MAJOR TRAVEL ROUTES THROUGH THE SIERRA
AND ADVENTURES TO PLAN WHILE ON THE ROUTE.
Traveling the Sierra brings not only incredible scenic views, but some of the finest recreational access in the world. Although much of what the Sierra offers in adventure and recreation is off the main road, access points can be found using select routes that cross the Sierra from West to East or North to South.
Visitors to the Sierra come from all around the world. So when asked which is the best route to the Sierra mountains and the variety of recreational opportunities to be found, you will understand the complexity of the question.
So let’s start with what are the Key Travel Routes through the Sierra Mountains to see and experience the adventures in the Sierra Mountains.
The North Sierra Mountains ~ we will call everything North of Interstate 80 (Reno/Truckee Region) In the North Sierra Mountains:
- HWY 89 – The main North South Route is Hwy 89, it cuts through the Center of the Sierra and as we look at a map discover that it links everything from MT.Shasta in the Cascades to the North through Lake Tahoe and into Alpine County and Lake Topaz on the eastern slope of the Sierra just past the Nevada/California State Lines. Taking HWY 89 in from Mt Shasta region will take you past the famous Burney Falls and into the Northern Edge of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
- Western Sierra Routes for the North include:
- HWY 44 out of Redding CA.
- HWY 36 out of Red Bluff CA
- HWY 70 out of Oroville Region of HWY 149
- HWY 20 out of Williams CA or Yuba City if further inland.
- HWY 44 out of Redding will bring you up to Route 89 and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
- Hwy 36 out of Red Bluff is one of the routes that actually connects all the Way though to HWY 395, connecting in Susanville Ca. Along the way HWY 36 is the main route to connect with Lake Almanor, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the Sierra. HWY 36 connects also with the 89 allowing southern access to Lassen Volcanic National Park, or to the south the Scenic Mountain drive down into Quincy and beyond. Off Hwy 36 near Susanville you will also find HWY 44 which is the route from Susanville to HWY 89 North of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
- Hwy 70 or better known as The Feather River HWY, is the other HWY route that connects all the way through the Sierra to HWY 395 on the Eastern Slope, On HWY 70 Visitors will cross over lake Oroville, and follow the Feather River up the mountain until Quincy, Further East Portola , Graeagle Resort, Lake Davis and Frenchmans Lake (via the 284). You will connect ot HWY 395 on the Eastern Slope and be approx 26 miles from North Reno.
- Hwy 20/ HWY 49 Truly need to be used together to give you access to most of the Northern Sierra area. The 20 leaves Williams Ca off I-5 and travels through Grass Valley and Nevada City before joining up with Interstate 80 just West of Truckee. The Stretch from Nevada City to the Interstate is a great drive and has several camping and sightseeing options, plus give you access to the South Yuba and a variety of mountain lakes and reservoirs. If you take the 49 (the Golden Chain HWY) however out of Nevada City you get to enjoy a great selection of camping and trails up along the Yuba River, traveling also through Downieville and Sierra City. also access to the Sardine Lake resort and the Golden Lakes HWY. The 49 will connect you with both the 89 and the 70 to finish your routes.
Central Sierra Routes – The Central Sierra is the most accessible section of the Sierra Mountains. It is centered around Lake Tahoe Basin and the easy of access to Reno Nevada for driving and flying.
- I-80 Starting with I-80 on the North which runs from Reno to San Francisco Bay region and along the way connects Sierra Mountain explorers with: Donner Lake, Truckee, Northstar Ski Resort, Boreal Mountain Ski resort, The Crystal Bowl, Squaw Valley Ski Resort (and summer mountain playground), The Sugar Bowl ski resort and numerous mountain lake and campground locations. If taking Interstate 80 you can also reach North Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Kings Beach, by taking Hwy 89 in truckee or Hwy Route 267 in Truckee. Difference is on 89 you travel by squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, connecting directly to Tahoe city and on Route 267 you travel by Northstar resort and the Northstar Golf Club, and hit lake tahoe at Kings Beach next to the Brockway Golf Club.
- HWY Route 89 is a continuation route from the North and provides an exquisite yet slower lakeside drive along the west edge of Lake Tahoe. Alog the route you will travel by McKinney Bay, Meeks Bay, Rubicon Bay, DL Bliss State Park, and the most photographed place in Tahoe Emerald Bay. After Emerald Bay 89 will continue into South Lake Tahoe where the 89 and 50 will merge for a few miles before splitting again. The 89 will proceed South over Luther pass to Hope Valley and the famous Sorensen’s Fishing Resort. Connecting briefly with HWY 88. Where HWY 89 meets HWY 88 Take a left down the mountain 6 miles to Woodfords. On this 8 mile stretch there are great spots to pull off and enjoy the river, in the Fall it is one of the prettiest 8 mile stretches in the country with all the color in the hills, a favorite place for those in the Carson valley and surrounding area to catch and afternoon fishing trip or picnic.At Woodfords HWY 89 turns right towards Makleeville Ca., Home of Grover’s Hot Springs and home-base to Alpine County visitor information. Just about 5 miles past Markleville 89 Turns to the Left and heads over the the Monitor Pass / Robert M Jackson memorial Hwy. (Note this section of the HWY is Closed during the winter)This is part of the Death Ride Bike Race Challenge each Summer. Along the Route you will pass Heenan lake. This 18 mile stretch of High Alpine road connects Alpine and Mono county, and in the fall can be a great place to drive and see brilliant colors in the Alpine mountains. Hwy 89 connects with HWY 395 just south of Topaz Lake. Heading South on 395 will take your to Mono Lake and the East entrance to Yosemite National Park.
- Hwy Route 267 – This main route is the direct link from Truckee to Lake Tahoe. Serving Kings Beach & North Star Ski Resort as direct access points from interstate 80.
- Hwy Route 431 – (Mount Rose HWY) Services Reno to North Tahoe Connection over the Mount Rose Ski region and access to Diamond Peak Skiing as well. Route 431 travels directly into Incline Village Home to the Incline Village Golf Course some of the finest homes in Tahoe off Lake shore Blvd.
- Hwy Route 28 .is the main hwy around North Lake Tahoe – It runs from the HWY 89 in Tahoe City East around the lake till it connects with HWY 50 on the East side of the lake. (The 267 and 431 both connect to the 28) This is also a very scenic route but runs along housing and very tight spots as many visitors to the lake will park along the road for beach access points. Cautious driving habits recommended in this section of the lake drive. There are several turn out locations for great pictures and to just take in the views of Lake Tahoe.
- Hwy 50 coming out of Carson City Connects most visitors to Lake Tahoe and then will provide a very scenic drive across the Sierra and into the Folsom/Sacramento region of California. A very Busy hwy on the weekends because of the multiple access and exit points to adventure in the Sierra. Hwy 50 comes up over Spooner Summit on the East side of Lake Tahoe, The peak of Spooner summit provides both a casual lake hike around Spooner lake and a connection point for the Tahoe rim Trail system. The hwy then heads south along the lake shore through Cave Rock (Boat Access Point and Great place to watch the sun set in Tahoe), Zephyr Cove, very popular Beach location plus it has Horseback Riding and camping options, Marla Bay and into South Shore Lake Tahoe past Round hill Beach ,Nevada State Beach and the Famous Edgewood Golf Club, home of the Celebrity Golf Challenge each summer.
- Hwy 50 will continue through South Lake Tahoe and all it has to offer, and connect briefly with Hwy 89 before climbing out of the Tahoe Basin and heading over Echo Summit towards Placerville and the Sacramento region.
- Hwy 88
- HWY 4
Southern Sierra Mountains ~ Access to Yosemite National Park, The Giant Sequoias and the storied John Muir Wilderness. The Southern routes of the Sierra are Limited but every single road leads to some the greatest views in all the west.
- HWY 108 – Sonora Pass – This Scenic Route can be connects of the 49 south of Angels Camp on the West Sierra and Connects off HWY 395 Just North of Bridgeport on the East Sierra. The second Highest Pass in the Sierra, second only to Tioga Pass to its south.The pass connects the communities of Sonora to the west and Bridgeport to the east. Like most high Sierra Nevada passes, the highway is closed in winter, generally between November and May, due to snow accumulation.The highway over the pass is extremely steep (exceeding 8% for most of the traverse, and up to 26% grades in some locations), narrow and winding between Kennedy Meadows on the west side and Leavitt Meadows on the east. The route is not recommended for vehicles or vehicle combinations that are unusually wide, heavy or long.The Pacific Crest Trail, crosses Highway 108 at Sonora Pass.
- HWY 120 – Tioga Pass (Yosemite National Park) – The only route that travels through Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass from the East will bring you over Toulumne Meadows, provide you traffic views of the Cathedral range, Tenaya Lake, and hundreds of Domes, Mountain Peaks and features that make Yosemite one of the most treasured National Parks in the Nation.
- HWY 41 –
- HWY 140 / Glacier Point Road
- HWY 168