Trip Number: 13085A
Staff: Tamara Kurtz
- Snowshoe and cross-country ski in the Tahoe National Forest with spectacular
- Experience a snowshoe trek to a backcountry hut and overnight stay
- Learn new digital photography techniques
- All ground transportation, including Reno Airport shuttle
- All accommodations, meals, and snowshoe/cross-country ski equipment
- A group lesson on both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
Come explore the Tahoe National Forest on this multi-sport medley of snowshoeing
and cross-country skiing. Nestled at an elevation of 7,000 feet at Donner Summit,
not far from Lake Tahoe, the area near Clair Tappaan Lodge receives the highest
average snowfall of the entire Sierra Nevada range, making it a favorite for
snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and downhill-skiing.
After our group lesson on snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, we’ll
snowshoe and cross-county ski on groomed trails near the lodge and Donner Lake.
We will also explore the backcountry by snowshoeing to Castle Peak Pass on the
Pacific Crest Trail and overnight at the Peter Grubb Hut in the Tahoe National
Forest on Donner Summit (7,200 feet elevation). We will visit the Donner Museum
to find out about the interesting history of this area.
During the evenings at the Clair Tappaan Lodge, there will usually be time
to relax by the fireplace or soak in the hot tub. We’ll also improve our
digital photography with pointers from a professional and learn about current
conservation issues of this part of the Sierra Nevada.
Photo: Tamara Kurtz
Day 1: The trip begins at noon with a shuttle for trip participants
from the Reno International Airport to the Clair Tappaan Lodge in Soda Springs,
California. After arriving at the lodge, we’ll attend a group snowshoe
lesson and snowshoe on groomed trails behind the lodge. Dinner will be served
at 6:00 p.m. and then we’ll gather to go over the trip itinerary.
Day 2: We’ll start each day with a hot breakfast at
8:00 a.m. and make our trail lunches. We will meet outside the lodge for a group
cross-country ski lesson with our instructor. After the lesson, we’ll
ski on groomed trails and break for lunch while enjoying the beauty of snow-laden
pines. At 5:00 p.m., there will be a social hour at the lodge.
Day 3: We will drive to the Donner Summit/Castle Peak/Pacific
Crest trailhead (approximately five miles) and snowshoe on a backcountry trail
for about four miles to the Peter Grub Hut. Our trek will take us near the scenic
Castle Peak. Everyone will pack a light backpack with his or her gear and a
small portion of group commissary. If there is sufficient time after we arrive
at the hut, there will be an optional hike. The hut has solar-powered lights
and a wood-burning stove. Our sleeping quarters will be in the loft. Each participant
will need to bring a sleeping bag. An outhouse is about 25 yards from the hut.
Day 4: After breakfast, we will snowshoe back to the trailhead
and return to the lodge. We will plan to return to the lodge by 3:00 p.m. After
dinner, we’ll meet to learn about digital photography pointers from our
Day 5: We visit the Emigrant Trail Museum located in the Donner
Memorial State Park and view a film about the ill-fated Donner Party. This party
of families was trapped near Donner Lake during the winter of 1846-47 without
shelter. At the park, we will either snowshoe or cross-country ski on the trails
near Donner Lake. After dinner, we will hear about the area’s key conservation
issues from a local speaker.
Day 6: We’ll eat breakfast and depart to the Reno Airport.
Because weather and trail conditions may change, trip plans may be modified.
The closest airport to the Clair Tappaan Lodge is the Reno Airport; it is
only one hour away. A shuttle from the Reno Airport to Clair Tappaan Lodge and
return shuttle is included in the trip price. The shuttle will depart from the
Reno Airport at noon on March 3. On March 8, the shuttle will depart from the
Clair Tappaan Lodge at 9:00 a.m. Departing flights should be scheduled for late
morning or early afternoon.
If you want to make alternative travel arrangements, Truckee is served by Amtrak
For participants wishing to drive, Clair Tappaan Lodge is two hours east of
Sacramento on I-80, off the Soda Springs exit (one exit west of Donner Summit)
and approximately one hour west of Reno on I-80. Take the Soda Springs exit,
then drive 2.5 miles east of the exit on historic US 40/Donner Pass Road. The
address is 19940 Donner Pass Road in Norden. Look for the Clair Tappaan Lodge
sign that is slightly up the hill on your left and the wide footpath leading
up to the lodge. Parking is available on either side of the road. There is a
sign located at the foot of the hill that explains where you can drive and drop
off your luggage near the back of the lodge.
Accommodations and Food
In 1934, Sierra Club volunteers built Clair Tappaan as a rustic retreat for
hikers, skiers, and mountain climbers. The lodge has a special rustic charm
with its spacious living room, enormous fireplace, and outdoor fire ring. Guests
assist with daily kitchen chores such as meal preparation and serving, setting
tables, or dishwashing. These chores require about a half-hour each day.
A hearty breakfast and dinner are prepared by professional kitchen staff and
served in the lodge’s large dining room. A vegetarian meal option is always
available. Brown bag lunch provisions are available for guests. Participants
with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, if you notify the
trip leader in advance.
No smoking is allowed in the lodge or on the surrounding trails. All accommodations
are in bunk beds, so guests should bring a sleeping bag. The lodge can be cold
so be sure to bring plenty of warm layers of clothing for both day and night.
The rooms are small and guests will have to carry their gear up a steep path
outside and stairs inside, so it is wise to limit gear to what can be easily
Accommodations are assigned in advance by the lodge manager. Room doors do
not lock; however, there are lockers and locks may be rented. Recently remodeled
restroom and shower facilities are shared (bring your own towel). The lodge
has a hot tub, so be sure to bring a bathing suit! A coin-operated washer and
dryer are available.
Our snowshoe and ski activities will accommodate beginners. However, this
trip is considered moderately strenuous because of the 7,000 foot elevation.
Altitude sickness can happen to anyone regardless of physical conditioning.
Hydration is the most important tool for preventing such sickness. You are advised
to bring at least two quart-sized water containers. If you haven’t been
exercising regularly, now is a good time to start. Safety is the primary concern
on Sierra Club outings.
Equipment and Clothing
The leader will provide a detailed equipment list to registered participants
that have been screened and approved by the trip leader.
- Farquhar, Francis, History of the Sierra Nevada.
- Howard, Thomas Frederick, Sierra Crossing.
- McGlashen, C.F., History of the Donner Party, A Tragedy of the Sierra.
- Sorer, Tracy I., Sierra Nevada Natural History.
- Johnson, Vera R., The Naturalist’s Companion, Revised: 1st Edition.
The Donner-Lake Tahoe area is a popular year-around destination for outdoor
recreation, which affects the natural environment. We will learn and practice
Leave No Trace principles to reduce our impact while exploring the wilderness.
On one evening a guest speaker will talk about conservation issues of the Donner
Summit and we will discuss participants' local conservation issues, too.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Tamara Kurtz lives in the Southwest and loves the outdoors. She has been
active with the Sierra Club National Outings Trip Program since 2004.
Tamara has led Lodge hiking trips in California's Tahoe National Forest,
Stanislaus National Forest, and the Mokelumne Wilderness. She has been the assistant leader for this trip in the past. Her other interests
include backpacking, cycling, and skiing. Tamara holds a Wilderness First
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips