Breaking a drive to Heavenly into two makes for a safer trip.


Breaking a drive to Heavenly into two makes for a safer trip.

Ski South Shore Tahoe

More than 200 Inches of Snow at Heavenly

The ski conditions are great this winter, and Heavenly beckons. It’s a bear of a drive in one shot from Santa Barbara, but I have a bit easier plan. Instead of killing yourself to get there, stop in Rancho Cordova just east of Sacramento. The Hyatt Place Sacramento/Rancho Cordova was our choice recently, and it was a good one.

The Route

My favorite route would be to take 101 north and then cut inland at Highway 46 in Paso Robles. About 30 minutes in, look for the junction of Highway 41 to connect to Highway 5 to head north. Movie buffs might want to spend a minute or two at this famous junction where James Dean died in a car crash. Hard to imagine that this peaceful part of the world could be home to such a tragedy. The actual site is just a bit south, and there is a small monument. Road improvements over the years led to a change in the junction by about half a mile. Seems that Dean was on his way to a road race in Monterey and had already been stopped by police that very day in Bakersfield.

Once you make it on to Highway 5 you should have clear sailing all the way to Rancho Cordova. This leg of the journey will take about five hours and if you leave early afternoon, say 3 p.m., you should be traffic free. By the time you get into Sacramento it will be 8 p.m. and just in time for a late dinner. Traveling at this time of day you will also miss any traffic in Stockton as you would pass by there around 7 p.m. The next morning you can easily make it from the Hyatt Place to Heavenly in less than two hours. From Rancho Cordova, you will be going against traffic the next day and have clear sailing. The road into South Shore is kind of twisty, so I would suggest a fresh start in the morning. You might actually want do the same thing on the way home.

Hyatt Place Sacramento/Rancho Cordova
Click to enlarge photo


Hyatt Place Sacramento/Rancho Cordova

The Hotel

Hyatt Place is one of my favorite chains, and if you get a fairly new one, that is even better. That’s just what we have here in Rancho Cordova. This hotel’s primary purpose is to cater to the dynamic business crowd in the area, but any traveler will appreciate the updated touches that Hyatt Place brings. The lobby area is very modern and upbeat and is right next to the hotel restaurant and bar. If you arrive late you really do not even need to head out as they have an extensive menu and a nice seating area.

The rooms at Hyatt Place have everything the modern traveler needs all in a very efficient setting. They come with separate sitting areas that can provide an additional sleeping area. A double could accommodate a family with small children. The bedding is extremely comfortable and rivals any four-star hotel. State-of-the-art electronics including many ports for your gadgets. The bathrooms area also updated for a more relaxing stay.

Each morning guests are treated to the complimentary Kitchen Skillet. This sumptuous display is far superior to most morning hotel offerings. It includes hot breakfast items, cereals, fresh fruit, and special breakfast sandwiches. A couple cups of Seattle’s Best Coffee and you are on your way. You could stop at the Hyatt Place on the return, as well, allowing one less night’s lodging in the pricey ski areas. For complete details visit

The Snow + Planning

These are the best conditions in years. Heavenly has had over 220 inches of snow this season. This also means tough driving conditions, which is all the more reason why I would hesitate to drive there late at night. Daytime temperatures are running between 30-48°F. My suggestion would be to stay at the Hyatt Place for one night on both sides of your Tahoe excursion. This way you would only need one or two nights lodging in the snow yet have an extra day of skiing. After a long drive I also like to get a quick check-in and -out which is what you will have at Hyatt Place.

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