Know Where NOT to Drive Your Big Rig RV
Blind curves, steep grades, hairpin turns, and slippery when wet. These are the words many travelers driving or towing bigger rigs want to avoid seeing in front of their windshield. Having RV-safe GPS directions is essential when you have a big Class A coach or spacious fifth wheel in tow.
The Top 10 Dangerous Routes for RV Driving
Below we list some of the most dangerous routes for larger RVs or anyone towing a longer trailer. Not only are these routes dangerous for these rigs, but they are usually not recommended for travel for these type of vehicles or any vehicle during adverse conditions.
1. Teton Pass Highway, Wyoming
Running from Swan Valley, Idaho to Jackson, Wyoming, Highway 22, or the Teton Pass Highway, is a stunning way to get over the pass next to the famous Teton Range. However, this two-lane road is steep and twists over the pass and can be dangerous for larger rigs in less than perfect conditions. Even during nice weather you have to be cautious. The local moose population likes to cross this road during their travels. Ask me how I know this.
2. Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, California
There are several beautiful routes that snake over the Sierra Nevada Range in California. While many travelers are familiar with State Route 120 into Yosemite or Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe, not too many people know about Ebbetts Pass, or Highway 4.
There’s a good reason for this. This two-lane road offers stunning views and a lot less people, but also contains several steep hairpin curves. Any larger rigs or trailers could be in a world of hurt on this road.
3. Las Vegas Strip, Nevada
From neon lights and rollercoasters to the Bellagio Fountain display, there are numerous attractions on the Las Vegas Strip. However, no matter how tempting it might be, don’t drive down the Strip in a larger RV or while towing a long trailer—especially after dark.
While not exactly dangerous, the Strip can be extremely frustrating for any driver. Even Las Vegas shuttle and bus drivers avoid this section of Las Vegas Boulevard. The number of cars, pedestrians who don’t stay on the sidewalk, and numerous traffic lights make this area of the city a major spot to avoid in your rig.
4. Million Dollar Highway/U.S. Route 550, Colorado
This white-knuckle drive from from the mountain towns of Silverton, Colorado to Ouray is scary for many drivers. It’s doubly treacherous for big rig drivers. Stretching over 25 miles, U.S. Route 550 twists and turns up to 11,000 feet.
The elevation also makes this area prone to unpredictable weather and the road’s three passes can receive snow even in the summer. The lack of guardrails and the possibility for rockslides make this route extra dangerous.
5. Tail of the Dragon, Tennessee
Just the name of this route on U.S. Route 129 in Tennessee is enough to make anyone excited or extra cautious. If you are in a big rig or towing a trailer, you will want to stay clear.
In fact, there are signs along this route that restricts vehicles longer than 30 feet in length. This route has over 300 curves in only 11 miles and the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. That doesn’t stop many motorcyclists from flocking to it—another reason to avoid driving it in an RV.
6. Sonora Pass, California
California’s Sierra Nevada Range makes the list again with its nerve-racking Sonora Pass/Highway 108 from Highway 395 to the small town of Sonora in the Sierra foothills. With a 26 percent grade and steep curves, any vehicles over 25 feet and trailers are not recommended.
Numerous signs at the beginning of the route will enumerate it. There are a few campgrounds at the beginning of the pass where you can unhook or park before attempting the route in a smaller vehicle.
7. Highway 249, Texas (or any toll road)
This small stretch of highway heading into Houston is not dangerous to you or your vehicle, but it can be dangerous to your wallet. The highway is known to have one of the most expensive tolls in the country at over $1 per mile for just passenger vehicles.
Any toll route can be expensive or annoying for a larger, multi-axle rig, so the best thing to do is to use RV LIFE Trip Wizard and set the “avoid toll roads” for any planned trips in a toll-heavy area.
8. Highway 70, Kansas/Colorado
Most routes that are dangerous for big rigs tend to go over mountains. This route is about as flat as can be, but in certain weather can be dangerous for high profile vehicles. Stretching between Denver and Kansas, this route can get sustained winds up to 70 or 80 miles per hour. These winds can blow dust, knock over power lines, and tip over taller, lighter trucks and trailers.
9. Needles Highway, South Dakota
The Needles Highway is only 14 miles long, but RVs of any length are discouraged to even attempt it. However, if you have a smaller vehicle and are not towing, go for it! This beautiful drive within Custer State Park has narrow, windy roads and even narrower tunnels or “needles”. A 25 mile per hour speed is encouraged for any vehicle and the route does shut down in the winter.
10. State Route 190, California
Along with ice and snow, high heat can also be dangerous for a larger rig. Death Valley was recently recorded as having the highest heat on record at a whopping 134.1 degrees F. Granted, this was in the middle of summer. So as long as you avoid State Route 190 through the valley from May through September, the rest of the year is a great time to take any RV to the lowest elevation in the nation.
Get RV-safe directions
If you need to avoid these routes, there is usually an easier alternative nearby. For example, for Ebbetts Pass below, there are several routes such as Highway 50 that will get you to the same area of the state without the scary mountain twists and turns. These alternates can easily be found by planning your route with RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App.
It is a shame that many of these routes are actually some of the most beautiful in the country. So if you have a smaller toad or your tow vehicle can handle the road, unhook, park your bigger rig, and enjoy the spectacular scenery offered by these exhilarating routes.
Christina is a writer and designer who has written about camping, tiny houses, and alternative living since 2008. She recently traded in her teardrop trailer for a 13-foot fiberglass trailer from 1982.