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Clair Tappaan Lodge


Hutchinson Lodge History Who was Clair Tappaan?

Historic Movie Clips

Building Clair Tappaan Lodge 1934 - 1935

Rope Tow at Clair Tappaan Lodge - 1950s

Dog Sled Team hauling a stove over Castle Pass to Peter Grubb Hut - 1950s

In 1934, a hearty group of Sierra Club volunteers built Clair Tappaan Lodge as a rustic retreat for hikers, skiers, and mountain climbers. The Lodge is a charming home base from which to explore the riches of the Sierra Nevada.

Nestled in a pocket of the mountains near Donner Summit at an elevation of 7,000 feet, the area receives the highest average snowfall of the entire Sierra Nevada range, making the Lodge a favorite with cross-country ski and snowshoe enthusiasts.

In summer, the variety of recreational opportunities is unlimited. A network of nearby trails offers miles of hiking and provides access to fishing streams, remote meadows and peaks, and swimming lakes. The well-known Pacific Crest Trail is only a mile away and can be reached right out the back door of the lodge.

The Donner Summit area is great for both road and mountain biking and is also widely known as a rock climbers’ mecca. The Lodge is on the edge of the Lake Tahoe Basin, with Tahoe itself only 25 miles away.

Historically, nearby Donner Pass played a key role in the early emigration of fortune seekers from the Eastern U.S. to California. The challenging wagon road over the Pass was used as early as the 1840s. Donner Lake State Park is a great place to learn more about this early emigrant route.

Railroad buffs will note that the Central (later Southern) Pacific tracks, which led to the joining of the rails at Promontory, Utah in 1869, can be seen from the lodge itself. Although the railroads made travel through the area easier, winter snow conditions frequently challenged their passage. There are still traces of the original 37 miles of snowsheds over the rails, used to keep the tracks from becoming clogged with snow.

Staying at the Lodge

The Lodge itself has hosted generations of Sierra Club members in its uniquely friendly, communal atmosphere. Clair Tappaan has a special charm, with its spacious living room and enormous fireplace, its cozy library and reading area, and its relaxing sun deck. Since the very beginning, the cooperative spirit familiar to Sierra Club Outing participants has been employed at the lodge. Each day of their stay, guests assist with daily kitchen chores such as meal preparation and serving, setting tables, or dishwashing. These chores require about one half hour each day.

A hearty breakfast and dinner are prepared each day by the professional kitchen staff and are served in the Lodge’s large, communal dining room. Brown bag lunch provisions are available for guests to take with them each day. A vegetarian meal option is always available, and participants with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, provided that their trip leader is informed in advance. Because the Lodge is an old building, constructed of wood and shingles, no smoking is allowed, either in the building or on the surrounding trails.

All accommodations are in bunk beds equipped with mattresses (bring your own sleeping bag or bedding). A variety of room types and sizes are available. Accommodations are assigned in advance by the trip leader. Restroom and shower facilities are shared, with two men’s and two women’s bathrooms (bring your own towel). The Lodge also has a hot tub, so be sure to bring your bathing suit! A small, friendly, and professional staff care for the Lodge year round. Reservations can be made by calling the Lodge directly at 530-426-3632.

If you want to explore the Sierra Nevada this winter but don't want to build an igloo or dig a snow cave, the four Sierra Club huts near Lake Tahoe may be just perfect.

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