Driving from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

By Tahoe Staff

Every weekend droves of people looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life make a pilgrimage from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. This three and a half to four hour drive is a short escape to world-class hiking, skiing and resort amenities. However, prior to making the trip all weekend warriors should consider two important items: First, the part of Tahoe do you wish to explore, second, the road conditions.


Driving to North Shore or South Shore?

Lake Tahoe is big. Driving around the lake is a 72-mile loop that takes two hours to drive. There are really two main routes from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe. One route, along interstate 80, will take you to the North Shore and Truckee, while the other route, along Highway 50, will take you to the South Shore. Interstate 80 is more of a straight shot, with greater opportunities for pit stops, and a higher speed limit. 
More info on the North Shore » 
More info on the South Shore and South Lake Tahoe »



Both routes begin on Interstate 80, and fork in Sacramento. If you’re headed toward the North Shore, take I-80 West and follow the signage through Sacramento toward Reno, Nevada. If you’re headed to the South Shore, take Highway 50—look for the sign which reads “Interstate 80 Business/Sacramento/South Lake Tahoe.” Highway 50 is more scenic, with curvy roads and slower speeds. But is it still faster than driving I-80 to Truckee, and then driving south on Highway 89 to South Lake Tahoe, California. Bring a camera and enjoy the scenery!

Winter Conditions May Exist

It is not uncommon to encounter snowy roads November through March in Lake Tahoe. Always be prepared. Travel with snow chains, extra water and a first-aid-kit.

Or, check out the Bay Area Ski Bus. This company’s luxury buses run four days a week from northern California locations. Save on gas, relax, watch TV and enjoy a safe, stylish ride to the slopes.

Tips from Bay Area drivers we interviewed

“Hit the road at a reasonable time. You’re gonna get hella tied up in commuter traffic if you leave the city between 4-7pm. If you can, leave earlier in the day or later at night. This logic works on the return trip as well.” – Ian

“I can’t find sub-freezing windshield washer fluid in the city. Each year I buy my washer fluid in Tahoe so that when temps get in the teens, my fluid won’t freeze, and I will be able to see where I’m going!” – Kyle