Author Topic: Weather concerns for fall cross country?  (Read 2569 times)

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Offline mcarmack

Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« on: August 26, 2016, 10:55:42 am »
I want to start across the country, east to west, in September. I will be self-supported, and camping some, hopefully minimizing costs by doing so. My route will be DC -> Chicago -> Denver -> SLC -> SF, so I will be piecing together different routes to make it. If you have done these areas during the fall, please let me know what type of weather/wind you encountered. What would be considered the ideal time of year for this route?
Any advice on this route would be very helpful!

Offline CMajernik

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2016, 11:27:15 am »
Here are several things to think about when traveling in the fall. Many campgrounds close after Labor Day so if you are depending on a campground call ahead to make sure they are open. Also, the days get shorter as fall progresses so you will have less daylight and more time in your tent.

The passes in Colorado are high, though almost all the highways remain open all year around. But the later you're traveling the more likely you will encounter a snow storm which might close a pass for a day or two. Check the weather reports often and be prepared to stay in motels if need be.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline jamawani

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2016, 01:10:20 pm »
Mary -

My first cross-country trip was in the fall of 1987 - and I have done many more since then.
You don't mention a few important points:
1. When in the fall - and at what pace?
2. How much touring experience do you have?
3. How often do you plan to stay in motels - which may become more necessary towards the end?

There are excellent monthly temp/precip maps from Prism:

If you look at October highs and lows, you will see that the West cools much faster than the East.
For that and other reasons, I suggest a West to East routing.
I live in Wyoming and we have already had our first high country snows.
September is lovely, but variable, October can have full-scale blizzards.

Although summer winds tent to be only slightly favorable to eastbound riders, falls winds trend more northwesterly.
That means if you ride west, you will encounter more headwinds. Days of headwinds can be demoralizing.

If you do want to ride E-W, I would suggest heading southwest from Chicago - perhaps via Bike Route 66.
Northern New Mexico and Arizona will be more temperate - and you would end in L.A.

W-E you could do your route in the opposite direction - Starting with the Western Express.
The Western Express is stunning, but a tough ride for an inexperienced rider.

Another, easier, option for a W-E ride is starting in Oregon and riding diagonally.
I might suggest the Lewis & Clark to Missoula, Trans-Am into Wyoming -
Then across Nebraska and Iowa to Chicago.


For any of these rides, I would start as early in September as possible - and it is late August now.
It will probably take, at least, 70 days - putting you on the west coast in early/mid November.
And remember - the days get shorter pretty fast. By November you don't have much riding time.

If you are heading out of DC to get to the west coast - i.e. as transportation -
I would suggest the C&O Trail and ACA to Pittsburgh -
Then you can take the Old Lincoln Highway across Ohio and Indiana.
Unless you need to go into the city, I would take rail trails from Hobart to Joliet.
Then you can ride Bike Route 66 all the way to Barstow California.
If you want to ride up to the Bay Area - I would do Walker Pass on Hwy 178, not Tehachapi.
Then you can ride up the Central Valley either in the Sierra Foothills, the Valley, or the Coast.


  • Guest
Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2016, 01:46:48 pm »
Here is a neat site that shows, among other things, sunrise and sunset times:

BTW...I think Jamawani meant the C&O and GAP trail, not ACA.

Offline jamawani

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2016, 01:51:48 pm »
Yikes - I must be showing my age -
"Allegheny Crossing" goes to GAP on Google -
But it is probably a term from 25 years ago.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2016, 02:47:36 pm »
I live about 350 miles west of Chicago.  On the route between Chicago and Denver.  If you start on the east coast in September, you will get to the Midwest in October.  The Midwest can be wonderful in the fall.  Sunshine, breezes, pleasant temperatures.  It can also, and frequently, be cool to cold and very windy and rainy.  The climate is very variable in the fall in the Midwest.  Winds out of the west and north are almost guaranteed.  In the fall my friends and I use the riding technique of getting up early in the morning, looking out the windows to see what the weather is doing that morning, rain, snow, wind, cold, then deciding to ride or go back to bed.  If you could plan your rides for afternoon every day it would be much better.  From about 1 to 4 every afternoon its usually good riding weather.  Last year Halloween was 60 degrees.  Other years the kids needed a winter coat and mittens and stocking hat.  By starting so late in the year, you are almost guaranteeing a wide variety of weather.  From great to awful.  Great meaning 60 degrees.  60 degrees is fine for riding, but its not really warm.  You might want to wear long sleeves and maybe tights too.  Awful is rain and maybe 30 to 40 degrees and headwind.

Offline wandering1

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2016, 08:48:33 am »
We are in the midst of climate change so it becomes difficult to forecast weather. I took the Southern Tier starting in San Diego in October 2014 but was forced to abandon the route and head down to the Gulf as it was so cold. So, don't depend on "typical" weather patterns. I think it's a bit of a cap shoot but let's hope you get a warming trend but perhaps have a back up plan should it turn cold. Mexico?

Offline mcarmack

Re: Weather concerns for fall cross country?
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2016, 09:00:13 am »
Thanks to all for your responses! Very informative and helpful in deciding when to do my tour. Probably will shoot for a littler earlier in the season than September.