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San Francisco to Reno Drive


Hey Fellow Road Geeks!

I plan on being in California in late October to early November and plan on taking a day or night trip to Reno.  How is Interstate 80 around the Donner Summit in November? Will I need chains or will I be okay if I rent an SUV with 4X4? Will it even be snowing that time of year?

I-80 is fine.  the whole point of it is that they keep it open as often as possible.  You may have to spend the night in Reno, but you should have no trouble crossing the Sierras on I-80, ever.

Good, I have read some horror stories about needing chains.  But that puts my mind at ease.  I know they are doing some rehab on 80, I heard the pavement is a nightmare.

You should be okay with 4WD in October/November, cause major snowstorms don't generally pass through there until December or later.  Generally, the "Chains required" advisory means "Chains or vehicles with 4WD"; "Chains Mandatory" will mean they actually want the chains on your tires (if that's in effect, you probably don't want to be driving anyway).  CalTrans will keep the pass open as much as possible, but it will close if there is a heavy downpour--you may want to check conditions first if the weather seems iffy.

I was just through Donner Summit last weekend.  Pavement around the actual summit is *really* bad--I think it might actually be original concrete from initial interstate construction.  There is road reconstruction going on in a couple of areas to put in new concrete, including an area just east of Donner Summit and another area near the Nevada line; lanes are *very* narrow through the construction zones.  I'm not sure when these projects are supposed to wrap up.

you should be okay with 2WD in October/November, and December!  the key is to not try to cross when the snow is actively falling and hasn't been cleared - when it stops falling, they'll plow the road quickly, and re-open it.  As I mentioned, you may be delayed for a day, but this is I-80, the backbone of the interstate system - it is a priority to keep it open.  I've driven that road in December in a shitty rental car with absolutely no difficulties.  Even the rest areas are plowed vehemently!

and yes, a lot of the concrete between Colfax and the summit is original from 1958. 


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