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Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

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Honolulu, Hawaii
posts: 3
reviews: 11
Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

We are planning to drive from SFO to South Lake Tahoe on Thursday night. Our flight gets in at 10pm after a 5 hour flight. There is a snow storm forecasted from Tuesday to Thursday morning. We are renting a 4WD Suburban. We have made the drive to SLT for years from SFO, just never at night. We drove through a small storm as well but it was during the day. Any recommendations on if we should make the drive or just stay in Folsom or Sac??? We want to get there asap and gamble but we don't want to gamble with our safety too. Please help!

California
posts: 805
1. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

Chad,

I live in the Sierra foothills due east of Stockton, CA. Yes, there is a rainstorm and a snowstorm scheduled to hit *the valley* around midnight tonight (Tues 03/05). It's predicted tonight on the evening Sacramento news with Mark Finan that the snow level will be down to perhaps 3,000 feet elevation. It is expected that the Tahoe area will get around 2 feet of snow and 6 to 10 inches at the 4,000 foot mark. That means icy roads at night for the next few days even after the storm is gone. It also means it'll be a COLD STORM.

Let's pretend that the storm has moved out of here/there by the time you land SFO Thursday night at 10 p.m.. By the time you get your luggage and vehicle, it will be midnight for sure, or 1:00 a.m. WHEN YOU GET to Sacramento.

I would be concerned about ice on the highways further east of Sacramento as you steadily gain elevation at 2 and at 3 in the morning when it is dark and really cold. And the BIG *of course* is that you have to watch out for other drivers, big rigs, etc. If someone else messes up and has an accident ahead of you in the snow or ice, you could easily be stuck in your vehicle through the night.

If it were me, I would plan to stay overnight in Auburn (if using I-80 to Tahoe) or stay overnight in Placerville (if using Highway 50 to Tahoe). This will give you a big head start on Friday morning -- and you will be safe. I would make lodging reservations before you leave home.

Just my thoughts combined with the latest weather information.

P.S. By Sunday it is supposed to be 72 in *the valley*, and 74 on Monday!

Edited: 12:36 am, March 06, 2013
California
posts: 805
2. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

Chad, It's me again -- from Copperopolis.

If you book a room for Thursday night at the lower elevation (I hope so),

PLEASE TELL THE HOTEL TO NOTE ON YOUR RESERVATION THAT YOU WILL BE A VERY LATE ARRIVAL and give them the approximate time of your arrival. (It's not a bad idea to call the hotel when you are leaving San Francisco to let them know you will be checking in within a few hours.)

I think it is important to have the hotel know when to expect you especially when arriving very late so they won't think or assume you are a pre-paid *no show* and they decide to give your room to someone else who is desperate. Some times hotels will take their chances -- thinking that if you do show up, they will simply try to find you a room at another lodging facility.

I've been in the lodging business -- need I say more!

South Lake Tahoe, CA
posts: 45
reviews: 17
3. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

I don't think the storm on Thursday night is supposed to be very big, so I think you will be fine. That being said, you know how twisty and dark the road is, so if you are tired from traveling, I think staying in The Sacramento area would make sense. The roads will probably be a bit icy, but should be mostly clear of snow. The nice part of driving at night is that you won't have to deal with many other cars on the road. If it were me, I would drive all the way to South Lake, but of course I am very familiar with the roads. If you do go for it, just go slow!!!

California
posts: 10,878
reviews: 12
4. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

If you decide to lodge for the night before you reach SLT. Try driving to Folsom and stay in any one of the places off the Scott Road/Bidwell exit. This will at least keep you out of commute traffic for Friday morning.

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 14,139
reviews: 1,782
5. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

In the Folsom area, our hotel of choice is

Larkspur Landing

Really nice place to stay, continental breakfast in morning....

close to highway 50

larkspurhotels.com/larkspur-landing/folsom

Near Yosemite...
posts: 3,341
reviews: 6
6. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

I have driven to South Lake Tahoe at night many times during the winter. I enjoy driving at the later hours, as there is very little traffic and seldom slower trucks. As mentioned, you have to watch for ice even during non stormy times. Cal Trans lays down ice melting material but I have found black ice at the lower elevations....so you have to watch out and slow down. Your trip is weather related either during the day or at night. If you are tired before you head up the hill, it probably would be best to spend the night.

Honolulu, Hawaii
posts: 3
reviews: 11
7. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

NotafanofTA, Tahoejules, suzie-travels, mini and CaSweded - Thank you so much for responding and giving all of those helpful advice. I really appreciate it as this storm put a kink in our plans. I see that it is dumping now and hope it subsides prior to us possibly making the drive. Thank you for the tips on lodging in Folsom/Lower Elevation. I will be sure to let them know that I will be coming in really late so they don't think that I am a no-show. I think that if it is pretty clear, we will chance the drive if we don't feel tired. If it still looks a bit unclear, we won't take the chance and stay in Folsom. Thanks again for all the tips!!!!

Honolulu, Hawaii
posts: 3
reviews: 11
8. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

tahoejuls/CaSweded - If I am worried about anything, it is the icy roads. Does anyone have tips on identifying black ice, approaching it and how to drive through it? Again, if it is unclear, I think the best thing is to avoid driving at night but if it is clear, I know that the icy roads still may be a problem being that it is so cold. Any tips would be appreciated!!!

California
posts: 805
9. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

-- Snowstorm at Tahoe is extended into Friday --

This morning on www.weather.com, it looks like the snowstorm has been extended through to Friday. It says 70% chance of snow on Thursday and 70% chance of snow on Friday at South Lake Tahoe. Very sorry that this has put a kink in your plans but this area is simply desperate for the precipitation. Whatever you do, just take it easy.

Edited: 1:16 pm, March 06, 2013
Near Yosemite...
posts: 3,341
reviews: 6
10. Re: Driving from SFO to South Lake Tahoe at Night

Tips on driving on ice? Well, the usual common sense type thing- slow down, avoid quick breaking and quick turns. Cal Trans has put up signs on Hwy 50 where the worst ice is likely to be. Look for the "ICY" signs and slow way down when you see these signs.

It looks like the storms are slowing down and they are predicting isolated snow during your drive. I think you will be fine. Have a safe and fun trip.