Snowbirds migrate from the northern reaches of the continent to the Sun Belt when the weather starts to get cold and snowy just like millions of actual birds that migrate back and forth every year. And just like the flocks of birds that follow familiar routes, RV snowbirds tend to make this journey on a few well-traveled arterials.
The two major routes connecting these two seasonal zones are the two interstate highways near the west and east coastlines. That would be I-5 in the west and I-95 in the east.
Although there are several north-south interstate routes in the interior of the continent, these two main routes carry the bulk of RV snowbirds simply because the coastal regions of the continent are the most densely populated areas; therefore, there are more RVers in the coastal states and more RV snowbirds.
Interstate 5 is the best RV driving route if you are on the West Coast of the U.S. or Western Canada. It is a well-maintained, RV-friendly route that stretches from Vancouver, British Columbia to the Mexico border.
The highest elevation along this route is the Siskiyou Summit in Southern Oregon just north of the California border. Siskiyou Summit is 4,310 feet above sea level with numerous steep grades on both sides of the summit.
If you intend to travel on I-5 from late fall to early spring, be sure to check the weather conditions in the Siskiyou Pass before you try to climb that mountain range with your RV and discover it is covered in snow, and chains are required.
The steep grade in the mountains is not the only challenge on this snowbird route. Large sections of I-5 go through state and national forests and wildlife abounds along this route. Daytime driving and extra caution are recommended to avoid a collision with wildlife that might happen to venture into the roadway.
Other sections of I-5 may have dangerous winds which may affect your RV’s stability. One of the most notorious sections of I-5 for dangerous winds is the Grapevine which serpentines up through the Tejon Pass at 4,144 feet. This 40-mile section of road north of Los Angeles has several sections with steep grades, high winds, and occasional snow.
As with the Siskiyou Summit, it would be prudent to check with the California Department of Transportation regarding driving conditions in Tejon Pass before embarking on that part of your journey.
Where to go camping on I-5
You can drive from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Diego, California on Interstate 5 and I suggest you take your time to enjoy the diverse and beautiful scenery as well as some of the most productive agricultural land in the country.
If you’re looking for great campsites on I-5, check out Seven Feathers Casino RV Resort in Canyonville, Oregon (Exit 99) and Red Bluff KOA Journey in Red Bluff, California (Exit 649). See photos above.
The other main coastal route for snowbirds runs down the eastern seaboard from the Canadian border in northern Maine to the Florida Keys.
This interstate is over 1,900 miles in total length and it is the longest north-south interstate highway in the US. I-95 goes through 15 different East Coast states. It is the best RV driving route on the East Coast and is used by thousands of Canadian and U.S. snowbirds every year.
Many of the secondary routes in the east are older construction and can be a problem for big rigs because these secondary routes may have low overpasses, narrow bridges, or weight restrictions. Consequently, I-95 is the most popular route in the east because it’s beautifully maintained and appropriate for all types of RVs.
Most of the major cities along I-95 can be circumvented by using bypass routes.
Where to camping on Interstate 95
If you’re looking for midpoint RV parks on I-95, check out New Green Acres in Waterboro, South Carolina, and Coastal Georgia RV Resort in Brunswick, Georgia. See photos above.
Interior snowbird routes
The two main coastal routes carry the bulk of RV snowbirds between their summer and winter destinations. But if you are in the middle of the US or Canada, you might not want to drive to one of the coastal routes to make your north or south snowbird journey.
If you’re starting from a location in the interior of the continent you can use one of these alternate routes to migrate south for the winter or north for the summer. As you can readily see, the Interstate numbering system uses integers of 5 for major routes with a north-south orientation.
The following is not a comprehensive list of all north-south routes but these are the major thoroughfares and some of the best RV driving routes for snowbirds.
- I-5 connects California, Oregon, and Washington as well as British Columbia.
- I-15 connects Southern California, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Alberta.
- I-25 connects New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Manitoba. I-25 ends in Northern Wyoming but turns into I-90 which continues into Montana and points beyond.
- I-45 and I-35 connect Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ontario.
- I-55 connects Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois. I-55 ends in Chicago but a multitude of connecting interstates continue up either side of Lake Michigan and eventually arrive in Ontario.
- I-65 and I-75 connect Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Ontario.
- I-95 as mentioned before goes up the east coast of the US, through Maine and gives you access to all the maritime provinces of Canada.
In addition to all these major freeways, you could follow the iconic Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago for your northbound snowbird journey or go from Chicago to LA on your southern journey.
However, Route 66 is not a freeway. In many places, it literally is Main Street in dozens and dozens of small towns in the West and Midwest.
This route is scenic and historic but not necessarily appropriate for big rig RVs. If you’re in an area of the country near part of this epic roadway, it might be worth a side trip just to say you were on Route 66 and to see for yourself what it’s like.
If you have a smaller RV, van, or small trailer you could probably follow the entire route.
Plan your RV driving routes
The best RV driving route for snowbirds may be the one closest to your starting point or it may be the one furthest away. After all, half the fun of RVing is getting there. Can you think of a better RV adventure than taking a road you’ve never traveled before?
It’s all about discovering new places, people, cuisine, cultures, and scenery. If you’re a regular RV snowbird, you could take a different route every time you go north or south until you have experienced them all.
Here are some helpful resources:
- Planning Your North-South Snowbird RV Route
- Snowbird Essential: Planning Your North-South Travel Route
- Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter
- Matching Your Snowbirds Destinations with Your Lifestyle
It started out a dream
A simple someday soon
But we worked hard
and made it real
This snowbird life
behind the wheel.