Best Lake Tahoe Road Trips

Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By christinanellemann on June 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

The car trip around Lake Tahoe has been called the Most Beautiful Drive in America by America’s Byways and this gorgeous 72-mile trip can be done over the course of a day, a weekend or even a week if you want.

The Most Beautiful Drive in America can start from anywhere on the lake, but the two best places to start are on Hwy. 50 from Carson City or from Hwy. 431 from South Reno. Each of these routes take you up through high mountain desert and into the forests around the lake. Once you reach the summits, you will be treated to peak-a-boo views of the big blue water and from each of these routes you can pick any direction you want to go. From Hwy. 50 you can continue south to Stateline and South Lake Tahoe, take some time out to visit the beautiful and popular Emerald Bay, drive through Homewood, Meeks Bay, Sugar Pine Point and into Tahoe City. From here you can head to Truckee on Hwy. 89 or over to North Lake Tahoe and Incline Village on Hwy. 28. From the Hwy. 431 route you can head into Incline Village where you have access to Sand Harbor and the Lake Tahoe State Park. You can also head over the north part of the lake into Crystal Bay, Kings Beach, or Carnelian Bay and down into Tahoe City.

Before driving The Most Beautiful Drive in America, pick up a map and an audio CD on the area at

Besides the Lake Tahoe loop, there are other beautiful drives around the Tahoe/Reno area:

Truckee to Sierraville

Take a drive on Hwy. 89 from Truckee for about 24 miles through the forests and meadows to the small town of Sierraville. Once you head into Sierraville and the Sierra Valley, you are at the beginning of the largest alpine valley in the continental U.S. Along the road you will be able to see numerous rustic barns that date back to the 1870s.

Donner Lake to the Rainbow Bridge

Also near Truckee is the drive from Donner Lake to the Rainbow Bridge. This is called the Old Lincoln Highway, Donner Pass Road or Hwy. 40. This scenic road parallels Hwy. 80, but the best place to stop is at the beautiful Rainbow Bridge where you can get a birds-eye view of Donner Lake, Donner Pass, and Truckee.

Hwy. 341 to Virginia City

From the corner of Hwy. 431 and Hwy. 395 in South Reno, you can take Hwy. 341 up into the Virginia Range. This winding road runs through high desert, sagebrush and pinion forests and dumps you into the real-life Wild West town of Virginia City. There are several rest stops and viewing areas along this road where you can get a great view of all of Reno and the Sierra Range.

Hwy. 88 and Hwy. 4

Just south of Lake Tahoe there are two scenic roads which will take you into some stunning areas in the Mokelumne and Carson Iceberg Wilderness areas. From Meyers on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, drive south on Hwy. 89 until you get to the 89/88 interchange. Going West will take you through the beautiful pine and aspens forests of Hope Valley, past Kirkwood ski area and over the Carson Pass where there are numerous alpine lakes including Caples and Silver Lake. Going east will take you to Woodfords where you can take Hwy. 4 south to Markleeville and towards Ebbett’s Pass. Hwy. 4 is a twisting, turning road with many switchbacks, so large trailers are not advised. This road will lead you to excellent mountain and valley views and give you access to Lake Alpine and Bear Valley.

Photos Courtesy of [Sierraville: kenlund/Flickr, Tahoe: rkramer62/Flickr, Virginia City: RickC/Flickr, Donner Lake: Wikimedia Commons, Rainbow Bridge: davidcmc58/Panoramio, Hope Valley: RickC/Flickr]