Getting to Tahoe without a car

Sometimes it's hard to coordinate with friends who have cars. Or perhaps the driver bailed and you are all ready to go. Or maybe you have a random weekday off and want to hit the slopes with no one else.

You could always rent a car, but it's burdensome and expensive to drive, pay for gas, put on snow chains, etc.You could try carpooling, but there generally isn’t enough critical mass for carpooling to be reliable and safe. And I’m going to assume that a private jet or car hire is not what you’re looking for.

This protip will focus on getting to the Lake Tahoe ski resorts from the San Francisco Bay Area without a car, by public transit. First thing to know is that public transit means two things:

  1. Public charter buses. These comfy buses take you straight to the resort
  2. Regular public transit. The good 'ol fashioned way, by bus or train

We’ll cover both in this protip. Though honestly, if you're goal is to ski, we recommend the public charter bus option, going with a public charter bus. Please note, this information is current for the 2014/15 winter ski season; always plan your trip in advance.

Getting to Tahoe by public charter bus

  • Allows you to make new skier friends
  • Provides a much faster/ convenient service direct to the resort, making one-day trips easy
  • May allow you to book add-ons like lift tickets, rentals, classes, or even lodging at discounted rates
  • Includes goodies like snacks on board and movies

Getting to Tahoe by regular public transit

  • Won’t get cancelled if there’s not enough people
  • Takes you to non-resort destinations
  • By definition, always has an easy one-way option, and more flexible times in general
  • May be cheaper

TL;DR Comparison table

Click to enlarge

Comparison of different ways to get to Lake Tahoe by transit

Public Charter Bus Companies

Bay Area Ski Bus: Practically a tour operator in the diversity of social trips offered (e.g., trips for singles, teens, or families, as well as weeklong out-of-state/-country trips and summer trips). Key bonuses: trips are offered nearly everyday, trips end with après-ski BBQ. Check out the website here; or call them at 925-680-4386

North American Charter (NAC) Ski: Offers greater add-ons (e.g., tubing, gondola rides, food vouchers) that are as easy as ordering from a menu. If you book a trip while it’s “unconfirmed,” you’ll save $10 on the price, and if it later gets cancelled, you’ll get a $10 credit back! Key bonuses: easy one-way pricing, generally cheaper rates, operates in other parts of the US. Check out the website here; or call them at 925-230-2086

Santa Rosa Ski & Sports: Less diversity in offerings, e.g., their trips are 2 weeks apart (which is why one-way isn’t really possible, unless you want to get yourself home). But major key bonus: none of the other options serve the North Bay at all, so if you live near Sonoma, this is your only option. Call them at 707-578-4754

Regular Public Transit Routes

Aside from Megabus which has limited stations, Amtrak and Greyhound offer a large diversity of pick up and drop off points both in the Bay Area and the Lake Tahoe Area. The key to keep in mind is, what is your destination, and how will you get from there to the ski resort?

Many ski resorts in Lake Tahoe have their own paid shuttle bus service (check the resort website for details) that ferries people between the resort, and various hotels and stations in both North and South Lake Tahoe and Reno. As well, if you arrive in Truckee, you can take the Tahoe Area Regional Transit (TART) bus system to Squaw, NorthStar, Diamond Peak, and Homewood (the latter 2 require you to make an additional transfer). A one-way ticket on the TART is $1.75. If you end up in South Lake Tahoe, there is not a public bus service, but Heavenly is around 2 miles away, so if you want, you can certainly walk it.

Book online at the websites below, and remember that using either Amtrak or Greyhound, you may need to transfer in between (e.g., with Amtrak, you’ll go from Emeryville to Sacramento, and from Sacramento to your final Tahoe area destination).

For more information on TART fares, schedules and more, click here

Happy trails!

Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, and we'll do our best to get you ouside!

Share this protip with friends using the social media buttons below!