There’s nothing quite like fresh snow in the middle of winter. And being able to escape the busy city of San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to experience a fresh coating of white powder on the ground can make everything feel better… more magical. A winter wonderland, visiting Lake Tahoe in the middle of the winter can sometimes be exactly what you need to refresh and reconnect.
From San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
The distance from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe is only 190-miles (3+ hours) to South Lake Tahoe and 200-miles (3+ hours) to North Lake Tahoe, making it the perfect weekend getaway or if you only have one day, also a quick and easy day trip from the city. With well-known mountain ranges, visiting in the winter is ideal if you like to ski or snowboard, but there are a plethora of other things to do in Lake Tahoe and fun outdoor activities you can participate in if you don’t ski or snowboard.
Keep in mind, if you’re driving from San Francisco to Tahoe weather conditions can vary. I recommend checking out the Chain Guy before driving to see whether or not it’s advised to put chains on your tires.
Renting Ski/Snowboard Gear
I highly recommend renting your ski gear before going to Tahoe. That way it’s out of the way and once you arrive you’re all ready and set to go. If you’re planning to visit Tahoe from San Francisco and you don’t have your own gear (or you’re a travel nurse like me and don’t like to pack all of your gear), I highly recommend renting from Sports Basement. There are two locations in the city, and you can rent anything from snow pants to helmets and even other things like bikes! You simply go online and follow the prompts, pick your sizes, and put in the dates for when you want your gear. Once your gear is ready for pick up they will email you and even allow you to come to pick it up at your earliest convenience for no extra charge.
Should You Visit North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe is 192 mi² and 22 miles in length. You can definitely make it a point to visit both North and South Lake Tahoe in one weekend, or you could focus on one specific area. North Lake Tahoe is where Squaw Valley is located and where the 1960 Winter Olympics were hosted. It’s the second-largest ski resort in the area, behind Heavenly Mountain located in South Lake Tahoe. The draw to South Lake Tahoe is Heavenly Mountain where you get views of Lake Tahoe as you ski down the mountain. What’s unique about Heavenly is that the mountain is split between California and Nevada so you have a chance to ski in both states!
SKIING SQUAW VALLEY – North Lake Tahoe
A lift ticket to Squaw Valley ranges in price depending on which day you’re visiting. For more information on purchasing a lift ticket for the mountain, click here.
SKIING HEAVENLY MOUNTAIN – South Lake Tahoe
A lift ticket to Heavenly costs around $150 for a one-day pass. If you hold an Epic pass you’re also eligible to use it at this mountain. For more information on purchasing a lift ticket for the mountain, click here.
For incredible views of Lake Tahoe from the top of the mountain, make sure to take the Tamarack lift to the California Trail. If you want to see the lake as you ski down the mountain, head to Ridge Run.
For dining options, there are many lodges located throughout the mountain that you can stop at. But beware, food and drinks are expensive on the mountain. If you can, I’d recommend packing some protein bars and mini bottles in your pockets so you don’t have to stop. Otherwise, a more unique choice is to stop at Steins for beer and sausages.
Note: Both times I’ve visited Lake Tahoe I’ve stayed around South Lake Tahoe. For purposes of this post, that’s the area that I’ll be focusing on.
Exploring Heavenly Village in South Lake Tahoe + Where to Eat
Heavenly Village is located at the base of the mountain near the Heavenly Mountain Resort Gondola. It is a lively center for restaurants, bars, casinos, shopping, and entertainment. As you walk through Heavenly you’ll notice live music, skiers coming and going from spending a day on the mountain, fire pits to warm up around, and tons of dog-friendly restaurants. Again, if you aren’t big on skiing/snowboarding you can entertain yourself in the village by going to see a movie, ice skating, playing mini-golf, and so on.
There are 13 restaurants in Heavenly Village, where you can just about find something for anyone! If you’re craving a lively atmosphere and Latin fare, dine at Azul Latin Kitchen. If you want something casual for takeout (or you want to dine in), grab an artisanal pizza from Base Camp Pizza. Or head across the street from Heavenly to feast on delicious BBQ food at Ten Crows BBQ.
Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe
If you’re visiting Tahoe with a group of people and want to rent out a cabin, there are many different and competitive choices. I recommend looking at VRBO, Airbnb, and Vacasa. If you’re coming alone or with a smaller group, a hotel might be the best choice for you. I prefer to search booking.com when looking for hotel options.
A quick and easy winter escape from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe can be quite an adventure. With the short and scenic drive and amount of fun activities to do in Tahoe, there’s no reason you shouldn’t make this trip up north a priority.
Are you looking for more escapes from San Francisco? Make sure to check out these posts for more options on easily exploring Northern California. And if you also want to plan a visit to Lake Tahoe in the summertime, don’t miss 10 Things to Do During a Lake Tahoe Summer.
SHOP MY FAVORITE SKI/SNOWBOARD LOOKS!