5 Lake Tahoe Traffic Hacks You Need

south lake tahoe water taxi

With these 5 insider tips, you’ll spend more time sipping Rum Runners and less time sitting in traffic.

Lake Tahoe traffic ebbs and flows depending on the season, day of the week, and road conditions. Most times, it’s no big deal. Other times—especially in summer—it can give rush hour in downtown Los Angeles a run for its money. And those are the times when you’ll be glad you have these five Tahoe traffic hacks stashed in your backpack.

TRAFFIC HACK #1: Take the Water Taxi

The South Tahoe Water Taxi is our top traffic hack because it happens to be the most awesome one. Not only does the taxi keep you off the roads and on the water, your bike rides free. So, should you need convenient transportation once you arrive at one of the Water Taxi’s four ports of call, you’re all set. The map below shows where each port is located. Below that, you’ll find basic info about what each port has to offer.

Lakeside Marina is located in the heart of south shore’s casino and entertainment action on Lakeshore Blvd and is within walking distance of The Heavenly Village. Lakeside Marina also offers parasailing, jet ski rentals, boat rentals, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboard rentals among other fun stuff. Free parking is at 4041 Lakeshore Boulevard at South Lake Tahoe on the California side.

Camp Rich Marina is at our resort on the southwest corner of the lake—the closest resort to Emerald Bay. From the port, you can grab some grub and a famous Rum Runner cocktail from The Beacon Bar & Grill, relax on the beach, or go for a ride on our bike trails. The marina has boat rentals, jet ski rentals, kayak rentals, stand-up paddle rentals, fuel, Rum Runner cruises, and moorings. Parking is $12 per vehicle at 1900 Jameson Beach Road at South Lake Tahoe on the California side (validated if you spend $35 at The Beacon or the Marina).

Timber Cove Marina is in mid-town across from the Safeway supermarket. All kinds of family dining and fun are within walking distance. Plus, Timber Cove Marina offers parasailing, jet ski rentals, boat rentals, jet boat tours, paddle boats, sailing charters, and a bunch more. Free parking is at 3411 Lake Tahoe Boulevard at South Lake Tahoe on the California side.

Round Hill Pines Marina is located on the Nevada side of the lake on the East Shore. One of the finest beaches on the lake, Round Hill Pines is home to the world famous Pain Killer cocktail and offers boat rentals, parasailing, jet ski rentals, water taxi, kayak rentals, and more. Parking is $12 per vehicle at 300 Highway 50 in Round Hill, Nevada.

Best thing is, you can book your Water Taxi ride totally online.

TRAFFIC HACK #2: Be an Early Bird

If you’re hoping to spend a day at the lake sans summer traffic, a head start of just an hour or two could make all the difference. Try to set out before 8 a.m. The earlier you get your day started the more likely you are to beat the morning rush and snag the best parking spots. Plus, if you wrap up your day earlier, you’ll have a better chance at scoring good dinner seats.

TRAFFIC HACK #3: Go Local

Much of the midday traffic you might encounter at Lake Tahoe can be attributed to grocery-store runs when folks run out of ice, drinks, food and so on. One of the best ways to hack this traffic problem is to shop at smaller, local stores. These shops usually have more available parking and shorter lines at the register, and the routes to them can be less congested—three huge time savers. Plus, local markets commonly stock selections that are more unique than those of the big chain markets (bonus). You’ll find just about everything you need at the Camp Rich General Store. Or try Grass Roots for healthier products, Grocery Outlet for good deals, Holiday Market in Meyers, or Smart & Final if you’re  shopping for a lot of people. South Tahoe also has some great specialty shops like Overland Meat Company and La Mexicana Market. 

TRAFFIC HACK #4: Stay Midweek

Book your Lake Tahoe stay for Sunday through mid-week and you’ll discover two amazing things. First, the roads are less congested because most area visitors head back home on Sunday afternoons. And second, midweek lodging rates are almost always lower than weekend rates. So you enjoy more breathing room, suffer less traffic, and spend less money (triple hack!).

TRAFFIC HACK #5: Ride Up a Different Way

Unfortunately, we don’t know of any secret, traffic-free routes to Tahoe (sorry). However, there is a traffic-hack you might not have considered—alternative transportation. Though Uber and Lyft are great and do operate locally, there are other, more cost effective ways to get up to the mountains without bringing your car. Here are two great options:

  1. SnowPals offers ride sharing from the San Francisco area to Tahoe. The group has been operating since 1999 and consists mainly of San Francisco professionals and families who enjoy spending time in the mountains.
  2. Blackbird is a super innovative San Francisco company whose new app connects passengers, pilots, and local airports to create a huge network of personal flights. It’s sort of like an “Uber of the air.” And forward-thinking folks are already using it to experience traffic-free Tahoe trips. They fly into Truckee Tahoe Airport where you can catch a ride to Tahoe via services like Tahoe Sierra Transportation, Uber, or Lyft.

There you have our favorite five Lake Tahoe traffic hacks. Now, how about you share some of yours? And don’t forget to book your ride on the Water Taxi next time you’re at Lake Tahoe. See you soon!

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