San Francisco to Denver Road Trip | Day 3: Lake Tahoe & Reno

In May 2014 we drove 1,950 miles through 6 different states (California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado). We went to 5 national parks/landmarks, went to 4 museums, took 2 factory tours, rode a train through the Rockies, went on a boat cruise of Lake Tahoe, took a walking tour of San Fran, hiked the tallest peak in Salt Lake City, saw real dinosaur bones in Colorado, survived the highest altitude we’ve ever been at (11K feet), ate countless memorable meals, and had one Guy Fieri sighting. Check out our route:


Day 3 began early in Sacramento after a decent stay at the local Sheraton and fueling up on a chai tea latte and english muffin from a local coffee shop.


From Sacramento we hit the road for the 2 hour drive to Lake Tahoe. This was the first point in the trip that we saw some actual landscape (San Fran to Oakland to Sacramento doesn’t really count since it’s all city). In case you didn’t know, Lake Tahoe sits in that little elbow crook on the border of California and Nevada. The drive took us through the surrounding Tahoe National Forest which was just lovely.



Our destination was South Lake Tahoe which was a little town that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Despite that, we realized quickly that it is a full on destination! In these parts of the country it’s all outdoor recreation so there were tons of kayak rentals, outdoor sporting good stores, camp grounds, ski resorts, mountain bike shops, trailheads, etc.

We arrived at Zephyr Cove Resort ready for our lake cruise!



My first impression was overwhelming. I knew Lake Tahoe was supposed to be pretty but I was actually taken aback by how gorgeous it was. The water was like glass; deep blue, green, and clear all at once. The mountains surrounding the lake felt like you could reach out and touch them. The weather was a perfect, breezy 70 degrees. The whole initial experience was breathtaking and I thought to myself – this is why we do this, a road trip is the only way we would have come here – and it felt very special.



We got on the boat and took our seats for the cruise on the MS Dixie II.



Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake that sits at about 6,000 ft. elevation. It is the second deepest alpine lake in the country (just after Crater Lake) at about 1,600 feet deep. The lake was formed roughly 2 million years ago and took its modern day shape from glaciers during the Ice Ages.




Halfway through the lake cruise we entered Emerald Bay, known for it’s emerald green waters, unique geology, and exquisite glacier-carved granite.


Fannette Island, located in Emerald Bay, is the only island in Lake Tahoe and is said to be a solid granite mass that resisted glacial ice movements. At the highest point of the island is the Tea House which was constructed by the owner of Vikingsholm Castle as a place for her and her friends to have tea. I want to have a friend like that!


Also located in Emerald Bay is Vikingsholm Castle, a 38 room mansion that is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the US. It was built in 1929 by the Knight family, also known for being the primary financial backers of Charles Lingbergh’s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. The mansion is open for tours but we enjoyed the view of it from the boat.



The lake cruise took a little over 2 hours and, overall, was awesome. Afterward we had lunch at the Zephyr Cove Restaurant before getting back in the car for the hour drive to Reno, Nevada (our final destination for the night).


We arrived in Reno at about 4pm and decided to explore a little bit before checking in to our hotel.


We visited the National Automobile Museum and wandered around until they closed for the day.



We have been to several car museums across the country and this definitely was one of the finest. The collection is amazing, with all eras represented and finely curated. The condition of the cars was exquisite The layout of the museum was great too – I loved the flow and the historical scenery that was incorporated into the museum




My favorite car was the DeLorean, of course! (one of the 6,000 believed to still exist)


After closing down the museum, we checked in to our hotel and got some dinner (worst dinner of the trip actually – you win some, you lose some).


Stay tuned for Day 4 where we drive across Nevada and arrive in Salt Lake City!

Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

4 thoughts

  1. I LOVE Lake Tahoe! I could sit there all day and take pictures of it. It looks like you are having a wonderful trip!!!

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