Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado


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Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado

Open Roads to Consider Closed

Most of us are so accustomed to using our phones for driving directions that we often don't put much thought into the route suggested by our map apps. "It is ill advised to do this with an RV," says Jennifer Young, co-founder of the site Outdoorsy, a marketplace for recreational vehicles. "There are winding, narrow roads leading to and from highways that need extra precaution. There are many low-clearance bridges and tunnels, as well as roads that suddenly have weight limits with no warning." With avoiding an RV nightmare in mind, we asked RV and travel industry experts to identify some of the roads across America that you want to avoid driving in a recreational vehicle.

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Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
Joe Wiggins/istockphoto

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Glacier National Park, Montana
During 17 months of travel, Glacier National Park was one of the most memorable stops for Todd and Julie Bonner, creators of the RV and lifestyle site Trekkn.co. "You must visit this pristine national treasure — but don't do it with your RV along for the ride," Todd Bonner says. In particular, skip the park's Going-to-the-Sun road. "This anxiety-inducing road winds through the park, right up to its highest point at Logan Pass Visitor Center. It is exceedingly narrow at points, with rocky cliffs jutting out toward the road close enough to touch … RVs simply do not belong. Period," he says. Leave the RV back at the park or campground and use an alternate vehicle to enter the park. 

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89A From Flagstaff to Sedona, Arizona

89A From Flagstaff to Sedona

A road that's made its way into Kris Driessen's nightmares, 89A between Flagstaff and the desert destination of Sedona is another stretch best avoided by the RV set. "We knew its reputation and tried to avoid it, but got turned around because of construction," says Driessen, a quilt teacher and creator of the site Scrapdash who travels by RV. "We were fine for a while, heading straight down at a very steep angle. We just downshifted and tapped the brakes and tried very hard to avoid the sheer drop on the right-hand side. There were some areas with guardrails, but not many. Then the switchbacks started." The only way to proceed along the road at certain points is to drive in the lane for oncoming traffic and get back into your lane quickly for the switchback, Driessen recalls. How to avoid it? Driessen's only suggestion is to skip visiting Sedona in an RV.

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Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado

Million Dollar Highway

Between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado
A highway built in the late 1880s, Million Dollar Highway is part of the San Juan Skyway. It's often called one of the nation's most spectacular drives, providing many jaw-dropping vistas. But that doesn't mean you should attempt this road (which was cut from the side of a mountain) in an RV. "Even in a car, we were scared on this road," Driessen says. "The road is narrow, with no guardrails and few shoulders — no guardrails seems to be a theme out west." The 25-mile road includes climbs of three very high mountain passes, and certain stretches are prone to swift and severe changes in weather. Depending where your travels are taking you, an alternative might be U.S. Highway 550 out of Ouray and taking Dallas Divide, a scenic roadway.

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Moki Dugway, Utah

Moki Dugway

A road that Driessen says has more steep twists and turns than a roller coaster, Moki Dugway is on UT-261, just northwest of the popular tourist attraction Valley of the Gods. Even the Bluff, Utah, website doesn't mince words when describing this intimidating drive, calling it a "staggering, graded dirt switchback road carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa." The road is 3 miles of steep, unpaved switchbacks that wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor, providing breathtaking views of some of Utah's most beautiful sites. Some RV drivers do brave Moki Dugway — but very slowly, and in low gear. The state of Utah recommends only vehicles less than 28 feet long and 10,000 pounds try it; the alternatives are to approach this scenic area via the communities of Bluff or Blanding.

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James W. Dalton Highway

James W. Dalton Highway

If you want to drive James W. Dalton Highway, leave your RV parked and take your tow vehicle, says Diana Hansen, an RV expert who created the site Let's Camp S'more with husband Eric Hansen. Based on their quarter-century of crisscrossing the continent, they nominate as not for the faint of heart this 414-mile stretch of gravel and dirt from the Alaskan town of Livengood up to Prudhoe Bay. Along the way, Dalton Highway passes through some of Alaska's most remote wilderness, with only three small towns along the route. For most long stretches the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which runs parallel to the road, is the only human-made object in sight. "Make sure you are equipped with food, supplies, tools, and warm clothes," Hansen advises those who brave it.

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Old Fall River Road, Colorado

Old Fall River Road

When traveling through the popular Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, it's best not to take an RV up Old Fall River Road. "This 9-mile gravel road has a posted 15 mph speed limit because the road is narrow with no guardrails as it winds up 3,200 feet to an elevation of over 11,000 feet," Diana Hansen says. Opened in 1920, Old Fall River Road was the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park's high country. The road is one-way uphill and punctuated by switchbacks, and that speed limit makes the journey not for the impatient. The lack of guardrails makes it not for those with a fear of heights.

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State Route 1, California
Valeria Venezia/istockphoto

State Route 1

Driving California's scenic State Route 1 (also referred to as Highway 1) may seem like a dream, but it can be a nightmare for RV drivers. "This ride is over 700 miles of pure California coastal beauty, but is often out of the question for RV owners," says Sam Maizlech, an outdoors and travel expert for Glacier Wellness. In fact, for large stretches of the road, motorhomes and buses over 40 feet long are not even allowed. Along with many switchbacks come some very narrow lanes and practically no shoulders, adds Maizlech, who suggests instead taking your RV to some of California's national parks, perhaps starting in Las Vegas and heading to Death Valley via US 95, Nevada 373, California 127, and California 190. You might also visit Yosemite National Park by following the California State Route 190 to California State Route 136. 

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U.S. Highway 16A, South Dakota

U.S. Highway 16A

South Dakota
If you're traveling through South Dakota, stay on U.S. Highway 16, says Gianetta Palmer, a writer for  Car Insurance Comparison and former owner of a Class C Jayco motorhome. "It may be tempting to jump on U.S. Highway 16A to check out Mount Rushmore, but beware, this section of road has numerous tunnels your RV may not fit through," Palmer says. Trying to squeeze through some of the tunnels along 16A will not only be nerve-racking but could damage your RV.

The Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina
Joshua Moore/istockphoto

The Cherohala Skyway

North Carolina
 The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile scenic byway through some of the highest elevations in western North Carolina, offering sweeping mountain views. But it's better suited for a motorcycle or sweet sports car than 35-foot Class A motorhomes, says Palmer. The road is filled with winding and twisting segments, as well as steep climbs that can be difficult for an RV to make. Cherohala Skyway winds up and over 5,400-foot mountains for 18 miles in North Carolina and descends another 23 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee. A great alternative that's more suited for RVs is U.S. Route 19, which goes from Murphy to Cherokee. "It runs through Nantahala National Forest along the Nantahala River and ends up on the Cherokee Indian Reservation," Palmer says.

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Highway 17, Beaufort County, South Carolina
Calvin P./Yelp

Highway 17

Beaufort County, South Carolina
Highway 17 is often described as beautiful yet scary — the road rises up and down like being on an amusement park roller coaster, which makes it difficult to maintain control of a vehicle. What's more, its lanes are narrow and punctuated by blind curves, experts at RVshare say. And did we mention the roaming animals? There are no great alternatives to the road as a whole, so getting to destinations in this part of the Palmetto State will require mapping a less efficient path on shorter but calmer roads.

Highway 2, Montana
Andrea Cozart-Lundin/istockphoto

Highway 2

Running from Butte to Three Forks, State Highway 2 is described as one of the most dangerous in the state. Its reputation is tied in large part to being a sparsely populated road through vast plains where drivers can take the relative isolation as a cue to drive at triple digits — contributing to a high fatality rate. At the very least it will cause some nervousness among RVs driving at a more reasonable pace. "With wild winds, mountains and crazy drivers, you could be stranded on this remote highway for a long, long time," say the experts at RVshare. "Imagine traveling in your rig while drivers swerve around you at speeds of over 100 miles an hour." Avoiding Highway 2 is easy, since few people absolutely need to get from Butte to Three Forks. U.S. Highway 12 and 287 is the safer west-east travel option, just about 45 minutes away.

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Interstate 10, Arizona

Interstate 10

One last route that's best avoided: Arizona's Interstate 10 from Phoenix to the California border, which is certainly scenic but passes through the middle of an intensely hot desert and is very remote, neither of which is ideal. "If you do travel this road, be sure to carry lots of extra food, water, and spare tires. If you can avoid this route in the summer, do it. Dying in the desert makes for one scary road trip," RVshare experts say.

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