When you go to Lake Tahoe, it's easy just to jump in your car and go for a drive. It's a 76-mile drive to go all the way around it, and your destination might only be a few miles away. You might not think much about doing that, but now may be a good time to think about doing something else instead.
Lake Tahoe's population can swell to 300,000 people on peak days. It's no wonder that traffic gets so snarled up during busy times that you could lose your good mood dealing with it, but that's not the only reason to get out from behind the wheel.
Here's the situation: Here's another: Vehicle exhaust is one of the primary reasons that it's hard to keep Lake Tahoe looking like the pristine, blue, watery jewel it once was. In 1968, you could see a white disk submerged 100 feet deep in Lake Tahoe. Today that has dropped to around 70 feet. Getting vehicles off the roads can help slow or reverse that alarming trend.
You can save your sanity and do your part to keep the lake beautiful by using bicycle, buses or shuttles as much as possible.
Getting Around Lake Tahoe by Bus
You'll find several local bus and shuttle services around Lake Tahoe. Half of Lake Tahoe is in California and half of it is in Nevada. Going an apparently short distance can sometimes require using two different services. Schedules vary by season. It all gets so complicated that navigating the New York City subway system during a snowstorm seems simple by comparison.
You could try to figure it all out yourself — or just give up and jump in the car, but don't throw in the towel yet.
In fact, the best way to figure out Lake Tahoe transportation is the same one you probably already use on the highways: Google maps. It understands seasonal schedules and can give you a list of options and travel times.
If you'd rather go it on your own, your Tahoe transit options include:
TART (Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit) operates along 30 miles of Lake Tahoe shoreline on the California side.
They offer year-round and seasonal routes and schedules, including a night trolley to Squaw Valley and Incline Village. In the summer they run buses that serve Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, Crystal Bay and Incline Village. You can get information and real-time tracking using the Swiftly mobile app.
The South Shore Trolley serves the Nevada side of the lake. It also runs to and from Truckee, Northstar Village, and Kings Beach. In the summer, they offer service from Incline Village to Sand Harbor and the Emerald Bay Trolley which runs from the Tahoe City Transit center the Y Transit Center with stops at Camp Richardson, Homewood, Meeks Bay, Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm.
Free Lake Tahoe Ski Resort Shuttles
In the winter, you can take free ski shuttles to many of the area ski resorts. Before you choose your skiing spot and where to stay, ask whether you can use one of them.
The free Night Rider evening shuttle also connects the north shore and Truckee with Alpine, Squaw Valley, and Northstar. It runs from the middle of December to April.
Bike Lake Tahoe
A bicycle is an earth-friendly way to get around Lake Tahoe. You can bring your own bicycle or rent one from a number of bike rental shops around the lake.
You'll find some of the best-rated Lake Tahoe bike rental shops at Yelp. The Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition has some good biking maps and information about where to ride a bike at Lake Tahoe.