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  1. #1

    Default Lake Tahoe to Yosemite to San Fransisco to Reno...

    I'm going to be attending a scientific conference in Fallen Leaf, Lake Tahoe in late September. I know, good location, and all paid for by my department! However, the flip side of that is the torture of travelling all the way from the UK (where I'm from) and knowing there is all this beautiful country around you, but you have to work/network 9 hours+ through the day!

    SO, myself and two friends/colleagues are taking 5.5 extra days (6 nights) to do a proper road trip after the conference. The only restraint is that I have to be back in Reno on the last night, to make a horribly early flight out the next morning.

    I'm no fan of casinos or casino-culture, but I'm open to new experiences. I'm looking for open roads, interesting towns, amazing sights and one big city. I've decided, with the aid of very wobbly pencil lines on a road map, to travel from Fallen Leaf (Tahoe) to Yosemite. Then from Yosemite (or thereabouts) to San Francisco (SF), then SF to Reno, via Berkeley and the Napa Valley.

    I wasn't planning on booking any accommodation, except for perhaps the last night in Reno, but some people I've spoken to have suggested I do, certainly for Yosemite; plus it may be cheaper online. Yosemite seems rather expensive to me (being on a budget and in a hire car), so I was thinking of staying just outside the park and daytripping in? I also like the look of Sonora too. San Francisco is a place I've always wanted to visit, but the size and range of things to do, and accommodation, daunts me!

    So my cries for help are:

    Not knowing these areas and never having road tripped in the States before, I'm not sure how to divide up the time I spend at each place. I'm looking for any advice on what you'd recommend I MUST see as a first time california-visitor, which includes little strange, off the main highway places worthy of a visit (including particular places in SF to visit). Should I, on this occassion, enjoy random little stop-offs en route, but otherwise aim to spend a decent amount of time in SF, or (nr) Yosemite, or Napa; or try and divide the route into 5 equally spaced distances?

    Has anyone done any part of this route before? I'd like to hear how it went. I just don't have time to re-invent the wheel on this trip, so if someone enjoyed a particular route, I'd be keen to hear about it.

    Finally, accommodation. Gah! There's so much! Does anyone have any recommendatiosn of cheap and cheerful (tried and tested) accommodation in:

    South Lake Tahoe
    Sonora or Modesto
    San Fransisco (Bay Area I guess - not that I know any of the districts)
    Napa Valley
    Reno (near the airport I guess)

    Sorry, that's loads, but if anyone has any little bits of information on anything I need, please reply or feel free to email me.

    Thanks all!
    Last edited by drjim; 06-20-2006 at 07:56 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A cry for help in the garden of roadtrips!

    Quote Originally Posted by drjim
    I'm going to be attending a scientific conference in Fallen Leaf, Lake Tahoe in late September.
    I would say that is a nice place to be in late September -- probably the nicest time of the year for Lake Tahoe! Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! You have laid out a nice trip and it is all doable, but here is an alternative routing...

    I would reverse the flow a little -- my thinking is that you are going to love the Sierra Nevada mountain region and that you "save" as much of your time as you have for the end of the road trip. Plus, it will give you time to adjust to our funny way of driving on the wrong side of the road, before having to mix in mountain driving skills.

    To that end, drive up the west side of Lake Tahoe (SR-89) and stop and look at the viewpoints all the way up to Tahoe City and then follow the Truckee River up to Truckee and jump on I-80 and head down to Sacramento and then into Fairfield where you can take SR-12 into the wine areas of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. There is a great book that I use for finding those little-known wineries and inexpensive places to stay! Your first night could be in this wine savoring area. The traffic can be a little challenging in the Napa region, but it is all fun!

    The second night could be San Francisco and on your approach to the city, I would recommend that you cut over to US-101 so you can enter the city on the Golden Gate Bridge. Just before you reach the bridge (on the north side) take the exit for the Golden Gate Recreational Area viewpoint and then drive up the road (up the steep hill) 1-2 miles. The views of the bay area and the bridge are among the best in the entire area. As an aside, if the ocean is clear -- look to the SW, you will see a hump of rocks known as the Farrallon Islands. The Farrallons are actually in the city limits of San Francisco (only 23 miles away) but represent one of the most dangerous stretch of ocean in the world. Hundreds of shipwrecks and the largest gathering of Great White Sharks in the world.

    There is so much to see in San Francisco -- my hot tip for lodging -- Holiday Inn Golden Gate on Van Ness --- and a meal with an awesome view: really hard to beat "Julius' Castle" on Montgomery in the North Beach. You can see just about the entire bay and it is decorated like an old west gold rush saloon If such places were ever this nice).

    Lunch at Larry Blake's the next day in Berkeley followed by a stroll around the UC campus and then it is back into the car for a drive to the famous Gold Country. I would take I-580 past Livermore and over to I-205 to Manteca picking up SR-120. If you like old steam trains, you can zip up to Jamestown (near Sonora for a walk-about) and then return to SR-120 into Yosemite Valley. If it is still possible to get lodging in the Valley -- even with the crowds, it is a fun place to stay. If not, there are plenty of places to stay on the outside of the park. Maybe the 3rd and 4th night in this area. (Make sure you drive to Glacier Point in time for sunset! Absolutely stunning!)

    Day five drive over the incomparable Tioga Pass, check out Mono Lake and then drive south on US-395 to SR-158 and take the June Lake Loop. The June Lake Loop is the only paved road that gets you close to the heart of the eastern Sierra without having to hike the normal 5,000 to 10,000 vertical feet from the valley floor to the high country. I would stay at one of the touist camps in the June Lake area and then on Day six head north on US-395 again up to Carson City and then take US-50 east to SR-341

    and go have a beer at the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City (actually if you are really feeling frisky -- my favorite bar is Fly's (but it can be intimidating to tourists...) and then head for Reno.

    As far as reservations go, it really is all about how much personal risk you enjoy on roadtrips. More thoughts on that issue here.

    Happy Planning!


  3. #3


    Wow, thanks for that Mark. Really appreciated!

    The reverse route does look rather more enjoyable, and I take your hint about getting some driving practise under my belt before hitting the mountains; my last time in the French Alps kept my heart in my throat!

    Thanks for the suggestions, definately something to work with. Looking forward to it. I just hope my hire car copes with the trek ;-)



  4. Default wide open road


    You truly will be in one of the most beautiful parts of our country at the right time as Mark said. My husband and I did drive to the Reno area via Rt 50 in Sept of 2004. It is the Lonliest Road and is very wide open and rural. Aside from your scheduled activities, it might be a way to see a wide open road. Just east of Fallon, is Grimes Point were Native Americans created petroglyphs that are easily reached from Rt 50. Virginia City is a fun place to visit. The old West. It has limited, but fun gaming. I'm not a big gambler but it is, I guess, the atmoshpere in Virginia City that makes it fun.

    The Tioga Pass is the way to enter Yosemite NP. It is very, very scenic. The park was still very crowded when we visited in late Sept., 2004.

    I guess the best way to truly plan is to make sure all 3 of you are on the same page with the planning. That will make the trip the most enjoyable-having an agreement on what to do.

    Have fun visiting the US this fall.


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