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San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to Reno Road Trip

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486.3 miles: 9 hours, 14 minutes
Crossing California is always an adventure, and especially so when you depart the City by the Bay for one of the world’s most beautiful lakes (ensconced in an equally beautiful natural setting). From Lake Tahoe it’s a short hop to “The Biggest Little City in the World” and gaming glitter before returning to San Francisco by way of the spectacular Sierras.
1
San Francisco, CA to South Lake Tahoe, CA
201.5 miles: 3 hours, 50 minutes
If you want to break up the 3-hour drive from San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe, take a short detour off I-80 and have lunch in Old Sacramento. US 50 leaves the vast, flat stretches of the agricultural Sacramento Valley behind for the foothills of the Sierras. As altitude increases the terrain becomes more rugged and the scenery impressively more dramatic.
2
South Lake Tahoe, CA to Reno, NV
62.2 miles: 1 hours, 20 minutes
US 50 hugs the southeastern shore of Lake Tahoe into Nevada. Often framed by snowcapped mountains and tall pine trees, the lake is a stunner—usually sapphire blue in color, with water that’s remarkably pure and clear. On the way to Reno, I-580/US 395 crosses the Galena Creek Bridge, a cathedral arch span that towers nearly 300 feet above the Washoe Valley.
3
Reno, NV to San Francisco, CA
222.6 miles: 4 hours, 3 minutes
I-80 heads through the Sierras, reaching an elevation of over 7,000 feet at Donner Pass. The views of forested mountains are grand, but keep in mind that snow (requiring tire chains in order to negotiate the highway safely) can occur into late May. If you got lucky at the casino—or even if you didn’t—splurge on a fancy hotel or dinner, or both, in San Francisco.