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From Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe: 4 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Freddy Sherman
Feb 18, 2020

Lake Tahoe is a spectacular alpine lake and resort destination, partly in California and partly in Nevada. Known for summer recreation on the lake and winter recreation on the local mountains, it's a popular tourist destination that also offers incredible natural scenery and beauty.

There are many ways to get from Los Angeles up to Lake Tahoe, a distance of about 450 miles by car. A direct drive from LA will take about eight hours, a bus will take about 12 hours, or you can opt for a 90-minute flight from LAX. The LAX flight takes you to the Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO), about 45 minutes away from Lake Tahoe, requiring the use of a bus (or car) to get to Tahoe itself.

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1. From Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe by Car

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

If you want to get to Lake Tahoe from Los Angeles by car, there are two main route choices, and either way takes between seven and eight hours. Sometimes the choice of route depends on the weather or the season, as one way tends to get more snow than the other.

The slightly faster and somewhat less scenic route is to take I-5 north, about five hours from LA, all the way to the Stockton/Sacramento area. Then you get on CA-88 for the final three hours, and this road takes you directly into the Lake Tahoe area.

Alternatively, you can take the route via Yosemite. You start in LA by getting to CA-14, the Antelope Valley Freeway. Take this to US-395 and head north - it's the same route people take to drive from LA to Mammoth to go skiing. Connect with US-50 after Yosemite to continue on to Lake Tahoe. This route gets more snow and can even be closed during the winter time. Either route will take you about eight hours, and each one is about 450 miles in distance.

2. From Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe by Bus

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

The least expensive way to get to Lake Tahoe from LA is to take the bus. Greyhound can get you there (well, to nearby Reno at least) in as little as twelve hours, with only one bus change.

You start in Los Angeles and take a bus to Fresno. A typical bus itinerary has you depart LA at 10am and get to Fresno about 2pm. Then it's on to Sacramento, where you arrive around 5pm. You transfer to a different bus in Sacramento for the ride to Reno and arrive around 10pm.

Reno is about a 45-minute drive from Lake Tahoe, and there are multiple options to get between the two cities. If you're visiting a ski resort in Lake Tahoe, many offer free shuttle service from Reno's airport. If you're not staying at a ski resort, a good option is North Lake Tahoe Express. They have frequent mini-bus service between various points in Reno and destinations in Tahoe. Once you're in Lake Tahoe, the area's regional bus transportation system, TART (Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit), gets you all over the Tahoe area, including to all the ski resorts.

FlixBus is another bus company that can get you from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe (Reno) without having to change buses. They have two direct buses per day; both are overnight rides. One leaves from UCLA, the other from DTLA (downtown Los Angeles). The journey takes about 12 hours.

Another option is to take their bus from LA to San Francisco and then transfer to a Reno-bound bus there, which adds about three hours to the overall journey time. They have new buses, with restrooms, free Wi-Fi, and power outlets at each reclining seat. You can even upgrade to seats with extra legroom. As with Greyhound, the bus takes you to Reno; you'll need to take a local bus or shuttle to get to Tahoe.

3. From Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe by Plane

Aerial view of Lake Tahoe with snow-capped mountains

The easiest way to get from LA to Tahoe is to hop on a short, 90-minute-long flight. Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) is just south of downtown Reno and about an hour by car from Lake Tahoe. American, United, and Southwest all have non-stop flights to RNO from LAX. You can fly from other LA-area airports (BUR or SNA), but they all require a connection, except Long Beach (LGB). LGB has a daily, direct flight to Reno on JetBlue.

To get from Reno airport to Lake Tahoe, you have a few options depending on whether you want to go to the California side or the Nevada side. Also depending on whether you want to go to downtown Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, or the ski resorts.

A good option is North Lake Tahoe Express, with frequent mini-bus service between various points in Reno and various destinations in Lake Tahoe. Of course, if you're visiting a specific resort, check to see if they provide transportation from the airport, as most do.

You can also rent a car at Reno airport on arrival or use Uber or Lyft to get to Lake Tahoe. It takes about an hour by car to get to Lake Tahoe from RNO.

4. From Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe by Train

Lupines at Lake Tahoe

While there isn't a direct Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe train, you can ride Amtrak's San Joaquins train for about a third of the 16-hour journey. The rest of the trip is on their Thruway buses.

Your journey starts at Los Angeles' vintage Union Station, but instead of a train, you board a Thruway bus for a three-hour ride up to Bakersfield. Here, you board the San Joaquins train for an almost six-hour train ride up through the heart of California to the state's capital, Sacramento. In Sacramento, you transfer to another Amtrak Thruway bus for the three-hour ride to Reno.

From Reno, you have a few transportation options depending on which part of Lake Tahoe you want to visit, with North Lake Tahoe Express providing bus service from the Amtrak station to Lake Tahoe.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Things to do at Lake Tahoe: What you choose do to here depends on when you are visiting. Most visitors who come here in winter are here to enjoy the ski resorts around Lake Tahoe. In summer, people come here to relax on the beaches or head out on the hiking trails. Another popular way to appreciate the area in summer is by staying at one of the campgrounds.

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