San Francisco is close to incredible tourist destinations: Napa Valley, the Northern California Redwood forests, Yosemite, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and many more beautiful locales are just a road trip away! One road trip is the perfect destination any time of year: Lake Tahoe.


Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range that separates California from Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a massive lake (and city of the same name). Half of the lake is actually on the California side, while the other half is in Nevada: the California side of the lake focuses more on outdoor activities, while the Nevada side has many casinos (since gambling is legal in Nevada).


There are many exciting activities to participate in while visiting Lake Tahoe. During the summer, the lake is full of boats and water skiing and jet skiing are popular activities. In the winter, the mountains are full of snow and the ski resorts are open for Northern Californians to enjoy the slopes. Lake Tahoe was actually the host of the winter games in 1960!


Whether you go to Lake Tahoe in the warmer or colder months, one thing is certain: the three-hour drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe is breathtaking. Along the way, there are many stops you can take to make the most of your road trip. The following are a few suggestions.

Lunch in Old Town or Midtown Sacramento

Midtown and Old Town Sacramento are just off the freeway, and both places are perfect for lunch. Old Town is located right on the Sacramento River, and many restaurants overlook the water. The shops have the original designs from the late 1800s and the old wooden walkways and cobblestone streets add to the atmosphere. Old Town has many fun boutiques and great candy shops, so make sure to grab a snack while you are there!

This fun couple dressed in 19th century costumes to walk around Old Town!

Midtown is the “newer” area and is filled with delicious, trendy restaurants. Stop in at one of the many great places to eat, and then head over and see the beautiful Capitol building. The parks surrounding the building are beautiful and a great place to walk and stretch your legs before getting back into the car and hitting the road.

The beautiful California State Capitol.

Stop in Gold Country

As you leave the Sacramento Valley and continue along Highway 50, you will enter the foothills of Gold Country. This is where the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s first began. Today the area is not rich with gold, but it IS rich with California history. Many of the mining towns found throughout the California foothills are preserved to look as they did during the 1800s and are quite charming.

Little cabins like these are found throughout Coloma.

The pinnacle piece of California Gold Rush history is in Coloma. Coloma is where the first large piece of gold was found by James Sutter in 1848. This tiny little town (population of just 500!) is still a tourist site today. Touring some of the old buildings of this ghost town makes you feel like you traveled back in time and are taking a glimpse at the Old West that is glamorized in so many movies.


Enjoy the Views

Once you leave the foothills of Gold Country, you begin climbing into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Here you see a very drastic change in scenery: the shrubs and dry grasses become pine trees and large granite rocks, and the roads often follow rivers and streams that have cold, clear snow water. Throughout this drive, there are scenic areas for you to stop and take photos: make sure to do so! The view is astonishingly beautiful.


Have you taken a road trip to Lake Tahoe or elsewhere? Share with us on the CISL Facebook page!

All Tahoe photos from Visit Lake Tahoe. Old Town photo from Old Sacramento. Capitol building and cabin photos from Wikipedia.