Smokebeard’s guide to the I-180 road walk to Silver City

Youre eager to get to Silver City.  But before we begin, it sucks. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s a 13 mile road walk on a 60 mph highway, and 10 of those miles are uphill. Pavement takes a toll on your feet that the desert doesn’t.

Coyote roadkill

Hitch or don’t, no judgment. It IS the trail technically, but it’s also a paved highway with fast moving vehicles. You do you.

Rules for success

  • Don’t start this without less than four liters of water.
  • Pace yourself, this is a tough one.
  • You may think that you can power your way through, that on the road you do three plus miles an hour and it’s only four hours, but it’s a long road.
  • Take breaks.
  • Take your shoes off and let your feet cool off.
  • Drink water.

I did this in the afternoon which was not as bad as you’d think. I also had some luck with the weather and there was high haze. But I also had the sun at my back the whole time so my face didnt really burn. As you know by this point, in the afternoon the wind switches to the direction of the sun so there were times where I had sort of a tailwind pushing me along.

The first few miles kind of suck. You’re still hitting your road stride, it’s hot and there are these sort of beat looking disheveled trailer parks on the south side of the road. Oh, and cars whizzing past, forcing you down the uneven, crappy shoulder. Nothing is very interesting, there’s road trash everywhere, and all you can think is there’s 13 miles to go.

I180 to Silver City

Mile by mile breakdown

Miles 2 through 7 are the sweet spot. There are ample shade and camping spots on either side of the road, more depending on how you feel about fences. There are also frequent culverts under the road. Some of these are pretty big, including a whopper at about mile six and a half which I think you could stand in. I checked a few out and I could feel cool air coming out of them. Plus there’s a fine sandy bottom to them which would make excellent camping spot. Be careful, Carbon monoxide from the road traffic might settle in these, pick one with good ventilation.

Miles 7 through 10 get crappier. There’s a few uphill slogs and the private property starts to encroach a little bit on the road. You feel kind of like you’re being watched and if you wanted to get off the road for a little bit for a break it seemed like it would be harder. There’s an unmanned FAA radar station at about mile 10 with a lot of land around it. Federal, taxpayer-owned land.

FAA radar site

At around mile 10 you reach the actual continental divide. Don’t bother taking a picture of the highway litter pickup sign, head up to the pass and get your photo with the actual sign.

Continental Divide sign

To keep myself from becoming bored I played a few games as I walked. One was keeping track of the roadkill to sad highway memorial cross ratio. It ended up being two to one, although I had to count two of the roadkills as half a point each because I didn’t see them, I could only smell them. The other thing was counting cars – it kept my mind occupied. The final count was 315 cars coming from Silver City and only 231 cars going to Silver City. the last thing I tried to keep track of just to keep my mind active was the most interesting piece of road trash. I think I won, because it was a combo deal. At about mile two I found a used pregnancy test on the side of the road ( it was so bleached I couldn’t tell what the result was ) and at mile eight I found a pregnancy test box. Because the road is a 60 mph speed limit this is roughly six minutes of time between opening the box, removing the test, using the test and then throwing it out the window – not enough time. This means at least TWICE someone has opened and used a pregnancy test on this road. I would love to hear the stories. Or the results!

I walked the mostly downhill route from the divide in the morning. Remember your sunglasses, you’re staring right into the sun the whole way. At this point private property, houses, and businesses really start to encroach the road, so either you need to be sure to push all the way into town, or be very comfortable with a possible conversation with the local constabulary. Right as you get into town on the right there is a big open space called Boston Hill which looks like hundreds of acres of high scrub. It was here I saw an antelope cross the road. I’m sure while there might be a few derelicts near the road at night, anywhere significantly into the park is probably free from trouble.

From Boston Hill it’s an easy downhill stroll into Silver City of about a mile to the Triple Crown hostel. Except it is closed as of May 15th this year forever. Still, Market Street, the street you’re on, leads right into a little shopping district with good pizza and coffee.

Clean up before you get into town. Nothing is worse than a smelly hiker invading a restaurant or coffee shop ordering a drink and then sitting there for 3 hours stinking up the place. Change into your town shirt, use your wet wipes, wash your face with your bandana. You can be hiker trash without being a trashy hiker.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda says:

    So happy to follow along. Glad you can embrace all of your journey even the not so great sections

  2. Joe Webster says:

    LOL at the metric gathering. Keep up the updates!

  3. Mom says:


  4. The Wife says:

    I saw a used pregnancy test on our road once a few years ago while walking one of the dogs.

  5. The In-law says: says:

    I took a 3 hour hike today and am wiped! Glad that you’re doing well. Keep writing!

  6. Joel says:

    I can’t help but think your 13 mile road walk description would make quite the country song!
    “Up next, the song sweeping the nation ’13 miles’ by Smokebeard.”
    “Oh turn it up! I love the part about the pregnancy tests!”

  7. K. Labatt says:

    Well, a bad day hiking is still better than a good day at work!! Keep it up! Love reading the posts 🙂

  8. Megan says:

    Ed, when your back can you please consider being a writer? You have such a way with words:)
    Ok, carry on…..

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