Reno to Cheyenne. If you have to cross it anything other than early in the morning the air can get very turbulent either from wind or from thermals. I ended up stopping in Ogden, UT and Fallon, NV on the way back because I was just being abused by chop for a couple of hours.

reak
04-28-2021, 04:23 PM
I live in Colorado and the mountains can be crossed relatively safely BUT donít do it until youíve had some training. As others have suggested, follow Interstate 80 and you will be fine. There is a reason the first transcontinental railroad followed what is now I80, those old guys choose that route for the same reasons you should. It can be windy and rough and the usual rules apply, donít challenge the weather and donít hit nothing. KLAR (~7300 feet) is probably the highest runway on the route but itís a good stopping point.

Steve
04-29-2021, 09:17 AM
This is an old thread but full of wisdom. I wonder if there are new thoughts about crossing the rockies in an RV. I am the excited purchaser of a gorgeous RV7A with an IO360 and CS Prop. I plan to pick her up in the northern Cali Bay Area and fly her home to NYC, with stops up in Bend, OR and Boulder, CO to see people.
I will check the AOPA info that someone mentioned, but any new thoughts are welcome!

Head east from Bend to pick up I-84. Follow that to Echo Junction UT, east of Ogden, to pick up I-80. Take 80 to Laramie WY than take the shortcut over US 287 to Boulder CO. You'll be up at 9500 or higher much of the route. After Boulder, head northeast-ish to I-80 then slog over to the east coast.
Fly early in the day while in the mountains.
Whereabouts in Brooklyn are you? I grew up in the Sunset Park area.

mbauer
07-11-2021, 06:26 PM
Flew Idaho to Mt Rushmore in record high temps with 40kt tailwind. 12,500 ft was still 60degree F.
13533

Climbed over all the ranges in my way.

On the way back a week later climbed over the Bridger Wilderness Area near Casper, WY. A little bumpy both ways. Headwind slowed me down to better enjoy the view I guess.
13534

On my return flew a straight line from Valentine, NB to Pocatello, ID. Windy Mountains were in the way. Gave them a 3,000 ft buffer, Afton, WY was just to the South of my flight path. Really liked the high altitude lakes going over this range. Most were still frozen with ice on them. Awesome photos taken.

Not as bumpy as it was below 9,500ft msl, over flat ground, on the really hot days that I was flying in.

I do understand Williwaw in Alaska. When I do my Denali flights, do pay attention to leeward side.

Iniskin Bay taught me about Williwaws. Cold air dropping like a rock to waters below off of Glaciers above. Not something you want to experience!!!

If you fly down in the passes that's where you get the mountain wave. Learned years ago better to go over the top. Why not use the capability of our RV's? Have an issue: you have more time to sort it out. When flying down the valley's you're committed to what that valley has to offer, high enough the valley over might have some roads, or logging trails.

As far as wilderness goes, in the lower 48, plenty of places to land if troubles, not so some of the places I fly here in Alaska and down the British Columbia Coastal Mountains. Idaho Primitive area has a few well placed spots if needed in an emergency.
13535

13536

Lots of farm roads after Yellowstone, plenty of main roads in Yellowstone that can be reached from 12,500.

The lands in this photo did cause me to fly a little south of planned route, they for sure don't have many available landing spots. There are roads you can see, probably put a RV on it's top. In the zoomed photo, you can see several gravel roads.
13538

13539

13540

On my trip was thinking, don't want any trouble, but look at all the places to land. Used to fly Hueys, as such always looking where to land in case of trouble.

I've never smoked, carry an oxygen finger monitor, and I do have oxygen available. When going to flight school for the Hueys, altitude chamber was part of course. I was one of the last that had to put my mask back on at 25,000', 6minutes 33seconds. One of my friends did 6:45.

On this flight, could go to 14,500ft before my O2 was at 91%. At 16,500 was down to 86%, added some oxygen at that point. Currently live at 89' above sea level, so had to watch my oxygen when going up high.

Mike

mbauer
07-21-2021, 11:53 PM
A great book on mountain flying is one by Sparky Imeson.

Mountain Flying has some great tips of what to look for. Published by Airguide Publications, INC. copyright 1975


Mentions the mountain wave, has illustrations that show what it is. Great tips on how to fly in the mountains. Recommends a minimum of 2000ft above when crossing ridges, I like 3000ft.

Great discussion on how best to test the air as you head towards a ridge. He suggests a 45 degree angle so that if you encounter turbulence you only have to turn a short way to get out, not 180 degrees.

The one thing makes more sense," No such thing as MVFR in the mountains, either IFR or VFR only".

Lots of dos and don'ts. He does not like flying down canyons. Suggests how to find updrafts to help clear ridges etc.. Lots of simple explanations on density altitude and how it effects aircraft performance.

Great book if you can find it, and plan to fly in the mountains. My son found a copy at a used book store and gave it to me the other day. First time I've read it and impressed with his writing style and what to do and how to fly mountains.

Best regards,
Mike Bauer

Robb
10-18-2021, 01:55 PM
He died in 2009 while flying low into trees. Sad