San Francisco to Tahoe Without a Car

A set of wheels isn’t required to reach Northern California’s top winter destination.

two skiers riding downhill at Alpine Meadows resort with Lake Tahoe in the background, image
With a little extra effort and time, visiting Tahoe from San Francisco without a car is definitely doable.
Adam Wilding / Shutterstock

We recently wrote about four destinations outside of San Francisco accessible for even those visiting the city without a car. But our original list didn’t include one of Northern California’s top spots for travelers: Lake Tahoe. With winter sports in full swing—and the appearance of a solid snow pack—Tahoe is sure to be on many must-visit lists this year.

The good news? The trek is doable without a car. But since it requires more effort than the other trips we previously mentioned, we recommend an overnight stay. South Lake Tahoe is easier to navigate sans vehicle because of Tahoe Transportation District’s ongoing efforts to make the area more accessible and because many resorts offer complimentary shuttle services. Uber, Lyft, and traditional taxis are also available.

Once you’re in Tahoe, hit the slopes at a ski resort of your choice—resorts are easier to access without a car than rental homes because of the aforementioned shuttle services—followed by a day of relaxation or exploration. You can take a lake cruise, enjoy a sunset helicopter ride, or ditch the skis for skates and hit the ice rink.

How to Get to Lake Tahoe Without a Car

There are several options for getting yourself to Tahoe. MegaBus is one of the least expensive but the one of the most time-consuming. A nearly five-hour bus ride from San Francisco’s Caltrain Station in SoMa brings you to Reno. Once there, take a shuttle to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and hop on the South Tahoe Airporter, which will drop you at a variety of resorts in town. The total cost is about $100.

If you’re willing to spend a little more money, non-stop flights from Oakland to Reno are just under an hour and cost around $130, depending on when you book your flight. (To get to the Oakland International Airport, it’s a 30-minute BART ride from downtown San Francisco. Take a train to the Coliseum station, and from there, transfer to BART's automated people mover direct to the airport.)