We decided to travel without a car on a recent trip to South Lake Tahoe. Car-free travel has some challenges, especially if you want to take full-advantage of the area, but it is possible. Here are a few tips for a car-free summer trip to South Lake Tahoe.
Getting to South Lake Tahoe from the Reno-Tahoe Airport
The Reno-Tahoe Airport is located just outside of Reno, about 60 miles from South Lake Tahoe, but there are other options besides renting a car. We took the South Tahoe Airporter, a shared van service that picks up riders just outside baggage claim and drops off at one of six hotels in South Lake Tahoe. They currently have nine departures daily. If you aren’t staying at or near one of the hotels/casinos where they drop off, I recommend disembarking at Harrah’s. One of the helpful valets will call you a cab if there isn’t one waiting, or use your phone to order Uber or Lyft to deliver you to your home away from home.
Where to Stay?
Choosing where to stay depends a lot on the kind of activities you want to do during your visit. Without a car, staying close to activities, restaurants, and/or grocery stores is critical if you want to save time and money. We weren’t interested in casino culture, so we stayed about a mile from Stateline. We chose The Postmarc Hotel, which is on the California side, near Ski Run and Lake Tahoe Blvd. This location was ideal for us for several reasons:
- It’s two blocks from the lake and Ski Run Marina, where there is a public beach.
- There are lots of local restaurants in the area.
- It is less than a mile from two large grocery stores.
- It is only about a mile from the Heavenly Gondola.
There are many great ways to explore the lake and mountains without a car.
- Take the Heavenly Gondola for gorgeous views of the lake and other adrenaline producing mountain activities.
Stop at the observation deck for a view of the lake from 9123 feet. Then, continue up the mountain by gondola, where adventurous summer visitors can take zip line tours, tackle ropes courses, and participate in other activities (for additional fees). There are also hiking trails. Sadly, the trails were closed during our visit because they were still snowed in, so be sure to check for current conditions before making plans for hiking.
2. Ski Run Marina: Rent boats or jet skis, go on a boat tour, sit and people watch, enjoy the sandy public beach, or have a meal at one of the restaurants. I recommend the Riva Grill for sunset viewing with a cocktail.
3. Hiking and Exploring the Tahoe Area on Foot: Stop by the visitor center near the Heavenly Gondola for information and maps. Keep in mind that snow may close some trails, even in the summer. The helpful staff at the visitor center gave us information about various hikes, including Van Sickle Bi-State Park. The park’s entrance is an easy walk from the Gondola. We didn’t make it all the way to the waterfall due to the intense afternoon heat, but enjoyed the wooded trails through the hills. Make sure to take a lot of water!
We also enjoyed walking a short section of Lake Tahoe Blvd. west of Ski Run Blvd. that follows the Lake. This is also a popular stretch for biking, so you will likely have to share the sidewalk. There are several lovely places to sit and enjoy the view.
Getting Around Tahoe Without a Car
- Uber, Lyft, Taxis- We used both Lyft and a Taxi to get us to and from the shuttle stop and to visit family who were renting a house up in the mountains. Cost was comparable, and about $10 to get to our hotel from Harrah’s.
- Public Transportation: Although we didn’t use the city buses, we saw lots of bus stops along Lake Tahoe Blvd., so this is another option for getting around.
- Bikes: Our hotel had bikes that were available for guests to check out. We also saw several places to rent, including those goofy multi-person canopied bikes.
Favorite Places to Eat
Riva Grill at Ski Run Marina. This was our favorite place for watching sunsets. I recommend the fried zucchini sticks and Bombasilberry cocktail. We also attended a lovely wine and cheese pre-wedding reception in one of their upstairs party rooms with a view.
The Red Hut Café. We ate breakfast at the Ski Run location. It’s very popular, for good reason, so be prepared for a wait on the weekends. They serve up hearty diner style food including specialty items like Swiss Rösti. The Ski Run location also has a soda fountain and ice cream shop. What more could a person need?
Blue Angel Cafe: A few blocks off Lake Tahoe on Ski Run Blvd is a small café with super friendly wait staff and a lovely garden area with picnic tables. We balanced our pizza course with fresh and tasty house salads, and some awesome happy hour drink specials.
Cup of Cherries: A coffee shop and eatery that’s another great choice for breakfast.
Sugar Pine Bakery: For a quick breakfast or treats for a picnic, pick up a muffin or pastry at Sugar Pine Bakery. My chocolate croissant was delicious!
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many fun things to do in and around South Lake Tahoe!
For additional tips see Keep Tahoe Blue. Learn more about biking around Tahoe and other car-free activities like taking a trolley to Emerald Bay.
[Trip tips are from June 2017. Be sure to check websites directly for the most current information]