As I prepare to drive towards Lake Tahoe tonight, I can’t help but think with dread about the incredible awfulness that has been the commute from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe this summer. The road construction, delayed by our epic winter, will continue through the first snows and has managed to turn a normally 3 hour drive into a gruesome 4-6 hour haul.
To avoid this traffic altogether, my brother and I recently decided to drive from Truckee to San Francisco without hitting Interstate 80 until Vacaville. I threw out the idea to my little brother in part to get a little more time with him before he moved to Los Angeles. I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. While this trip is long, clocking in at 6 hours, it is an incredible day trip through some of the prettiest scenery in California.
First we wandered north on Hwy 89 through Sierraville, CA. Only 30 minutes from Truckee, this broad, open valley is breathtakingly pretty- with a smattering of large working ranches and wetlands crisscrossed by cold clear mountain creeks. I’m a sucker for historic barns and this valley has some great ones.
Barn- Sierraville, CA
As we began to climb out of the valley, we joined Hwy 49 and headed south through incredible gold rush towns like Sierra City and Downieville.
If you want to make it a leisurely drive, stop for lunch in Sierra City and enjoy Mountain Creek Restaurant’s gorgeous, a –creek-runs-through-it and you -can -see -the -Sierra Buttes -from-it, outdoor dining area.
If you want to make it a night, stop at Downieville’s Lure Resort. Its cottages and cabins are located directly on the banks of the Yuba River- perfect for those who like to fly-fish.
Continuing on our way, we took a slightly risky “shortcut” leaving Hwy 49 for Pleasant Valley Road. It ended up taking us by an old Wells Fargo building (dated 1853) and then on to the Bridgeport covered bridge– one of only 10 covered bridges left in California.
You can take 49 all the way to Auburn (and meet up with 80 there) or take our route, which took us from Bridgeport to Hwy 20, to 505, to 5 and then to 80 near the Nut Tree. Either way, the back roads are all especially fun on a sunny summer Sunday when you’ve got nothing better to do than drive towards home slowly…
EAT: Mountain Creek Restaurant, Sierra City, CA. 225 Main St.; 530.862.1171 ;
SLEEP: Lure Resort, Downieville, CA; $160-$260 ¾ mile before Downieville on the left. Cross over private bridge. 530.289.3465. email@example.com