Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. Default 1 Day Trip from SF: Tahoe or Yosemite?

    I have friends coming over from Florida around Christmas and want to go for a day trip for some snow fun. I live in San Jose but have never gone to any of the "snow resort" places around California. I found from people and online that folks love going to Lake Tahoe area or Yosemite. If I want to drive to one of the places, get a few hours there, and drive back home by night (say, 9 or 10pm), what are my options?

    Should I go Tahoe side or Yosemite side? In either case, what places specifically? None of us have ever done any "snow sports" as such, so obviously we would only be trying out very basic fun things like a little snowboarding or snow tubing etc. None of us are looking for serious skiing slopes or pro level stuff.

    I have a 2012 Honda Civic, car is mechanically in perfect condition, but I have never driven in snow nor do I know exactly how bad the roads can get at either places. We will be going in the weekend before Christmas, in case anyone has any idea about current conditions. Can I safely take this car or should I rather be safe and rent a 4WD vehicle for a day and go? What about chains? Where to buy them and how to install them? Does it affect normal driving in any way?

    Any tips or suggestions welcome!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A long day.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Yosemite is one of my favourite places on earth, but for winter sports Lake Tahoe might be your better option. I'm no expert and have no real knowledge of winter sport options in these areas so you should do your research and weigh up the pros and cons. Badger pass in Yosemite is popular but I would imagine time consuming to get to in winter. I think you can just opt for a bit of ice skating in Mariposa or the Valley, but I don't know about equipment hire. [?]

    With just a day trip I think it's going to be a weather dependent trip. You will most likely have to face 8 to 9 hours of driving out and back for either option and if you have the need to put chains on and drive in snow you will have to add to that. Along with your lack of experience in this department and not being wise to drive in the mountain areas after dark with ice and snow around, it would really impact your day.

    Have you considered looking for a winter coach tour from SF or from your home and let others have the worry of driving? Other than that I would say having a treat is your best bet and stay over for a night.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You are required to have chains in your possession to enter Yosemite in the winter, no matter whether they are required to be used or not. Tahoe does not have that requirement, but if it's snowing, they are usually required to be used to get over Echo Summit on US-50 and may be required to get to the recreational areas.

    I don't know if this is still the case, but Walmart used to sell chains in California. You may have to order them from an auto parts store (at 3x the price Walmart used to charge). On a Civic, you can only use "cable" chains, you don't have the clearance for link chains. If you buy them, you need to practice putting them on before you leave. With chains on, you cannot drive faster than 25 mph.

    When chain restrictions are in effect, you even have to use them on 4wd vehicles unless they have snow tires. Even with snow tires, you would be required to possess chains. Rental 4wd's don't generally have snow tires, just "all season" tires, which do not qualify. Rental agencies may not allow the use of chains on their vehicles.

    Before leaving, check current conditions on the Caltrans website.

    I would recommend you spend one night wherever you go instead of trying to make it just a day trip. South Lake Tahoe has a good selection of hotels and motels starting at less than $50 a night per room. There are casinos just across the state line in Nevada for evening entertainment.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I have to agree that either place isn't a great choice for a daytrip, You're going to end up spending so much time in the car that you would barely have time to try out any sort of winter sports or doing any exploration of either place.

    I haven't spent much time in Tahoe, but I will say I have enjoyed a winter trip to Yosemite.

    You will be required to carry chains, as has been mentioned. When I went I bought a set of cable chains at an Auto Parts store (Napa Auto, I think) in Mariposa. They were about $35, if I remember, although that was going on 10 years ago now. There were a few places around town that also had chains available for rent.

    Yosemite is a neat place to visit in Winter. As Dave mentioned, there is an ice skating rink right in the valley. They do have skate rentals, and it is a little expensive, but I can't think of a more scenic ice skating rink. There are also plenty of walking/hiking trails around the valley that are easily enjoyed in Winter. Dave also mentioned Badger Pass, where you could try snowboarding or tubing, but that's something I think you'd have a hard time having time fitting in on a one day trip. Heck, learning to ski or snowboard alone is going to take more than a couple hours.

  5. Default

    Thank you everyone for your advice. So it seems Tahoe or Yosemite either will require the headache of carrying (and possibly using) chains and resultant delays, so not good for a one day trip.

    Does anyone know any other, lesser-popular, smaller snow resort places closer to the Bay Area where we can possibly go in a day and be back in good time? I am not really keen about the Tahoe or Yosemite as such, just want to go to any place where we can get a few hours of snow fun, for beginners.

Similar Threads

  1. Least scary route from Yosemite to Tahoe
    By scgirlmw in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 08-06-2010, 05:39 AM
  2. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 05-11-2010, 07:51 AM
  3. Las Vegas, LA, San francisco, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite
    By alisaii in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-10-2010, 04:39 AM
  4. SF-LA-GC-Tahoe-Yosemite-SF (again)
    By hillcrest in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 05-21-2009, 09:22 PM
  5. Ireland to LA - LV - Yosemite - Tahoe - SanFran
    By smithicks in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 01-19-2009, 08:05 AM

Tags for this Thread


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  • Find the Perfect Hotel
    Search RoadTrip Motels
    Enter city name