Clair Tappaan Lodge is a rustic mountain lodge nestled in the Sierra Nevada of California at the top of Donner Pass. Built by Sierra Club volunteers in the 1930s, the lodge is an excellent home base for year-round recreation. The friendly, casual atmosphere and affordable nightly rates (including family-style meals) make the Lodge the perfect rustic getaway to the Tahoe/Donner area.
Clair Tappaan is the Sierra Club's flagship lodge, with a wide-variety of programs that support sustainable practices and the Sierra Club's mission to "explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the Earth." At the Lodge, they strive to increase awareness of the environment, foster a sense of community, increase the spirit of volunteerism, and nurture eco-conscious conduct.
Staff at Clair Tappaan Lodge also administer nearby Hutchinson Lodge which sleeps up to 25 guests and has full kitchen facilities. The rates are lower ($25 per night) and guests are responsible for their own food. There is a minimum of 10 to reserve Hutchinson Lodge.
Four Back Country huts also are administered by Clair Tappaan Lodge staff - Benson, Peter Grubb, Ludlow and Bradley huts.
Lodging Style and Amenities
Clair Tappaan Lodge is a rustic mountain lodge nestled in the Sierra Nevada of California in the Tahoe National Forest. The lodge is an excellent home base for year-round recreation. The friendly, casual atmosphere and affordable nightly rates (including family-style meals) make the Lodge the perfect rustic getaway to the Tahoe/Donner area.
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. Restroom and shower facilities are shared, with two men and two women bathrooms (bring your own towel and toiletries.) Excellent family-style meals are included in the price.
The Lodge can sleep 140 guests at once and provides bathrooms with hot and cold running water.
There is no television, Internet or radio and cell phone reception is outdoors. Initially the lack of electronic gadgets is jolting, especially for young guests, but they soon learn other alternatives such as conversation with others, board games and making music together. They soon discover that stepping outside the Lodge takes them into a plane quite different from the one they are used to on the Internet.
A hearty cooked breakfast and dinner are prepared each day by the professional kitchen staff and are served family-style in the Lodge's large dining room. Brown bag lunch provisions are available for guests to take with them each day.
The family style meals promote interaction between the people who are at the Lodge rather than segregating groups. The large living room with a huge fire place is a central common area which also promotes conversation. There is a library which is designated as quiet space.
Dinner is at 6 pm.
A vegetarian meal option is available for every meal. Guests with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, provided that the lodge staff is informed in advance.
Clair Tappaan Lodge, Hutchinson Lodge and the Back Country huts are open year-round.
The Lodge is a charming spot from which to explore the riches of the Sierra Nevada. Nestled at an elevation of 7,000 feet at Donner Summit, not far from Lake Tahoe, 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.
Three ski resorts are on the same Donner Pass Road, along with Royal Gorge, the cross-country ski resort. During winter, a shuttle bus stops at the Lodge and transports skiers to the ski venues. Boreal Ski resort, located on the other side of the ridge, is easily accessible by car.
For those who are really adventurous, the lodge is a great starting point for a multi-day trek to the Sierra Club's back country huts, Peter Grubb Hut, Benson Hut, Bradley Hut and Ludlow Hut. If you want to explore the Sierra Nevada in the winter but don't want to build an igloo or dig a snow cave, the four Sierra Club huts in the mountains near Lake Tahoe may be just perfect.
In summer, the recreational opportunities are unlimited. A network of nearby trails offers miles of hiking and provides access to fishing streams, remote meadows and peaks, and crystal clear 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.
The Lodge is the venue for many national outings sponsored by the Sierra Club and Exploritas (formerly known as Elder Hostel) and are open to all. Contact the Lodge by email, phone or mail to reserve a spot. These week-long, one day or weekend opportunities are listed on the Clair Tappaan Lodge Web site. They include hiking, skiing/snowboarding outings, as well as inter-generational, environmental week-long workshops, various training opportunities, and service trips to improve the Donner Rim Trail, and the Tahoe National Forest. Go to http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/activities.aspx and click on Activities in the right side bar for details.
For more recreational opportunities, go to http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/activities.aspx and click on Recreation on the right sidebar. A further click on the various types of recreation available winter, spring, summer and autumn will bring you to lists of many, many opportunities requiring different levels of skill. The Lodge is the gateway to practically limitless experiences.
$50-$60 for adults and $25-$32 for children, ages 3 and under are free. Rates include lodging and 3 meals. Hutchinson Lodge rates are $25 per night and the Back Country Huts are $15 per night.
Clair Tappaan Lodge 19940 Donner Pass Road Norden, CA 95724
Clair Tappaan is located at 7000 feet in California's Sierra Nevada. It's 45 minutes west of Reno and one and a half hours drive east of Sacramento just off of Interstate 80. The address is 19940 Donner Pass Road in Norden.
From eastbound I-80, take the exit for Soda Springs/Norden - old U.S. 40 - also called Donner Pass Road. Go 2.4 miles east on Donner Pass Road. The lodge is at 19940 Donner Pass Rd. (old U.S. 40). Look for our sign on your left.
You can use the old, steep footpath (about 40 feet elevation change) leading up to the Lodge's South entrance. Or slightly to the east is easier access to the lodge North entrance. Use the road up to the tri-lodge area. There is a loading/unloading zone (short term parking for drop offs).
In the past four years, the Lodge has been the venue for environmental learning programs that reach out to school-age children. Reaching elementary, high school and college students to expose them to the Sierra Nevada range and give them an outdoor experience, these programs have already reached thousands of young people. The programs are geared to California Learning Standards and are exposing young people to the ecology and fragility of the beautiful area at Donner Summit.
A scholarship fund exists to help youth groups and schools fund their participation in the place-based education programs at the Lodge.
The Lodge contracts with providers of place based education who provide environmental, history, archeology and recreation education tailored to the needs of the groups seeking the experience. The programs are sponsored by various funding sources and serve different populations of young people.
For more details call or write Clair Tappaan Lodge staff.
Locally or Family Owned Business Notes
Clair Tappaan Lodge is owned by the Sierra Club and run by a staff of 5 who live locally. It was built by a group of volunteers by hand, using timber felled and milled on the property. See the 9-minute film of the volunteer work force, many of whom were the mountaineers who trained the American troops in the snow and rock climbing skills used during World War II. Go to http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/history.aspx and click on Lodge History.
Pet Friendly Notes
Only seeing eye or other assistance animals are allowed.