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RV Trip Wizard - Elevation & Gradient
Not being a very good planner, I have embarked are trying to find tools to help. This post will let me showcase a new tool I found,, and ask opinions of those more experienced in mountain passages. Hopefully, you can see some of the features of this tool from the pictures. It is only browser based and comes with a steep yearly subscription, but very helpful and even is integrated with

We are trying to plan a trip from Spearfish, SD to Pagosa Springs, CO. Since I have never driven in the mountains, I am trying to research best routes. Another good, free, and simple resource I found is I found 2 general routes coming from the north and posted in pictures below and attached.

Notice the bar below the map. This shows the elevation changes during the route as well as gradient (steepness). The top route has shorter 2-lane roads with a steep 7% grade, and the bottom route is longer on 2-lane road with milder gradient, but high altitudes. Any suggestions from someone with more experience about best route? I may not have a choice, because currently Hwy 160 is closed from fires, but maybe in 2 weeks they will have those under control.

I tried inserting the pictures in this post, but gave me an error "The message is too long. Please enter a message shorter than 65535 characters (currently 3675124)."

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Mike & Jeannie Ginn
2000 Newell #555
2013 Chevy Avalanche
We always took US 85 south from Spearfish to I-25 just north of Cheyenne. First part is Hwy 14 through Spearfish Canyon. Kind of slow going & winding but beautiful drive. US 85 is mostly 2 lane but good road & no bad grades. Watch for deer & antelope if driving at night. I would take 2nd route across to Pagosa Springs. Be sure to gear way down at top of grades before starting down. Use jake brakes to save on service breaks for a "have to" stop. Keep a close eye on temp going uphill & downshift accordingly.
@ccjohnson , Thanks for the input. I am glad you commented on US 85. The tool recommended US 85, and I looked at segments on Google maps, and it looked like the road could be rough from the pictures. The idea of 250 miles on 2 lane roads, kind of scared me off. I may reconsider...

Your recommendation of 2nd route to Pagosa. Just want to confirm that would be Hwy 160 from Walsenburg to Pagosa?

Concerning temp, On my way to Spearfish, I noticed a variance from 195 to 205 degrees. I was amazed that when I started down a grade with jake on how the temp would drop. At what point should I be concerned and maybe pull over to cool off?

Mike & Jeannie Ginn
2000 Newell #555
2013 Chevy Avalanche
on my series 60, the two speed hydraulic fan kicks into high speed (sounds like a jet turbine) at 205 degrees, then it will usually quite quickly move down to the low 190's or less.

i have done some pretty spectacular grades with mine and never overheated. the ddec will protect itself. so 205 is not high at all.

the challenge on the forum is what size of grades are we talking about. i live where to get out of az you have to climb to sometimes well over 7000 feet. many folks in the east think a tough grade is climbing from sea level to 800 feet....ha


2002 45'8" Newell Coach 608  Series 60 DDEC4/Allison World 6 Speed HD4000MH

Both options to get to Pagosa Springs from the north go over Wolf Creek Pass at over 11,000 ft. Will the diesel be starving for air up that high regardless of grade?
Mike & Jeannie Ginn
2000 Newell #555
2013 Chevy Avalanche
We have an 8V92 2 stroke engine. I start to get nervous at 205 and will pull off road to cool down at 208 even if it's only a hundred yards to the summit. Have had to do that a couple of times going over Needles Pass in summer with ambient temp at +/- 120. Our fan is direct drive off engine. Yours is hydraulic driven and as Tom said should function a bit better on the grades. Also, the series 60 engines tolerate a bit more heat than the 8V92's. Trucks use these routes all the time so you should be ok in a coach. The key thing to remember is that you need to take your time and not get in a hurry. Use low enough gear going up to keep from lugging engine with to low rpms. Low enough gear going down so that jake brake provides sufficient hold back to keep from having to use your services brakes very much.

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