Bear Lake Summit – Bad Roads for RVs

Bear Lake Summit – Bad Roads for RVs

Bear Lake Summit – Bad Roads for RVs is on U.S. Highway 89, seven miles west of Garden City, Utah. It is steep and should be avoided in the winter.

Of course, you could say that RVs should avoid traveling in the winter in the Rocky Mountains and I would agree. It goes double for steep roads in the winter.

The summit is at the location that Highway 89 crosses Forest Road 55. When eastbound, if you get to the Bear Lake Overlook, you have already started the descent. This is a very nice place to take some pictures of Bear Lake. It is very pretty.

In the summer, Highway 89 is merely a steep road but I think you should know what you are getting into before you go there. Really the road is very nice, wide, and has slow lanes for climbing, and overall the grade alone isn’t a good enough reason to not travel on Highway 89.

In the winter expect snow and ice. The road is maintained well but melting snow will run across the road and turn to ice nightly making for very hazardous driving.

Expect large vehicles to be traveling at very slow speeds relative to traffic or speed limits.

As for the Utah Department of Transportation, they have adopted twitter to get the most up-to-date road information to the public. They also have their own Apple and Android App. Tweets and App information is on this website. UDOT


Elevation: 7810 feet

Length: 9 miles – for the steepest section, near the top.

Terrain: 6-8% grades on the east side of the summit for seven miles. The steepest areas are not at the top, but warning signs including, truck speed limits of 20 miles-per-hour for the descent, and all trucks must stop to check brakes are at the summit. The west side of the pass is 7% for two miles and then between 3-4% for a long descent. Near the top, eastbound, there is a sign recommending low gears and a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

Lanes: On the east side most of the steepest areas have climbing lanes. At the overlook area, the descending eastbound traffic has an exit lane and an acceleration lane.

Turns: In the steep sections the turns are gentle especially, on the west side.

Turnouts: One turnout on the east side on at a scenic overlook. Right turn for eastbound downhill traffic.

Turnaround locations: Several on both sides of the summit.

Chain up areas: One on each side serves both east and westbound traffic

Restrictions: Bear Lake Summit will occasionally close in the winter for deep snow. The approach from the west side will nearly always be open to the Beaver Mountain Ski Area. Westbound closures will be in Garden City. More likely than being closed, snowplows will continuously operate clearing the snow both night and day, when required.

Runaway truck ramps: One runaway truck ramp on the east side, signs noted that it was a barrier style arresting device, which means that you have to intentionally run into some fences that are connected to cables that will eventually stop you as it tears your vehicle apart.

Bear Lake Summit, Our Experience

We did not travel over Bear Lake Summit in our RV but rather did so in a car on our way from Hyrum to Bear Lake. The weather was cold and windy but the road was much better than expected.

I would not hesitate to travel over Bear Lake Summit in our RV — in the summer. For us, it would be a normal travel day. Staying at Bear Lake in our RV would also be pleasant, just don’t expect lots of trees or calm winds.

Here is our link to our interactive map. Bad Roads for RVs

3 thoughts on “Bear Lake Summit – Bad Roads for RVs”

  1. We are traveling this road in the next couple of days, would you say to stay in second gear coming down or drop into 1st gear for the Descend?

    1. Tyler, we have a diesel so instead of using only using gearing we use the engine brake. Bear Lake Summit would not be a road that I would avoid (except in the winter).

      As for gearing, there are too many possible answers but you are on the right track. Downshifting is your friend.

      Do not ride the brakes!!! Target a sub 45-mile-per-hour speed and if the gear you are in allows for too high a speed apply your brakes firmly to reduce your speed and then downshift again to a lower gear. Then allow the engine to control your speed. We have been down some roads that require first gear but they are very rare.

      My bet is that third gear is going to be a winner but don’t hesitate to downshift.

      Again do not ride your brakes or pump your brakes. Firm application to reduce your speed and when at the desired speed downshift. (Likewise don’t downshift at too high a speed and over RPM your engine.)

    2. Well, we made it through Bear Lake Summit and continued on our trip to Casper Wyoming.

      The decline was not too bad really kept my workhorse in 2nd gear coming down and gradually used the brakes as necessary.

      A tip for anyone taking this road, especially in a gas motorhome is to keep it in 2nd gear until you hit the T intersection. It can be misleading looking as tho it has leveled off.

      We then continued on to Keystone South Dakota (Mount Rushmore) there are several passes between the two that can be tough.

      We had to pull over as we passed “the sisters” brakes were getting hot. Then continued on to Highway 16 and then Highway 244 right past Mount Rushmore.

      That is not for the faint of heart 8% grade for about 4 miles followed by 2 miles of 10% we used 1st gear coming down and the motorhome did the work.

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