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  1. Default Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles

    Hi everyone,

    Will be planning a road trip this December. Will need to travel from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles. Plan is to leave on the 19th at around 5PM, drive to an intermediary point to rest, then head to Los Angeles the next day.

    There are two possible routes I'm considering
    1) 395 (Drive with mountain view)
    2) Pacific Coast Highway 1 or Highway 101 (Sea view)

    I understand that the 395 is a lot faster than taking the winding Pacific Coast - is it worth it to skip the coast though?

    Some questions:
    - What are the driving conditions on these three roads in the winter, does it take longer than what Google Maps suggests, and is it dangerous?
    - What would be a good rest point for the night on the way in either route?
    For 395, I've been seeing Bishop, Mammoth
    For Highway 1, I thought of Monterey, Carmel
    - What are nice places to visit along the way?
    - What would be your ultimate recommendation?

    Additional information: We might want to catch a sunrise on the 20th and hope to reach LA by early afternoon.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    With your limited time, you really don't have time to even consider going via the coast. Even if you went to Monterey the first night, you couldn't get from there to LA by early afternoon without taking the freeway and skipping the coast.

    As it is, in December, leaving at 5pm means you'll already be leaving basically at sunset, and it is pretty close to a fully day drive to get from Tahoe to LA. By trying to get to LA by early afternoon, you basically have to take the shortest possible route, with not much time for extra stops, and even that will involve a fair amount of after dark driving. That's not necessarily a problem, but it does make it hard to enjoy scenic views!

    That means, US-395 is probably your best bet. Where to stop depends upon how late you want to drive, but I probably wouldn't go much past Mammoth Lakes, perhaps looking at Lee Vining or Mono Lake instead.

    The roads should not be dangerous, but all online mapping programs tend to underestimate actual travel times over long distances, because they don't factor any of the stops you'll need to make for traffic, fuel, restrooms, etc. Expect your actual drive times to take about 20% longer.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Finding lodging anywhere along 395 on a Friday night in December is going to be difficult because that's ski country, there's very little lodging other than ski resorts between Tahoe and Bishop. The farther you drive on Friday night, the less scenery you will actually be able to SEE. It's 4 hours from Tahoe to Bishop in good weather without a lot of traffic.

    With the amount of time you have, I'd take either US-50 or I-80 (depending on exactly where around Tahoe you will be leaving from) to Sacramento then I-5 to LA. Spend the night around Sacramento or Stockton. If you want a scenic trip, either take 2 to 3 days or leave Tahoe at the crack of dawn, take 395 to 14 to I-5 and plan on hitting LA late afternoon.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    As I read your post, my thoughts were about the same as GLC's: Friday night during ski season and there are a lot of places to ski in the Sierras.

    That said, I'd lean towards I-80 to I-5, for the main reason that I-80 is faster than US-50. You'd have a big pass to go over either way, but the freeway grade is easier than the one on US-50/89. CalTrans will also be a lot faster to push snow out of the way on I-80 than it would on US-50, too, in the event that it was snowing.


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    However, if they are in South Lake Tahoe or Stateline, the time I-80 would save would be eaten up by the time it would take to get to Truckee to get on I-80. If they are in Incline Village, then I-80 would definitely be faster.

    At least on Friday night they would be going against traffic. Sunday night would probably be a no-win situation taking anything.

  6. Default

    Thanks for the replies, guys! Great advice.

    My friends and I have been researching about the 395 extensively the past few days and it seems like there is a possibility of snow/black ice conditions. As we have zero experience driving in the winter and will be renting cars (where car companies probably prohibit the use of snow chains), will this be a problem especially since CalTrans enforces the chain requirement during storms?

    How are the winter conditions of the I-80 to I-5 - is it safe to drive after the sun sets?

    Thanks again, really appreciate your help.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

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    How are the winter conditions of the I-80 to I-5 - is it safe to drive after the sun sets?
    The 5 will not be at issue for winter conditions, from Sacramento down to LA, probably. The Grapevine (Tejon Pass north of LA) would be the only possibility, but the elevation of Tejon Pass is low enough (4100 ft) that it's rare, especially in December.

    The 80 is a different story, since Donner Summit is at about 7200 ft. You'd know this before you leave Lake Tahoe, most likely. My husband says they're more likely to shut down the 80 for a short period of time than make you put chains on the vehicle.

    It's only around 500 miles from the Lake Tahoe area into LA, via I-80/I-5. That's about a one day drive, albeit a long one. If the weather doesn't look wonderful on Friday evening, just get up on Saturday morning and do the drive.

    Donna

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