Trailering Through Jacksonville, Dealing with Traffic

Hi Everyone,

I have just bought a new 2H straighload trailer and had to drive ten hours from SE Florida to N North Carolina to pick it up. Driving through Jacksonville driving up and driving back was a little nerve-racking. The traffic is very fast, the interstate is curved, and the highway seems a bit canted.

I am entertaining the thought of driving back up in a few weeks, this time pulling my horse trailer with my horse. If I take the outer loop around Jacksonville instead of going right through the center, will the drive be any less intense?

I have arranged professional transport, but it would be nice to take him myself.

If you don’t mind adding miles, you can head over to Route 301 (at Daytona, pick up Hwy 1 to Hwy 100 to 301. This would add probably 90 minutes to your trip. It’s a smaller state hwy that goes through towns, so you’ll have some stoplights and sections with low speed limits.

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Yes, in general, the west side of the 295 loop is calmer and much easier to drive than going straight up 95 through town. If I were pulling a trailer, I would absolutely take that route. Stay in the slow lane and, well, drive slow. :slight_smile:

WEST 295. Avoid the east loop like the plague. You get the port traffic and have to cross the Dames Point bridge, which gives me the heebie jeebies. (see below for more on this)

I would not do the 100-to-301 detour. To me, all the stop and go is much more nerve wracking than just staying on the interstate.

The only reason I would change that advice is if you’ve got a problem with long bridges. I’m mostly OK with long bridges, but I have a real problem with high bridges. I can’t drive across the Mackinac Bridge and can barely make it across the Sunshine Skyway without hyperventilating. If you come up 95 and take 295 west, you cross the St. John’s on the Buckman Bridge, which is, for me, pretty friendly - it’s long, but not that tall. Going 100 you cross the St. Johns at Palatka, which is neither long nor tall.

I know. Way more than you wanted to know. :grinning:


You could use Google maps to see which route would be better. It has a feature where you can set the departure day and time. It will show the expected delays and you could compare the routes. It will not help if there is an crash.

I haven’t driven that route, but I’m south of Atlanta so have experienced THAT traffic more than once.

My advice is to study your route in detail on Google Maps or whatever you use. Switch between road and satellite views and look at how the interchanges work. Figure out what lane you need to be in. Get in the correct lane early, go with traffic, leave a LOT of space (people will jump in to fill it, just back off again,) and breathe.

There is an obscure Google Maps feature where you can plan a specific route and save it, but it’s not easy to use for navigation since you have to tell it to continue after each waypoint. I do use that for planning, but then I write out instructions in black marker, and just use normal navigation. That means I have to know when to ignore what it is saying, to exit or whatever, then it recalibrates once it figures out where I am.

Ideally I drive the route without the trailer first… but that is not always possible.


OMG I got stuck heading home going through Atlanta when they closed all north bound lanes. It took me THREE HOURS. to move about a mile and get off at the diverted route.

At hour 2.45 I literally burst in to tears, my horse started rocking and pawing the trailer and I had a meltdown. (ate some chocolate and got over it )


Thank you for this thread. I’ve learned some things.

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This is one thing that terrifies me - getting stuck in traffic and not moving. I am so glad you brought it up, and I am so glad you and your horse finally were freed!!! Do you avoid Atlanta now or just look at it as a one-time unlucky event?

Wow, I never thought about the port traffic, and thank you for saying some of these areas give you the heebie jeebies. I have driven all over the US for years, and the UK, and Europe, and I was surprised the stretch of road through Jacksonville made me really uptight. Yes, I would rather just drive further than stop and go also. It must be psychological. I just want to feel like I am making good progress! I will stay in the slow lane and drive slow and not worry. Thanks for saying that. The part about the bridges is really informative. Pulling a horse in a trailer across a long bridge versus a high bridge, well, I hadn’t really thought about it. No, I don’t like the idea of crossing a tall bridge with a horse trailer either. Yikes. The information you have given is great. Thank you!


wsmoak, This too is excellent advice. I took my husband with me the first time (trailerless on the way up) just because I was thinking about how to not get stuck missing an exit, and on the way back, missing an exit with a new trailer attached. The navigation in my truck is great, but driving in the city, it didn’t seem like I would have the chance to study the interchanges as they were coming up. Left lane! Right lane! Which lane do I need to be in!?! Am I clear to move over!!! Poor husband. He did a good job though. I thought coming through Raleigh was going to be tricky, but it was really straight-forward although with some construction on 95 going south where the shoulders had concrete barriers, no crews. Squeezed in between semis and the barriers at night in the rain was an experience. Jacksonville seems like a network of criss-cross highways with blind turns. Yes, it is the high bridges! Everyone is moving fast; it is hard to stay out of the way.

I keep thinking surely people stay in and go to bed, so there is no traffic on the roads at night, but then, studying the maps, I see the work crews all come out at night, and they will close down lanes if they have to. Very tricky.

I think the waypoint idea is a good idea. It adds flexibility if you see a problem ahead. I was thinking about this. I will do a dry run to see how things go and will report back.

HungarianHippo1, I looked at the Hwy 100 to 301 route to avoid Jacksonville too. I am not sure what to do - grit my teeth, think positive and take the west loop of 295 or avoid it and take the detour. I am leaning toward avoiding the detour and taking 295 slow and steady. I will check the Jacksonville Traffic | Jacksonville, Florida | for accidents, and I think I will plan to know how the interchanges work (zooming in on the map ahead of time is a great idea) so I can plan my traffic exit lane well in advance. I really like how this trailer handles in traffic and on the open highway, so if I can just maneuver and feel like I am not going to go flying off of a bridge around a curve in heavy fast traffic, I will be OK. My horse travels well, but this will be a longer drive for him. I will stop and water him every two hours, and I think I want to get a camera installed. My last trailer had a window at the front, so I could see him, but this one doesn’t. I need to be able to see him and know he’s OK.

You have addressed one of my last questions: Is there any way to see if there is a lull in traffic in some of these metro areas? I have never played with that feature in Google maps, but I will absolutely look for it and check it out. If there is a crash, I will take chocolate (great idea - low blood sugar is not going to help!) and make sure my horse has fans and ventilation and hay in his net with lots of cushy bedding so we can wait it out. If he gets anxious and impatient, that is going to be something we will have to get through as best we can. I’d imagine even the commercial transport guys and gals must get stuck sometimes. Horses, they really keep you on your toes!

Thank you everyone! I really appreciate it. Feeling much more confident.

Might be worthwhile to post your question on this subreddit for Jacksonville residents. (Traffic patterns, timing of rush hour, etc.
Bet you’d get a lot of helpful feedback.

I drive through Jacksonville quite frequently with my horse trailer. The route I use is the 295 east beltway. You do have to drive over the Dames Point Bridge but it’s pretty much a straight shot and I have never encountered port traffic. The only caveat is not to drive through in either the morning or afternoon rush hour. I won’t even drive straight through on I-95 without a horse trailer!

I live in that area. Take the outer loop 295. Will add a little bit of time but much easier that 95. You can take 9B as well but if you are coming through at rush hour it will be brutal and you also have to go over a very steep bridge (not sure how you feel about that). Take 295 the west beltway. Just drive slow and watch for the idiots.

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I actually disagree here. If you are driving in traffic near a city, if there are at least three lanes of traffic, avoid the right lane if at all possible, and go in the second lane. The right lane can quickly become problematic with people merging in and out for exits, cutting through at the last second, and generally raising your blood pressure by a significant amount, and giving your horse a rougher ride.

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If you’re thinking of taking 301, you could also take the turnpike up to 75 and get off in Ocala or Gainesville to hop over to 301. Depending on where you are in SE FL, that may be faster than taking 100 and 301 all that way.

The drive from Ocala up to 95 is pretty easy, especially now that there is a by pass around Starke.

This is an idea. It will add an hour and a half to my trip, but maybe it is worth it? I will think on this one. Thank you so much. : )