Compared to the relatively barren, dry and desert environment of Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe is teeming with lush vegetation and an abundance of water-based sports and activities. Reaching this large, deep lake, which lies within both Nevada and California, is certainly not a day trip from Las Vegas though. If you’re interested in reaching Lake Tahoe from Las Vegas, give yourself a hefty chunk of time for travel, especially if plan to go by bus or car. Plan on making a trip to Lake Tahoe at least three days long.
It is approximately 440 miles between Las Vegas and the south shore of Lake Tahoe, and the trip requires visitors to pass into California, skirting Yosemite National Park.
The quickest way to get to Lake Tahoe from Las Vegas is to fly into Reno and catch a ride from there. The flight time from Las Vegas to Reno is approximately an hour and 15 minutes. There are several non-stop flights a day between the two cities, especially on Southwest Airlines. From Reno, you’ll need to rent a car or take advantage of one of the shuttle buses that runs between the airport and the lake (generally South Lake Tahoe). This ride runs between $25.00-$30.00 one way or about $50.00 round trip, depending on the transportation company you utilize.
There are not buses that go directly from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe, but you can catch a bus from Las Vegas to Reno and then arrange for alternative transportation from Reno to Lake Tahoe. Riding the bus from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe takes almost 24 full hours because the route winds through Utah instead of California, and there are numerous stops along the way. You will most likely need to transfer buses in Salt Lake City. A ticket costs approximately $85.00-$110.00, depending on the terms and conditions that accompany it. From Reno, hop another bus or rent a car to finish your trip to Lake Tahoe.
If you have a rental car or are driving a car of your own, you’ll need to drive north out of Las Vegas on I-95. Turn left on NV-266 (which becomes CA-266 when it crosses into California). This road then becomes NV-264 when it crosses back into Nevada. Cross back into California on US-6. Turn right on CA-120 and drive about 45 miles before turning on US-395 going north. Take this road to Lake Tahoe.
Realize that most of this drive goes through the relatively isolated landscape of Nevada, so be prepared with a roadside repair kit and fill up with gas when you are able. Also, you will gain a significant amount of altitude as you head into the Sierras around Lake Tahoe, so be prepared for this elevation change, especially in the winter. Roads may be snow-covered and icy and should be driven with care.
Photo credit: rao_anirudh