Car Free Journey

Car Free Journey: Lake Tahoe

"Emerald Bay" by Michael - originally posted to Flickr as Emerald Bay. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Written by Steve Atlas

Lake Tahoe, straddling Nevada and California, is a great winter and summer getaway choice for visitors who don’t want to drive.

Last month, we spotlighted South Tahoe. This month, we will spotlight North Tahoe. I want to thank the North Lake Tahoe Marketing Cooperative for their help in finding information about visiting Lake Tahoe without a car.

North Tahoe

North Tahoe and South Tahoe both provide great views of the lake, great lodging and activities. For winter North Lake Tahoe is home to 12 ski resorts and a many towns providing variety to travelers. Incline Village and Crystal Bay are situated in Nevada so home to concerts and nightlife like gambling for the adult crowd. From the Donner party’s passing to Maritime history there are many museums throughout Donner, Tahoe City and Homewood to educate visitors about the history of the lake.

Getting Here

The best way to get to lake Tahoe without a car is to fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (Nevada) and take a special bus to either South Tahoe or North Tahoe. The following airlines serve the airport: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, United, and U.S. Airways

After you land, simply hop on the North Lake Tahoe Express which conveniently leaves from the airport at many times from 10:30 a.m. until midnight. (Returning, you can leave as early as 5:10 a.m., and as late as 4:00 p.m. departing on your starting.) For one person: the one-way fare is $45, round trip is $85. For two people: the one-way fare is $78, and round-trip is $136. Reservations are required for all trips, and must be made at least 24 hours before your arrival.

For more information and making reservations or call toll-free (866) 216-5222 or (775) 786-3706. The trip takes between 1 and 1 ½ hours.

Getting Around Without Driving after you arrive

The best web site for North Tahoe local transit transportation is

Local public transportation here includes:

TART provides local bus service. It connects all major resorts and cities. Download and print the route maps from the website before you visit.

Then visit Next ( to determine where the bus is that you want to take. Next Bus tells you what time the bus should arrive at your stop (this is adjusted if the bus is running late).

The Free Ski Shuttle will operate February 1, 2, 8 – 23 · March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16

Where To Stay

Any place in Tahoe City is a great place to stay in California. There are many TART bus stops within walking distance of most places to stay in the city. The Free Ski Shuttle has two trips every morning to Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Homewood Mountain Resort and Granlibakken.

The Hyatt Regency is a good place to stay because it is serviced by the free ski shuttle and TART. The Hyatt has a shuttle from their lobby to Diamond Peak Ski Resort – Diamond Peak is one of two ski resorts that has views of the lake while you are skiing. (The other one is Homewood). There is also a shuttle to Northstar California once every day. For more information, visit

Those who wish to get to a resort and stay there would benefit most from staying at Northstar or the village at Squaw Valley. They are ski in/ski out properties and both have villages with ice skating rinks, restaurants and shops. The village at Northstar also has a movie theatre.

Another option for those visiting Lake Tahoe without a car and not wanting to stay right in the hustle and bustle of a village is to stay at the Resort at Squaw Creek which is constantly running a shuttle to the Village at Squaw Valley (a very short ride). You can enjoy some of the secluded nature of the mountain, but have constant access to the amenities of a village.


Village at Squaw –

Resort at Squaw Creek –

What to do when you don’t want to ski

Evening is a good time to visit the casinos in Crystal Bay. Many villages also host live bands during the weekend evenings. Many of these locations are served by the free Night Rider bus. Of course, a leisurely dinner at a restaurant is another good option.

Museums and Other Places to Visit While You Are Here

For more information visit: historical sites & tours. Here are a few places worth considering:

  • Museum of Sierra Ski History and 1960 Winter Olympics:

Boatworks Mall, 760 North Lake Blvd., #2, Tahoe City CA 96145 Phone: (775)722-3502 Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted. Open seven days a week 10am-4pm. Extended hours during holiday and peak seasons. The Museum is also available for special events.

Sierra ski history from ancient times to modern era, history of Squaw Valley and, Alpine Meadows ski areas, and 1960 Olympic Winter Games. The story is told through, the books, Longboards to Olympics, by Mark McLaughlin, Tale of Two Valleys, by Eddy, Starr Ancinas, and, Snowball’s Chance, –, The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, by David c., Antonucci.

  • The Statue of Three Mackinaw Trout At the “wye” in Tahoe City
    Three Mackinaw trout welcome visitors to Tahoe City. Located at the Tahoe City “Y”, a small footpath winds around the statue allowing visitors to view this amazing sculpture from all angles. The sculpture was created by John Betts (now an America’s Cup yacht builder) and depicts the healthy and vibrant life in Tahoe City.
  • Tahoe City Dam and Fanny Bridge Highway 89 South at the “wye” Tahoe City, CA
    Local legend has it that the bridge received its name from all of the fannies that can be seen from the road as visitors and locals alike stare over the edge into the cool waters spilling through the dam on Lake Tahoe filled with wild Mackinaw, German Browns, and Rainbow trout cruising for fish food dropped by their human friends. Located over the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, Fanny Bridge is a must see historical spot. Must do: Count the fannies as you walk across the bridge.
  • Historical Marker: Across the street from the Tahoe City Dam
    Across the street from Fanny Bridge, you will find a historical marker commemorating James Edward Church. In 1909 he was the first to demonstrate techniques at this very spot for measuring water content in snow in order to predict the water flow after the snow melted. Look to the right, and you will see the headwaters of the famous Truckee River that runs from the dam at Tahoe City to Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
  • Gatekeepers Cabin & Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum
    Open weekends year-round, and daily throughout the summer
    West Lake Blvd at Fanny Bridge, Tahoe City
    (530) 583-1762
    The Gatekeeper’s Museum is a reconstruction of the original Gatekeeper’s Cabin – home of the water master who controlled the flow of water out of Lake Tahoe. It now showcases Tahoe history, from its Native inhabitants through the logging era and the establishment of the tourism industry at Lake Tahoe. Exhibits include Native American baskets, resort memorabilia, historical photographs, clothing, oral histories, maps, archival documents, newspapers and artifacts.

    Tahoe Maritime Museum
    Open year-round.
  • 5205 West Lake Blvd, Homewood. 530-525-9253
    Featuring boats and artifacts from the late 19th century to the present as well as interactive displays, the Museum offers a variety of engaging experiences for all ages. Young visitors learn about boats, design their own model rafts, tie knots and play on the Kids Porch. Others also enjoy the magnificent exhibits that explore the people, stories, places and vessels of Tahoe from yesteryear to the present in addition to guided tours and a comfortable reading area. For the latest blog on the new Museum please click here: SF Gate
  • Tallac Historic Site: 2.5 Miles North of Highway 50 on Highway 89, South Lake Tahoe, CA
    Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-4pm, closed Sunday & Monday. A century ago, what is now the Tallac Historic Site held the “Grandest Resort in the World” and the summer retreats for three of San Francisco Bay Area’s socially elite families. Today the remains of the resort and the restored estates attract many thousands of visitors annually to recapture this bygone and significant era in Tahoe’s history. Between June and September you may join a Tallac interpreter for heritage programs, guided walks, building tours, demonstrations, behind the scenes peeks, and more. A changing schedule of activities with times, places, and a detailed description is available in the Visitors Center and the Baldwin Museum. Though the buildings are closed during the winter, the site is popular for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
  • Emigrant Trail Museum
    The Emigrant Trail Museum, located at Donner Memorial State Park, takes about 1 hour to visit. It depicts the history of the area and the people who came into this part of the Sierra, including local Native Americans, the Donner Party, and builders of the transcontinental railroad. Postcards, posters, maps, and books about the human and natural history of the area are for sale at the museum.

For More Information

For information about local attractions and places to stay in Lake Tahoe without a car, visit or call toll-free (866) 434-1262.

For information about public transportation for visiting Lake Tahoe without a car:

Visit You can also Lake Tahoe Transit and TART at either (530)-582-4964 or (800)-736-6365.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot, city, or other area you would like spotlighted in a future Car Free Journey column? Send your suggestions or other comments to

About the author

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas, author of two published books about parenting, has written newspaper columns and magazine articles about travel, career change, home-based business, parenting, and sales skills. Steve's column, “Single Parent Hotline,” was a weekly feature of Gannett News Service for several years. He has also been a contributing editor to Selling Power magazine. Currently Steve’s primary interest is reducing dependency on private automobiles. In addition to being a public transit advocate and author (since 2008) of Car Free Journey, Steve’s e-book: "Car Free at the Beach", and several reports he has written about Car Free Living can be viewed at