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Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

Adelaide
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Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

I am organizing a trip in mid December, which involves flying into Sacramento, hiring a car and driving to South Lake Tahoe, where we will stay for a couple of days. We then plan to drive to Las Vegas.

Being from Australia, I don't know much about snow and driving.

Is this even possible?

I read on a website that to get to Vegas, I need to go through passes that will be closed. I went on google maps for directions and there is a whole section that says closed for winters.

We are just looking at a standard car. Do we need to buy snow chains?

Any information about the above will be appreciated.

Edited: 9:47 pm, June 27, 2011
Lassen National...
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1. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

I would rent an all-wheel drive (Subaru's)/ 4x4. You'll also need to carry chains. There shouldn't be a need to chain up if you have snow tires. I've never had to even driving through 2+ feet of snow with a 2 wheel drive. Just drive slow, brake easily, gradually turn, etc..

Long Barn...
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2. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

"Is this even possible? I read on a website that to get to Vegas, I need to go through passes that will be closed."

Sure it is possible. The preferred route to South Lake Tahoe from Sacramento is to use Hwy 50. This road is open year round, but under heavy snow conditions it does close at times to clear the roads for short periods of time. Also, at times chains or 4 wheel drive with snow tires can be required to proceed on this road.

December is still the early part of our snow season, and at this point it is impossible to tell you if you will need snow chains or if they are not needed. As mentioned, you can hire a 4 wheel drive vehicle (many more kinds besides Subaru)---- you will not need to bother with snow chains if you get one of these vehicles.

To continure your drive to Las Vegas, you can take hwy 50 east through Carson City to hwy 95 south to Las Vegas. This is a long drive, but chains and snow problems are usually not an issue with this route even in the winter.

Lassen National...
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3. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

Should have been clearer. Subaru & Audi I think are the only vehicles that are all wheel drive. There are many more 4x4's, but they aren't 4x4 until you put them in wheel drive.

It's always a good idea to carry a shovel, warm clothes or blanket, some snacks, etc. when driving in snow country.

California
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4. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

Ford Escape does not have to be put into 4 wheel drive. It senses when 4 wheel drive is required and switches. We have one. Don't worry about switching to 4 wheel drive on an SUV. It's a matter of turning a knob on the dashboard. No big deal.

I agree with CaSwede.

Lassen National...
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5. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

Okay. I wasn't implying that it was difficult. I'm not even sure if Audi's or Subaru's are available to rent.

Long Barn...
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6. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

I rented a Subaru at one time. But...... I guess the point is to rent (hire) a vehicle by type rather than brand.

Singapore, Singapore
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7. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

I am in south lake Tahoe now and will be driving up to las Vegas on 14 dec 2011 , I rented a 4 wheel drive and wonder do I need chain to drive up and also which route should I be taking ? How long will the distance from lake Tahoe to las Vegas and also on the way up , should where could I stop over if the drive is too long ? Anyone could advice me please ?

California
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8. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

I don't think there is any snow in the forecast is there? You won't need any special car or equipment if it's not going to snow.

LA
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9. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

Just because it isn't snowing doesn't mean it won't by icy in places. Bridges and overpasses, especially can freeze and be slippery without visible snow.

Northern Nevada has a peculiar wintertime hazard with a freezing fog, called Pogonip by the Washoe Paiute native Americans. It can leave a film of black ice over everything and makes driving extremely hazardous. I've been caught in it while visiting relatives and it is creepy.

It's at least 10 hours from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas. In December, the daylight will be very short and it will be dark by 5 pm. Tonopah is about the only place to stop, if you take Highway 95.

I don't recommend Highway 395 in the winter.

Santa Cruz...
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10. Re: Driving from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe and on to Vegas

If you have 4WD you should not need to chain up. The only time you need to do both is if it is very bad conditions and we don't have any of those in the immediate forcast.

Otherwise I agree with caswede on the drive to Vegas tip.

You should be fine.

Just drive SLOW in the SNOW.

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