Car Free Journey: Lake Tahoe

by Steve Atlas

Lake Tahoe in winter

Lake Tahoe in winter

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.

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 here 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 continently 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 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.

Day time excursions to the various museums are good

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, visit or call toll-free (866) 434-1262.

For information about public transportation, visit

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

___________________________________________JANUARY CAR FREE JOURNEY: SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

Lake Tahoe South

tahoe_aerialTahoe South (, a place of thrill-seeking adventure, is a magnificent destination in the Sierra Nevada, an eclectic resort community that straddles the California and Nevada borders.

With towering pines, scenic vistas and the magnificent cobalt blue waters that has made the lake famous and a favorite among Americans, Tahoe South offers A-list entertainment, top notch nightlife and world-class skiing and snowboarding.

Geographically Tahoe South is an easy region to navigate as a pedestrian with sidewalks that stretch from the casino corridor through South Lake Tahoe itself and by way as a rider-friendly network of public transportation buses, resort shuttles and skier transit shuttles. In summer Tahoe South transform into a bicycle-friendly community, with trail systems that connect along city streets and roadways, from one end to the other.

Getting to Tahoe South is best via Reno Tahoe International Airport, recently named one of the “Best Airports for Skiers” by SKI Magazine. Daily shuttle service for a fee is available via South Tahoe Express. ( Shuttles leave the airport 10 times each day during winter and depart back to the airport just as frequently.

Shuttles drop guests and their luggage off at six major resort casino properties:

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Most of the resorts are within walking distance to Heavenly Mountain Resort’s ( famed gondola. From Lakeside Inn & Resort, Heavenly Mountain is a short cab ride away (it’s a long walk in the cold weather). Ski rentals are available at the Heavenly Village, so visitors won’t need to haul around ski gear.

If you’re a guest arriving on the South Tahoe Express Shuttle but not staying at one of the casino resort properties, there’s a transportation area where buses and shuttles are available can take you directly to any number of nearby resorts.

Among the resorts with free transportation shuttle services for guests are the Ridge Tahoe Resorts ( and Lakeland Village (


968 Park Hotel

A hip, trendy and eco-friendly (LEED compliant) boutique hotel walking distance from the Heavenly Village is 968 Park Hotel ( Resorts without shuttles are served by taxis, which do charge by the minute.

Because of Tahoe South’s geography, where resorts, hotels, casinos, shopping restaurants extend along the Highway 50 corridor, public transportation has been simplified and made easy for visitors.

The bus system is called the South Shore Transit System. ( It includes South Shore fixed-route service, the seasonal Nifty 50 Trolley, seasonal ski shuttles and commuter bus service to Carson City and the Carson Valley. The Tahoe Transportation District also provides ADA transit and on-demand service within the City of South Lake Tahoe, northern El Dorado County and western Douglas County.

With the integrated bus and shuttle system, skiers, boarders and sightseers have an affordable and environmentally-friendly option of getting to their ski destinations. Featured along the routes are specially-equipped ski shuttles to Heavenly Mountain Resort, which gives riders a chance to relax and soak in Lake Tahoe’s natural surroundings before they take to the mountain.

The ski shuttle buses stop at every major lodging property in and around Tahoe South. Also worth noting is that a number of new shelters have been installed around Tahoe South, designed to protect passengers from inclement weather, enhance rider comfort and safety, and improve impacts of storm water runoff into Lake Tahoe. More than a dozen shelters have been installed at Tahoe South. Considered visible landmarks, they are part of an overall plan that ties in transportation networks around the lake in an effort to integrate mass transit with walking, hiking and bicycle trails.

While most visitors know about local casinos, there is a wealth of other things to do during your stay. Attractions within walking distance or shuttle ride from casino operators include:

Scenic boat cruises from any number of local marinas.

Snowmobiling (shuttle from casinos to Zephyr Cove and they transport you to the trail head at Spooner.)

Sleigh Rides (short walking distance from MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa)

Shops. Heavenly Village is within walking distance of the casino area.

Ice skating: There are two facilities at Tahoe South, one Heavenly Village and one at the city’s ice arena which can be reached by shuttle or bus.

Movies at two theaters, one at Horizon casino and the other at Heavenly Village.

Dining at all casino resorts and Heavenly Village

Skiing via Heavenly, sightseeing and non-ski activities available also via Heavenly Gondola

Gaming (table games and slots) at the casino properties,

Nightlife entertainment at the resort casinos and Heavenly Village.

Here are more details about winter activities you can enjoy and the best locations for each:

Tahoe Queen

Tahoe Queen

The winter months feature breathtaking snowmobile rides; helicopter tours; snowshoe and cross country trails along beaches and trails surrounding South Shore, including Hope Valley, Fallen Leaf Lake and Camp Richardson along with boat cruises on the Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II. (Shuttles are available from the casinos to the marinas and the Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Center)

Camp Richardson Resort has 35 kilometers of groomed trails through dense trees and snow-covered beaches with remarkable views of Lake Tahoe. An outdoor fire pit is located at the cross country center and is ideal to take the chill off following snow play. (Assessable via public transit)

Snowmobiling – Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Center offers tours from late November until mid-April, featuring lake views at 9,000 feet on the Nevada side four miles from the casino corridor. Lake Tahoe Adventures offers unguided snowmobile rentals for seasoned riders into the heart of Tahoe’s forest lands to the top of the mountain ridge and guided off-the-trail tours for less-experienced adventure seekers. Tours operate daily every hour from mid-November to May. Both locations feature moonlight snowmobile tours along with ride and dine options.

Sleigh and Sled Rides – Tour Tahoe’s snowy meadows in a horse-drawn sleigh with Borges Sleigh Rides. The Borges family’s antique European sleigh is drawn by Belgian Blondes and Baskir Curleys from Russia. It takes riders for a one-hour tour over the meadow and through the woods, past Friday’s Station – the only remaining Pony Express station from a by-gone era in Nevada. (Walking distance)

Ice Skating – Heavenly Village provides a lighted, outdoor ice-skating rink where families can enjoy a crisp Tahoe evening the center of the attractive mountain village. (Walking distance) The City of South Lake Tahoe ice arena, located in the Recreation Complex, 1.5 miles from the Village, NHL-size rink and full service indoor facility with pro shop, café, regular drop-in hockey, freestyle, lessons and a great value in public skating. (Public Transit)

For More Information

For real time updates on events, promotions, packages, conditions and events in Tahoe South, The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority is on Facebook:, Twitter:, YouTube: For Tahoe South information: 1-800-288-2463 or

Do you have a favorite vacation spot that can be enjoyed without a car? E-mail your ideas to Please include your contact information so Steve can get back to you with any questions.

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