US 50 to Lake Tahoe


Day 9 started with a big mistake, that wasted a couple of precious hours of traveling time.  As I started the day in Reno, I looked at the map and tried to select the most interesting route.  I planned on spending most of my day on US 395, headed south.  It would have been easy to take US 395 directly from Reno, but I decided it would be more interesting to drive back to Lake Tahoe, then take California Route 89 south, which would reconnect with Highway 395 near Topaz Lake.  There was only one problem with the plan: Route 89 was still closed for the winter, south of Lake Tahoe.  I didn’t realize it until I had already made the climb into the mountains, then fought my way through the traffic in South Lake Tahoe.  Then, I had to backtrack and take the Kingsbury Grade back down into the Washoe Valley, only 10 miles from where I had turned off of US 395.  So, here is my account of the extensive, unnecessary detour.

US 50 turns off US 395 south of Carson City.  The road makes a dramatic climb uphill into the Sierra Nevada, before dropping down to Lake Tahoe (at about the middle of the lake’s east side, sort-of the 3 o’clock position).

US 50 curves south and west, around the bottom corner of Lake Tahoe.  There are several places to access a good view of the lake, but one of the easiest is Logan Shoals Vista Point.  There are dozens of places to park at the side of the road, and a short walk leads to some huge boulders, and an open panorama of the lake itself.

The lake is still a good vertical distance below your feet.  There are paths that take you down the rocky hillside — it’s steep but not difficult on the way down, and just a bit of a lung strain on the way back up.  You’re still about 20 feet above the water when you reach a dirt path, where you can decide if you want to climb the rest of the way down.  I didn’t think I’d find a much better view below this point, so I didn’t go any further.

This is one of the good places to view Cave Rock: a sacred landmark to the local Washoe Indians.  Much to their displeasure, rock climbers regularly scale its cliffs, and US 50 runs directly through it.

South of here, the traffic builds, and the sprawl of Stateline, Nevada (with its casinos) and South Lake Tahoe (with everything else) takes attention away from the lake itself.  I didn’t make any more stops before realizing my mistake, turning around, and driving back downhill to reconnect with US 395.

I made the drive around the entire Lake Tahoe loop in 2007.  Be sure to check it out.

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