How Far is Lake Tahoe From San Francisco?
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
Lake Tahoe is a popular summer and winter destination for San Francisco Bay Area residents.
The drive time to Lake Tahoe depends on which direction you head in at the fork in the road in West Sacramento.
If you're going to Lake Tahoe's north shore, you'll want to take the northern branch. If you're headed for Lake Tahoe's south shore, you'll want to take the southern branch.
Yogi Berra famously said to Joe Garagiola — while giving Joe directions from New York to Yogi's house in Montclair — "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."
While Yogi's advice would work to the extent that either branch will take you to Lake Tahoe, you do not want to make the north shore vs. south shore decision after you get to the lake. This is because the shore length of Tahoe is 71 miles. It is not a quick and easy drive from one end of the lake to the other.
The Branch To North Lake Tahoe
If you stay on I-80 (a right exit), that will ultimately take you to Tahoe City. The distance from Van Ness and Market Street in San Francisco to Tahoe City is 199 miles. The non-stop drive time is 3 hours, 18 minutes in good weather and no traffic.
A popular rest stop is the historic foothills town of Auburn.
The Branch To South Lake Tahoe
If you stay straight, I-80 turns into the beginning of eastbound Highway 50. Just to confuse you, the first stretch of 50 is also called Business 80.
You'll see almost immediately, on your right, the famous sign that tells you not only how many more miles to the city of South Lake Tahoe—but also the number of miles to the eastern terminus of Highway 50 in Ocean City, Maryland.
The distance from Van Ness and Market Street to South Lake Tahoe is 188 miles. The non-stop drive time is 3 hours and 17 minutes in good weather and no traffic.
A convenient rest stop off of Highway 50 is El Dorado Hills. Just south of 50 is El Dorado Hills Town Center. Town Center has several gas stations and plenty of food options.