I know when I'm on vacation, I like to chill. I do like to experience the scene from time to time, but traffic when you're on a resort vacation? A huge disappointment. Today I'm going to share some local's tips on getting around in the ski towns of Truckee and North Lake Tahoe during weekends, holidays, peak seasons and school breaks.
Read this and thank me later. Highway 80, it's a beast at certain times. Visitors have reported hours and hours of sitting in chain control lines. Because Donner Summit is over 7050 feet altitude, if it's snowing in Truckee, it can be a blizzard at the summit. At the very top, that can mean white-out conditions, and Cal Trans will actually close Highway 80 to through traffic. When you're trying to get to or from North Lake Tahoe, that's a big problem. Because mountain weather is predictably unpredictable, I recommend keeping a close watch on the Cal Trans website and traffic cams. Remember to look specifically for 80 East or Westbound depending on the direction you are traveling. There's a phone number too that is always a good way to check. Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN) 800.427.7623
Plan your arrival and departure around this resource, and you'll be traveling happy.
how to aviod ski resort gridlock
Northstar California, located off of highway 267, can get very congested - I'm talking a 1 hour drive that only covers 4 miles. Here's how to avoid it. Skiers want to be there for first tracks, so play it safe by getting there well before 8:30am or plan to arrive after 10:30am. Departure can be bad too. Northstar gridlock will start just before 4pm, so leave by 3:30pm or plan on staying for an apre session and then make a less troublesome departure around 6pm.
Squaw Valley USA, located off highway 89, has traffic issues miles back to your exit off the 80. For peak seasons you'll want to leave a lot of wiggle room in your drive. Plan to arrive in Squaw Valley around 8:30am or wait till around 11am. Exit gridlock from Squaw gets nasty right before 4pm, so you'll want to skedaddle around 3:30pm or apre till 6ish and then make your escape.
It really doesn't matter where you ski: Sugar Bowl, Alpine, Homewood, Heavenly, Diamond Peak, best practice is get there before 8:30am and leave early or late. Most resorts close at 4pm so keep that in mind because it'll be the heaviest traffic.
Costco before you go!
If you've ever been to the Safeway in Truckee, you know what I mean. Day or night its packed. Then add in thousands of vacationers during peak season, and it's pretty much sardine town. I'm talking 10 to 15 carts down each lane waiting to reach the checkout. Don't get me wrong, its a great store, with an amazing produce selection and good prices on wine. But be warned; weekends can equal long lines and empty shelves.
Enter SaveMart. Yes, their organic produce is lacking. But at least it's not shopping cart bumper-cars in there. I know when I'm on vacation I want to be relaxing, not waiting at the supermarket.
So bottom line, shop at home and pack food in. Then, when you need to pick something up, consider Save Mart.
Hit up the local spots
During the busiest of weekends, I recommend avoiding what Yelp may tell you. When all you want to do is sit down for a warm meal after skiing all day, you aren't impressed by crowds and 1 hour waits. Here's where to go in Truckee:
Traffic in the city? Predictable. Traffic on your resort vacation? A huge disappointment. If you haven't downloaded this traffic mapping app yet, you'll want to. When you're here on a big vacation week, I suggest you use WAZE to be in the know before you go.
So those are my tips and I hope they save you from any kind of traffic tantrum. Should you decide to go from vacationer to second homeowner, give me a call! Have a wonderful trip!
Other articles you may be interested in:
How to execute a family ski trip that feels more like a retreat
Want to sell your Home for More Money? by Teddy Tahoe
Tahoe Top 4 Luxury Communities that you MUST see before you buy! by Teddy Tahoe
SECOND HOMEBUYERS: the cheat sheet
Sometimes we seek beyond the need to simply eat and run, and it's especially nice to linger in the summer months - so I set out in search of Truckee’s best patios, terraces, and decks, to find the best places to eat outdoors. Here are my favorite places to soak up the sun, down a beverage, and chow down on a gorgeous summer day. You'll find me at their Tuesday night concerts this summer.
5. 1882 Bar and Grill, 10009 East River St; 530-550-9290
Between the river and downtown Truckee nestled along the banks of the Truckee River is fun and cozy 1882 Bar and Grill. This spot features an outdoor patio overlooking the river with plenty of afternoon sunshine. Although space is limited, the food and atmosphere are great. It's one of my favorite places to grab afternoon drinks and appetizers.
4. Fifty Fifty Brewery, 11197 Brockway Rd; 530-587-2337
Although removed from downtown Truckee this local brewpub is awesome. Fifty Fifty serves a modest selection of interesting craft beers including their flagship, the Manifesto, Pale Ale. The outdoor courtyard is spacious and relaxing, it is not the best of views, yet still provides a fun outdoor vibe. The diverse menu includes shared plates, soups, salads, pizza, and sandwiches. Something on this menu should appeal to each member in the family - my wife loves the pulled pork sandwich.
3. Truckee Tavern and Grill, 10118 Donner Pass Rd; 530-587-3766
In the heart of downtown Truckee, Ryan Dierks and Chris St. Martin, long time foodies and former employees at Cottonwood Restaurant purchased this space and created a hipster, local dining experience. The food is fresh and menu changes seasonally. Inside is rustic with brick walls and open space; outside caters to urban-mountain views and sunshine. The current menu includes simple, fresh salads and cheeses, as well as shareable snacks, and full entrees like salmon and beef short ribs. Cool fact: Truckee Tavern hand cuts their ice cubes for their signature cocktails - no detail overlooked.
2. Margs Taco Bistro, 10164 Donner Pass Rd; 530-587-6274
On the west side of downtown Truckee emerged Margs Taco Bistro a couple years ago. Here you find authentic Mexican dishes, unforgettable margaritas, and rare tequilas. Outdoor dinning is fun and relaxing, not formal by any means. If you seek chips, salsa, and Mexican food with a twist then check out Margs. This place is always packed, and has one of the largest patios in town,
Drumroll please........My favorites
1. (tied) PJs at Grays Crossing, 11401 Henness Rd; 530-550-7035 ( Pictured top of Page )
Named after the Gray’s Crossing course designer, Peter Jacobsen, PJ’s is the perfect destination for casual dining with exceptional mountain and golf course vistas. Come for the views of the majestic alpenglow of Mt. Rose, stay for the burgers, salads, and sandwiches. The perfect spot for families. Enjoy a glass of wine or micro brew, the outdoor fire pit, and occasional outdoor concerts.