The drive to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento is filled with scenic views of nature and gold mines for history junkies.
If you’re planning on going to the Tahoe area this summer from the capital city, consider making a stop to one of the cities nearby to take a break and explore food, fun and local history.
There are multiple routes from downtown Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and depending on traffic, it takes about 2 hours to get to Tahoe City. Some of these stops may be more convenient than others based on which route you’re taking.
Please note travel times may change depending on traffic and delays, and the travel time does not account for how long you spend at the detour.
If you’re taking Interstate 80 East and then the CA-49N route, you can make a stop at Nevada City.
The city is a California Gold Rush town and its downtown district is a national historic landmark. There are museums, and about eight minutes before you hit Nevada City, there’s the Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley.
It’s one of the oldest and richest gold mines in the state, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation. There you can explore abandoned mines, restored gardens, old buildings and trails.
Total travel time: According to Google Maps, adding a stop to Nevada City from downtown Sacramento to Tahoe City will take about 2 hours and 27 minutes without traffic. The drive is about 125 miles.
You can stop at Donner Lake if you’re driving to Tahoe City on I-80 E.
If you need to stretch your legs from your drive, there are hiking trails on Donner Pass Road, including the Rainbow Bridge and the Mt. Judah Loop Trail. By the lake, you’ll find West End Beach, a 10-acre park with boat rentals and snacks.
About 10 minutes up the lake, there’s also the Historic Downtown Truckee where you can shop and eat.
Total travel time: Adding a stop to Donner Lake from downtown Sacramento to Tahoe City will make the drive about 2 hours and 6 minutes without traffic and a total of 114 miles.
On the I-80 route, you’ll pass Georgetown, a census-designated place in El Dorado County.
Georgetown is a historical landmark. It was previously called “Growlersburg” because large gold nuggets would “growl” in miners’ pans in the Gold Rush days.
There are hiking trails, art galleries and wineries for those in the passenger seat. You will also find shops and restaurants where you can grab a bite before heading back on the road.
Total travel time: A stop at Georgetown from downtown Sacramento to Tahoe City will take about 2 hours and 59 minutes without traffic. The drive will be about 150 miles.
If you’re headed to Tahoe City on the Highway 50, you can take a detour to Sly Park.
There’s the Sly Park Recreation Area where you can take a quick swim, hike or paddle on Jenkinson Lake. Or you can take in the scenic views of the forest and meadows.
There are picnic areas in the park, as well as tables, restrooms and water.
Total travel time: A detour at Sly Park from downtown Sacramento to Tahoe City will take about 2 hours and 58 minutes. The drive will be about 137 miles.
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