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Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

Cerritos, CA
2 posts
2 reviews
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Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

Hello! We're planning on driving to South Lake Tahoe from the Los Angeles area before Christmas. We will actually spend Christmas in the SF Bay Area but wanted to show the kids snow first. We're planning on leaving at night to take advantage of the having the kids asleep through most of the trip, but I know we're missing out on some great views. We're never taken 395 before and never any driving trips through snowy conditions, any tips on what the drive is like? narrow roads? a lot of curves? the best places to stop and get gas? what's it like at night? enough or not enough lights to see the road? Thanks in advance (I'm kind of nervous about the drive).

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South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe (California), CA
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
California
Orange, California
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85 posts
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1. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I-5 route is a faster and easier drive; no curves except the last 45-minutes.

If you must take 395, then watch your speed. Can get a hefty ticket for driving 5 mph over speed limit, specially around Bishop.

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Bishop
Bishop
California
Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
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2. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I wouldn't take 395, especially not during winter, I-5 and Highway 50, especially I-5 may not be pretty but it is fast and efficient. on 395 you can get caught up in the Mammoth Mtn traffic and that can add 3-4 hours to the drive. I haven't used 395 in years, but I assume it is still mostly a three lane highway (meaning one lane north, one lane south with a passing lane).

There are no lights on the road outside of the cities, I wouldn't drive at night on it either due to ice and the dark.

Santa Clarita...
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3. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I have family in Carson City, and during the winter, they do not travel to LA before 8:30 - 9 a.m. By that time, Hwy 395 has been maintained and warmed sufficiently for safer travel. North of Bridgeport and through Walker Canyon, it is two lane. It can be very icy because very little sun hits it. I wouldn't recommend it for nighttime travel, as it is also quite isolated.

If you do the I-5 in daytime, you can check out a possible side trip to Frazier Park - Pine Mountain area (north of Castaic) for snow play.

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Long Barn...
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4. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I would not make this drive myself, and I have 4 WD and snow tires. The whole point of making this drive would be the scenic beauty. At night you would miss all of this, and what could be expected? Slippery and icy roads for more than 100 miles. You could run into snow with chain controls, or what happens during nicer weather is the snow will melt and then freeze on the road. Have you ever hit a patch of black ice on a curve?

There are other areas to see snow. Just one idea- Take Hwy 99 to Fresno to Hwy 41 or take 140 to Yosemite. Not only will you see snow, but some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

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Fresno
Fresno
California
Redlands, California
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5. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I'm from L.A. and make the drive a few times a year, usually on 395. I have AWD w/snow tires and I'm used to riving in the snow. I hate that road at night! There are no lights and it's hard to tell if you're driving on wet asphalt or black ice. If you are nervous, listen to your instincts.

The drive from the Bay Area to SLT is beautiful. If you're traveling back to L.A. during daylight hours, check the weather. You might consider taking 395 home. The first part of the drive is gorgeous. You can stop in Bishop for food and gas.

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Bishop
Bishop
California
LA
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11,002 posts
1 review
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6. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

You must carry chains, warm clothing, food and water and a shovel as you really need to be prepared for winter driving conditions. There are multiple passes over 8,000 ft and they could easily be iced up or snowy if any weather front comes in.

Cell phone coverage is not available through all of 395, especially the Walker River canyon, and near Bridgeport.

I have 4WD with snow tires and I would be very careful about this drive. I would NEVER do it at night in winter. I would try to be off the road by about 4:30 pm as the sun has set and the temperature drops precipitously after that, so there is much more chance of icing on the roads.

It's a very beautiful drive in the spring, summer, and early fall,but you must be prepared and very cautious of this road in winter.

Cerritos, CA
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2 reviews
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7. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

Thank you all so much for the good advice! I think we will changing our plans and will take the 5! At the very least it's a freeway I'm familiar with. I'm sure they'll be plenty of photo ops for husband once we get to South Lake Tahoe. Btw, I'll be getting new tires and chains as well this Friday so I hope to be prepared. Thanks again for the great advice!

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South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe (California), CA
Redlands, California
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8. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

You're more than welcome! Have a great trip.

California
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9. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

I, for one, am so happy you changed your mind. In January we drove from Mammoth to SLT on 395 and between Mammoth and Bridgeport the wind howled and the snow blew across the road so the fact htat it wasn't snowing did not help us. The road was covered with snow and ice anyway. A tractor trailer had blown over on the south bound lanes just to give you an idea of how much wind goes through there. I thought it was the scariest drive ever.

Have a great vacation.

Redlands, California
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10. Re: Driving from Los Angeles area to South Lake Tahoe via 395

We made that drive two days after Thanksgiving. The snow was awful at the highest points on 395. We were concerned about what we would find in Tahoe, but it was no problem after we left Bridgeport.