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Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

charlotte
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Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

My 22 year old daughter and myself will be driving from SF area on a Wednesday, early October, probably heading through Sacramento and taking Hwy 50 as that seems to be a scenic route to Lake Tahoe.

Our family visited Lake Tahoe in 2000, coming from Yosemite and drove the lake ring for a day and did the beautiful downhill hike and back to Vikingsholm. My memory is a little shaky on the rest of the drive. I remember stopping in one of the cute towns, but don't remember which one on the Lake? Maybe Tahoe City?

We will get into the Lake Tahoe area late afternoon, spend the night and head out to I 80 towarts Salt Lake City sometime late the next day.

Several questions. If we are coming in Hwy 50, what would be the best itinerary and direction of travel for us for aft and next day? I'm thinking we would want to see Taylor Creek in case there are bears there for the salmon, Maybe park at Eagle Falls and hike up to falls and then maybe do the hike again down to Vikingsholm as my daughter doesn't remember it very well, Maybe see the sand harbor area? We like to kayak, but not sure if that's running or we would have time.

If we come in and do some of that, what part of the Lake do we stay for the night? I'm sure we will need to do most of it in the morning as darkness will be fast approaching.

We're not much interested in casinos and hotel or cabin or something about $100 would be great. Can do more $ if needed.

Don't need resort feel for so short a stay.

Fun places to eat? where on the map/itinerary? Dinner? Lunch? or we can picnic for lunch.

Then is the best route back to I 80 to SLC , Carson City to Reno and then East or Carson City to Fernley area and then East?

Thanks. I would just not like to double back too much and your help is appreciated! I can't wait to see Lake Tahoe again!

San Francisco
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1. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

We’re glad you enjoyed Tahoe and want to come back :) I’ll let the Tahoe local experts give you the best advice for that area.

To get to I-80 after Tahoe, it isn’t necessary to go to Reno unless you have some reason to. Doing that will add a few miles over the other alternatives, but it’s pretty negligible, 20 at the most. If you take 50 east from Carson City, you can make a detour to Virginia City, the Comstock Lode silver mining settlement that is now a “tourist ghost town.” IOW, it isn’t deserted and it has businesses and residents, but it also has plenty of historic buildings and sites to see.

You could take the cutoff to Fernley or go on to Fallon, a slightly bigger town. Again, very small difference in mileage.

How much time do you have for this trip? IOW, how long to go from Tahoe to Salt Lake? The reason I’m asking is that if this were MY trip (and I know it isn’t), I would take 50 all the way because it is picturesque and leisurely. This is “America’s Loneliest Highway” (although 50 in west Utah is probably a close contender), and in the 250 miles between Fallon and Ely, there are only 2-3 towns and they are mostly historic mining communities like Austin and Eureka or “wide spot in the road” settlements that sprang up around old Pony Express stations, like Middlegate. This route is not for the faint of heart or those who need to see a town, hotel, or store every 50 miles or so. You won’t see much traffic and you’ll be on your own for awhile if you get in trouble, but sooner or later people will show up because it is, after all, a U.S. highway. The trip is very scenic and peaceful, and the historic towns of Austin and Eureka are great places (they also have lodging, dining, etc.) If you read Stephen King’s novel “Desperation,” the setting is the mining community of Ruth, just outside Ely, and if you drive the 2-3 miles to see it, you’ll get why it is a perfect Stephen King setting.

At Ely, you would take U.S. 93 north. I figured the mileage from Carson City to Wendover, and taking 50, it is 440-445 miles. If you turn off for I-80 at the first opportunity after Carson City, which is Fernley, you can save a whole 25-30 miles. From Wendover to Salt Lake is about 125 miles.

If you need to take I-80, or decide 50 isn’t for you, all the towns have mom-and-pop cafés or independent casino restaurants as well as chain places. Lovelock has a unique landmark at Lover’s Lock Plaza, where spouses, family members, friends, even people and pets can “lock their love.” It is behind the county courthouse (downtown, north of I-80). Many variety and general stores in town sell locks, so you can do this if you wish. The tradition is that love will last as long as the lock stays, and folks either throw away the key or keep it as a memento of their "locked love" Lovelock was among the last towns in the U.S. to be bypassed by the I-80 freeway, and much of the main drag has a look faintly reminiscent of old Route 66.

South of I-80 near Imlay is a Nevada historic landmark called Rolling Thunder Mountain. It’s a folk art project by a man who was part Cherokee, as a tribute to his Native American heritage and just a creative endeavor. It has figures of people and animals, abstractions, even a house where the artist once lived, Imlay doesn’t have any real services, probably hasn’t since the days of the Southern Pacific “City of San Francisco” train that stopped there (before Amtrak). I think there is a gas station with a store. But if you have a few minutes, do stop and see this interesting spot.

The last major town (and "major' is a fairly generous description) before the state line is Wells. There isn't much there, but it does have a handful of motels and restaurants. I think what keeps it going is that it's the biggest thing between Twin Falls and Ely, making it a junction town for both Yellowstone and Great Basin national parks. You'll find a bigger variety of everything in Wendover, which is not that exciting a place either, but it's also the last thing for almost two hours until you reach the outskirts of Salt Lake City. (If you've always been intrigued by the Bonneville Salt Flats, it's just outside Wendover).

Edited: 20 September 2012, 02:19
charlotte
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2. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

Wow! Thank you! You have given me a lot to consider! It is so helpful to have all those insider tips to see the interesting places along the way! That's really what makes a trip.

Since we may spend at least 1/2- 3/4 of a day at Lake Tahoe, and with a long drive ahead, we may take I-80. We hope to be in Salt Lake City the day after by noon to hear the organ recital at the Temple, so the closer we get the better. It's not that much difference in miles, but maybe I-80 is quicker in time, which may be what we need.

I just had a friend today tell me not to miss the Salt Flats. I need to check that out! Thanks again for your time.

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3. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

You're right, I-80 will be faster, simply because it's a freeway. There are times when the traffic on I-80 between Reno and Salt Lake (or at least the outskirts of the cities) isn't much heavier than on 50!

Depending on your time frame and how long you are staying in Salt Lake, if you miss the organ recital at the Tabernacle, there will be one the next day. They are given every day at noon except for Sunday when it is at 2:00 p.m.

I know you haven't asked, but here is a website with visitor info for Temple Square. If nothing else, it's worth looking at just for the fun interactive 3-D map

http://www.visittemplesquare.com/

If you are going to Salt Lake in early October, be aware that the semi-annual General Conferences of the LDS Church are held on the first Sat-Sun of October. This year it's Oct 6-7. That typically means lots of people around Temple Squre and the general downtown area around it, and sometimes more difficulty finding hotel vacancies.

California
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4. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

I 80 has a tremendous amount of construction going on right now. While you shouldn't encounter alot of traffic due to a mid week visit I think your original idea of taking 50 is way more scenic especially in October when you can see some changing colors.

I have driven both 80 and 50 recently and thoroughly enjoyed my drive on 50. I'm usually the passenger so I don't pay much attention to the road situation but I have to say that 50 was perfectly fine and not slow at all.

I'll be back later for accomodations and dinner recommendations.

Napa, CA
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5. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

With your limited time, you might just focus on the south western corner of Lake Tahoe. Taylor Creek, Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake area. There are quite a few nice motels in the "Y" area along CA 89 after it splits with US 50. This would be my choice for inexpensive lodging. If you want fancier (and more expensive) rooms, then you will need to drive closer to Stateline.

For getting to I-80 from Carson City, you can head out on US 50 to Fernley or you can take the brand new I-580 to Reno. This new highway is something to witness and has shaved 10 minutes off the drive from Carson City to Reno. It just opened a couple of weeks ago.

Fortaleza, CE
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6. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

http://www.nnry.com/ (we rode on one of the historic trains). Highway 50 also known as the UFO Highway (as are a few others). You'll see signs.

Edited: 20 September 2012, 18:13
charlotte
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7. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

Wonderful! This is all very helpful! Thank you all so much. I would never have known of all the road construction. That new I 580 sounds great! I'll look to concentrate in the SW corner of Tahoe. I think that sounds best.

Napa, CA
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8. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

I believe the construction suzie is talking about is between Sacramento and Reno and not between Reno and Salt Lake. But, I could be mistaken.

Long Barn...
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9. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

I-80 also had a major bottleneck slow down through Reno and Sparks due to construction. They just re-opened all lanes through this area last week. I don't know about I-80 east of Sparks, but even if there is road construction it should not be a big problem.

Sacramento, CA
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10. Re: Need help with itinerary, please! SF to Tahoe to Elko

There is some construction going on on I-80 in various spots between Elko and Reno but nothing that slows the trip down noticeably.