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  1. Default San Diego to Lake Tahoe

    This years spring break consists of a trip to San Diego and Lake Tahoe. My party still hasn't decided whether to make the journey a straight shot or to break it up. Is it feasible to leave San Diego in the morning, make a quick stop in LA to visit a friend, stop at Harris Ranch for lunch, and maybe make one more stop before arriving in Tahoe in one day?

    Also, would you recommend taking the 5 to the 50 or the 15 to the 395?
    Google says the 395 is quicker, but driving to Mammoth last month I encountered many periods where I was stuck behind semi's or RV's. It is almost a guarantee to encounter traffic from SD to LA, but how will traffic be once out of LA?

    Besides skiing, any must do things in Tahoe or cool spots to check out?

    Any recommendations/input is greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default pushing it

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    First off, Going up I-15 and US-395 would certainly be much faster. Being caught behind RVs on US-395 is still going to be a whole lot faster than sitting in the near constant stop and go traffic that is I-5 in the LA area. And of course the bigger point is that even if traffic was equal, the I-5 route adds a full 100 miles to your trip so that's going to take more time.

    If you really want to take the I-5 route to visit your friend, you could probably push everything into one long day. Just keep in mind, that even if you only spend an hour or so at your friends house, it would probably be mid-afternoon by the time you stop for lunch, and you probably wouldn't make it to Tahoe until fairly late in the evening.

  3. Default Fastest route is I-5 or I-99

    I hate to disagree, but the fastest route to Tahoe is up through the California Central Valley.

    However, you do need to watch out for LA area traffic. The easiest way is to avoid rush hour traffic, and secondly to avoid taking I-5 through downtown LA where there are like 6 freeways which junction together (5, 10, 60, 110, 7, 101) IF there's going to be congestion, you can pretty much bet it going to be there. The way to get around this is to take either the 405 freeway from the I-5/405 junction around downtown LA, or take the 210 freeway along the northern edge of the city to avoid downtown

    It's possible to go from San Diego to Tahoe in a day -- figure about 8-10 hours on the road. Is it possible to stop in LA an visit a friend? If you're taking any signifcant amount of time there -- probably not, unless you want to pull into Tahoe late at night.

    The advantage of taking the I-5 or I-99 is that you can cruise at the speed limit of 65 or thereabouts for the entire distance. The 395 route up the east side of the Sierras has a lower speed limit, and the roads are in general narrower and a bit more winding.

    One alternative route you might consider is to take the I-99 up the eastern side of the Central Valley instead of the I-5. It's usually a very fast route -- but doesn't go past the Harris Ranch.

  4. Default

    Thanks for all the insight.

    I have driven the 395 up to Mammoth many times, but have never driven on it past Mammoth. Are road conditions any worse past the Mammoth area? If the weather happens to be bad on the day I travel, would it be wiser to take the 5?


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Central California

    Default Good roads


    The road north of Mammoth is all good, scenic, and somewhat winding. If the weather is decent it is a great ride. I'd overnight in Lee Vining or Bridgeport on the way, depending on your schedule. If the weather isn't looking good, well, you can always drive through the Central Valley.

    If you choose to go up the Central Valley, I-5 or Hwy 99 are about the same (4 lane, restricted access highways). I-5 can have strong cross winds, but Hwy 99 can have more traffic because of the many interchanges you encounter as you pass through the towns along the way. Either way, your driving time will be much the same, though you'll have more opportunities for breaks along Hwy 99.

    If you can't make the whole distance in one shot, a nice route to take to Tahoe is to get off Hwy 99 in Stockton and take Hwy 88 to the old gold mining towns of Jackson or Sutter Creek. Spend the night in one of the historic hotels such as the National Hotel in Jackson or the American Exchange Hotel in Sutter Creek (there are also motels and B&Bs in both towns). Then it is about 2-3 hours to South Lake Tahoe via Hwy 88 and Hwy 89. Again, weather is a bit of an issue as Carson Pass on Hwy 88 is at 8,500 feet and they sometimes close the road for a day to clear avalanches.

    Check with Caltrans or 1-800-427-7623, regardless of which road you take to make sure you won't be stuck in serious weather-related delays.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

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