San Jose to South Lake Tahoe Road Trip Guide


The road trip from San Jose to South Lake Tahoe is an interesting drive that makes for a pleasant day out and a wonderful opportunity to cement a friendship. The journey itself takes around four hours, so you will want an early start and you will need to choose your stops with care. Luckily, there's plenty to do on this short but sweet road trip.

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Max RV length
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Road trip length: 1 days
Recommend rig: van
audience: friends

Point of Interest


After driving for 75 miles, Stockton is probably a good place to think about breaking the journey. An added incentive might be a visit to the Haggin Museum and Art Gallery.

Established in 1931, this art gallery features many well-known European artists including Rosa Bonheur, Jean-Leon Gerome, and Pierre August Renoir. There are also several well-known sculptures by artists as renowned as Rodin.

Local artists have by no means been forgotten and there is a respected collection of California landscape paintings. The museum is a little bit of a gem and includes artifacts of local history and an interesting look at the country’s role in World War II.


Sacramento takes just under an hour from Stockton and by now you will probably be ready for a memorable lunch. The city’s old town area is the place you should head for. It teams with restaurants to suit every pocket and eating style. It also affords an opportunity to wander the boardwalks and quirky boutiques.

Though the old town has several museums that could easily tempt you, less than a mile from Capitol Park lies Sutter's Fort which is a window into life for the early settlers. John Sutter was a Swiss immigrant who arrived in the area in the 1940s and purchased 150 000 acres of land. He built the adobe fort to protect himself, his crops and the people who worked for him.

In 1948 he set about building a timber mill at Coloma and gold was discovered in the process. The settlers nearly all deserted him to go and try and make their fortunes. Today the fort is a National Historic Landmark.


The remainder of your journey will take around two and a quarter hours, so rather than do it in one hop you could stop at Rocklin, which is half an hour from Sacramento. Here you will find a coffee shop and bakery called The Baker and the Cakemaker.

As the name suggests, this family-owned bakery specializes in homemade bread and delicious pastries. You can eat in or grab a takeout and then enjoy it as a picnic somewhere further along your route. There are numerous delights to choose from but the cardamom spice twirl, the pumpkin muffins, and the potato bomb all warrant a mention.

If you still can find the time, you might want to pay a visit to Old St Mary’s Chapel which was first built to serve the Catholic community in 1883. After falling into disrepair it was taken over by the Rocklin Historical Society who narrowly saved it from collapse in 2005. They have done a wonderful job of restoring it to its former glory.


The last leg of your journey will take two hours but your enjoyment is far from over. Lake Tahoe is a jewel that offers year-round possibilities. In the winter it is a ski Mecca while in the warmer months the lake itself is the main drawcard. Here you can hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains or laze with your feet in the lake at El Dorado Beach.

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