Planning the San Francisco to Reno drive? Adventurous road trippers will find the driving distance between cities, the best places to stay, things to do and most importantly, where to eat in Reno Tahoe with this road trip guide. Not a road-tripper? No problem! Plan your trip now and find other ways to travel from San Francisco to Reno, including nonstop flights from the Bay Area.
Wondering, how far Reno is from San Francisco?
The drive from San Francisco to Reno is approximately 218 miles, making the distance from San Francisco to Reno around 3.5 hours without traffic or many stops. Traffic in the Bay Area and weather can impact travel time, so make sure to check before you leave and plan accordingly. Plus, there are plenty of great things to see along the way so you might want to allow time for exploration and photo ops.
During the winter, snowstorms can impact road conditions and chains are sometimes required over the higher elevation passes along I-80 from the Bay Area to Reno. To ensure a safe trip to Reno, check road conditions before you leave, allow for some extra time, and of course make sure you have chains in your car just in case.
Once you leave San Francisco, CA via the Bay Bridge on your way to Reno, NV, you can stay on I-80 for the entire trip for the most direct route. Heading east, you’ll pass through Sacramento and notice the scenery quickly change to pine trees as you start to gain elevation and enter Tahoe National Forest. On the San Francisco to Reno drive, you’ll find several great reasons to stop and stretch your legs.
Can’t wait to get a glimpse of Lake Tahoe’s pristine waters?
If you have time and want to take a slightly longer route, exit onto Hwy 50 as you enter Sacramento. This will add about an hour to your drive, and will take you through Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. You can choose to head east to Hwy 28, or you can take Hwy 89 toward Emerald Bay. If you choose the scenic east shore of Lake Tahoe you will drive over the iconic Mount Rose Hwy (also known as Hwy 431), which will drop you into Reno, Nevada.
TIP: We recommend stopping at the Mt. Rose Highway Scenic Overlook on your way to Reno.
Another option from I-80 is taking Hwy 89 to Tahoe City or Hwy 267 past Northstar California to Kings Beach so you can take a break from freeway driving and enjoy the view of Tahoe on your way to Reno.
Along the way, you’ll probably want to take a pit stop, if for no other reason than to take in the incredible scenery. Depending on the season you’re driving from San Francisco to Reno, your options for activities will vary.
History buffs will appreciate the museum at Donner Memorial State Park. Learn about the Donner Party, Land of the Washoe, and Chinese construction of the railroad. Nearby is the historic town of Truckee, CA where you can stop for lunch, check out the famous Truckee river, and wander the quaint downtown before finishing the last stretch of miles of the drive to Reno.
During the winter, make sure you allow some time in your drive to stop at one of the many snow parks along I-80. The kids (and adults!) will love the chance to play in the snow, getting a taste for the variety of wintry fun nearby during your stay in Reno. There are also several ski resorts easily accessible on your way from San Francisco to Reno, including Sugar Bowl, Northstar and Palisades Tahoe.
If you’re taking the scenic route along Hwy 50 through South Lake Tahoe, be sure to stop for a photo at Emerald Bay and if you have time, take the short hike to Eagle Falls. South Lake Tahoe is a great place to stop for food and shopping before you reach your final destination of Reno.
You made it and you’re checked into your hotel… Now what?
When you get to Reno from San Francisco, or elsewhere in the Bay Area, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor recreational activities for you to choose from. Even though Reno is a mecca for all things adventure, you can still find lots of ways to chill and relax in the Biggest Little City in the World.
Take a walk along the Reno Riverwalk District where you’ll find restaurants, bars, parks and art. Downtown and Midtown offer a variety of dining and shopping options, and the brewery scene in Reno and Sparks shouldn’t be missed.
For some unique ideas, check out the Reno Tahoe Insiders Guide and let your sense of adventure take it from there.
If you don’t have a car or the time spent in a car are making you think twice about planning a road trip, driving isn’t the only way from San Francisco to Reno. You can also make the trip via train, bus or plane.
By far the fastest way to get to Reno from San Francisco, flight time clocks in at around 2 hours flat, meaning you can be checked into your hotel or hitting the trails in Reno by early afternoon. Learn more about flights to Reno.
Train rides from San Francisco to Reno range from six to seven hours via Amtrak. This is a unique traveling experience through the Bay Area, over the Sierra Nevada mountains and into Reno.
Taking the bus from San Francisco to Reno is usually a very affordable option but can take extra time and may also require transfers. The bus station is conveniently located in downtown Reno, so it is easy to get to hotels when you arrive in Reno.
The way you stay should reflect the way you play. For outdoor lovers, submerge yourself in nature with great RV parks in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Looking for nightlife? Maybe you’re looking to fuel up on great food and craft beer, or perhaps you’re an aficionado of the visual arts. Whatever your flavor, there is a Reno hotel ready to welcome you.
Downtown and Midtown Reno are some of the more popular areas because of the variety of things to do. These areas are also convenient options because of their proximity to the airport and transportation hubs for those who are traveling by plane, train or bus.
If you are planning a road trip from San Francisco to Reno, or from any part of the Bay Area, be sure to check out the Reno Tahoe Insiders Guide for lodging and dining recommendations, as well as unique things to do. Ready to get started? There’s plenty of adventure waiting in the Biggest Little City in the World.
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