Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Tips for RV towing in the mountains

By Cheri Sicard
RV towing in the mountains, whether it be a trailer or a fifth wheel, fills many RVers with fear and dread. Especially beginner RVers.

I had a friend who would go hundreds of miles out of her way just to avoid towing in the mountains. It does not need to be that way.

Assuming you have the proper tow vehicle, towing in the mountains need not be difficult or overly stressful.

The video below by the folks at Jaunt Junkies talks about vehicle considerations when towing up and down hills plus a whole lot more. Watching the tips and suggestions in this practical video can go a long way towards building confidence about RV towing in the mountains.

These folks live in Utah, so they have a lot of practical experience with mountainous RVing. In the video, they climb to a more than 9,000-foot elevation.

Along the way, you’ll learn what to watch for and monitor on your vehicle to make sure it is handling the climb. Especially when towing in the heat.

You’ll also pick up some practical driving tips for when towing in the mountains. Following the tips will give you the best results on mileage and wear and tear on your vehicle. They will also help keep you safe.

Along those lines, they also cover the importance of using the tow/haul mode if your vehicle has it.

Lastly, what goes up must come down. Equally important as climbing with towing an RV is coming downhill. They cover braking situations and again what to look out for and monitor on your vehicle.



  1. Some advice from commercial drivers, use the 5-second rule when braking downhill. When your speed gets about 5mph above your comfort range, apply moderate to heavy brake pressure for no more than 5-seconds to bring your speed 5mph under comfort speed. This method will keep your brakes from overheating and keeps you in a comfortable speed range. I’ve used this method for decades and found it to be a very comfortable way of navigating steep downhill grades.

  2. Is there a rule of thumb on the RPM limit? (Obviously not in the red)
    I use ‘tow haul mode’ and sometimes manual shift which both use transmission and RPM skyrockets. Braking slows the vehicle down but it goes back up rather quickly depending on % grade.
    I need to read or watch a video about this.

  3. A small point made in this excellent video is the most critical IMHO. Ensure you have enough or even “too much” truck for your trailer.
    We have a 35′ 5th wheel with a Chevy 3500 dually diesel, engine brake equipped. We barely notice pulling 16,000 lbs in any wind, road or grade condition. We max out our general tow speed at 55-60 mph, and 40-50 downhill depending on the grade.
    We have a running joke when we drive; will we pass even one vehicle today. Most days the answer is 1 or zero!

  4. My MH is on a E-350 and I feel very comfortable in the mountains… but that’s where I live. Many years ago an experienced RVer told me to descend the pass in the same gear I climbed it and use tow-haul. Excellent advice that I’ve always used, I rarely have to use my brakes unless it’s a sharp corner. I consistently drive at 60mph on the freeway while idiots in RVs are passing me going 75 & 80 because that’s the speed limit. I always wonder why I’m more concerned about their safety than they are.

    • I find it interesting when people criticize other drivers that are comfortable driving faster than them and labeling them as “idiots”. They seem to think they are very pious and smarter for traveling 60 mph. Every rig or combination can handle differently and until a person drives it, knows it’s tow rating , and how it’s equipped, it is impossible to know a safe traveling speed. I’m one of the “idiots” that feels comfortable traveling much faster than 60 mph on the freeway. My rig is towing a very stable 5th wheel trailer that is loaded 2000lbs below capacity and weighs 3000lbs below tow capacity of the tow vehicle. It has upgraded tires that have a 40% safety margin unlike stock tires with no margin. The pickup is diesel powered and equipped with an exhaust brake. The exhaust brake will slow the combined rig descending a 6% rig so much it has to be let off occasionally. Until a person knows the details perhaps they shouldn’t be so quick to criticize. I submit that I am in a safer situation than someone driving a stock rig going 60 mph.

      • I stand by what I said. You may not like it or disagree but it is my opinion. I respect your right to have a different opinion. Just to clarify, I didn’t say everyone driving or pulling an RV should limit their speed to 60 mph. I said “idiots in RVs are passing me going 75 & 80”. If you are driving that fast, it’s my opinion you are an {bleeped}.

        • I wasn’t trying to be combative ( reread my comment and can see how it came across that way) or make you change your opinion or driving habits. I was just trying to point out that in certain vehicles you may find yourself feeling safe driving much faster. My context is in the rural western states where there is often not another car in sight.

          • Wayne C, I owe you and others an apology. I should not have called you or anyone an {bleeped}. I sincerely apologize. I do drive closer to the speed limit in my car. When I was in my 20’s I drove a 10 wheel spud truck with a 2 speed brownie from the field where potatoes were harvested to the spud cellar. Back and forth back and forth for 16hrs each day. I developed a great deal of respect for the momentum behind me and what it would take to get stopped in an emergency. Now in my 70’s I have a 6 wheel motor home & try to drive with that same respect to keep myself and others safe. Rural Montana used to be “not another car in sight” but that has changed drastically over the years. Happy Trails!

  5. I drive all over the mountains in Colorado. Slow and steady. That’s how you need to drive in the mountains. Know what revs create the most torque and watch your engine temperatures. If it gets too hot then slow down. I don’t usually manually change gears going uphill. I let the tow mode do the work for me. Downhill you need to let the engine help you brake. I often go slower downhill than uphill. Diesels are a bit different to tow with than gassers but the same principles remain. I think Diesels engine braking is better to control speed downhill. I also try to fill up my water tank in the camper near my camp site so I am not carrying an extra 400 pounds of weight too far. I dump my tanks as close to camp as possible for the same reason.

  6. You can’t take the stress out of mountain driving by shifting and braking correctly. The stress comes from the jerks who will tailgate you all the way up and all the way down, anxious to do 75 on twisting two-lane mountain roads.

  7. When descending as was stated don’t ride your brakes, first before starting to descend make sure you’re in a lower gear. The same gear you used to go up the mountain should be used descending, i.e. if your transmission went all the way down to 4th gear going up then that’s what you need to go down. Don’t “ride” the brake pedal that will cause a slight pressure on the brake pads causing heat build up. Instead as your speed starts to build above your comfort level “stab” the brake hard enough to bring your speed back down, then get off the pedal to allow them to cool. As the speed builds up again stab them as before and let off. This will keep you under control without overheating the brakes.

  8. Prior to retiring in 2007, I had logged well over 4,000,000 miles in my vehicle. No I wasn’t a truck river or a salesman. I was a mining consultant. I have been behind the incompetent RV haulers in the mountains, as I travelled from coast to coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Yukon territories.
    If you are not competent or unsure of your driving abilities in the Mountains, DON’T go there. It is extremely dangerous for yourself, but more dangerous to others who know what they are doing. Take a course or something, but don’t go there. Lots of great places to see.

    • It’s not that RVers are incompetent. If your on unfamiliar roads wether it’s mountains or any other road. It’s better to be cautious than drive like a nut and have an accident.

  9. A key suggestion I’ve read a lot and used myself is to utilize your cruise control. Did the Rockies with our 2015 Silverado HD diesel and the cruise control handled all but the steepest grades by downshifting automatically.


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