Just for Grandparents and Grandkids, Tahoe National Forest, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13213A, Lodge


  • Spend quality time with your grandkids
  • Hike portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, go swimming, or just hang out at the lodge
  • Learn about the history of California's Donner Pass area


  • Accommodations and meals at Clair Tappaan Lodge
  • Lots of activities
  • All admission fees


DatesJul 14–19, 2013
Price$695 (Adult)
$595 (Child)
Min. Age5
StaffClaudia Hilligoss

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Share your love of the Great Outdoors with your grandchild(ren). Take short hikes together through the woods. Swim in refreshing mountain lakes. Explore the historic sites of Donner Pass, then return to the comfort of our rustic lodge for crafts, games, dinner and lively evening programs. All of these activities, and more, are possible on this 15th annual lodge-based event.

The fun begins at Clair Tappaan Lodge, the Sierra Club's own mountain home on a forested hillside near Donner Pass, roughly 35 miles from Lake Tahoe. Built by Sierra Club volunteers in the 1930s, Clair Tappaan still retains its original rustic character. The lodge is situated in the middle of miles of scenic country, full of spectacular overlooks and small alpine lakes. Summer here means glorious wildflower displays in the surrounding mountain landscape of Tahoe National Forest. Hiking trails begin right out the back door. Three historic wagon routes are less than three miles away, and the route of the first Transcontinental Railroad is visible from the lodge. There are even nearby Native American petroglyphs to puzzle over.

If enough grandkids are signed up we will run two sections and divide the trips according to the children’s age groups so that the hikes are age appropriate.


Here's a sampling of some of the planned events: Short walks through fragrant pine forests and open meadows, with optional longer hikes; refreshing swims in hidden mountain lakes; explorations of the original wagon and train routes over Donner Pass. We'll take a nature walk in a glaciated area, have a beach picnic & kayak at Lake Tahoe, take a tram ride and swim at Squaw Valley's High Camp, and visit the Donner Memorial Museum. In the evenings we'll gather together for singing around the campfire, some lively dancing, a wildlife presentation, and our grand finale Talent Show.

Every activity is optional. You are welcome to accompany us on the planned adventures each day or you may choose to sign out and take the day off to check out Lake Tahoe, hike portions of the Pacific Crest Trail, or just hang around the lodge all day and count blue jays. There are many free-time options: walking on the lodge's own nature trail, visiting historic downtown Truckee, hiking up to an overlook, kayaking on Donner Lake, rafting the Truckee River -- that sort of thing.

All hikes and programs are subject to change depending on a variety of factors, including trail conditions, permits, weather, and availability of speakers. Grandparents are responsible for supervising their grandchildren at all times.



Getting There

The Lodge is located at 7,000 feet in California’s Sierra Nevada. It’s 48 miles west of Reno, Nevada and about 12 miles west of Truckee, California. Participants flying into Reno/Tahoe airport should rent a car or make arrangements to carpool with other trip participants. All participants will receive detailed driving directions and a trip roster so that you may make arrangements to carpool. All transportation to the lodge, trailheads, or other activities is the responsibility of each trip member.

Accommodations and Food

In 1934, Sierra Club volunteers built Clair Tappaan Lodge as a rustic retreat for hikers, skiers and mountain climbers. Since it’s located near Donner Summit, the area receives the highest average snowfall of the entire Sierra Nevada Range and is a favorite of winter sports enthusiasts. In summer, a network of nearby trails offers miles of hiking and bicycling and provides access to fishing streams, remote meadows and peaks, and alpine swimming lakes.

Although it is not a luxury lodge, Clair Tappaan Lodge has a special rustic charm. It boasts a spacious living room, enormous fireplace, cozy library and outdoor fire ring. A small, friendly staff cares for the lodge. In keeping with the cooperative spirit of the lodge, each guest pitches in by doing a simple chore that requires about a half-hour each day. Chores include meal preparation and serving, setting tables, sweeping/mopping floors, bussing tables, dishwashing and taking out trash/recycling.

Prior to breakfast, guests prepare their own bag lunches from plentiful and varied ingredients. A hearty breakfast and dinner are prepared by the professional kitchen staff and served in the lodge's large communal dining room. A vegetarian meal option is always available. Participants with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, provided that their trip leader is informed in advance.

Coffee, tea and water are served with meals. For those wishing hot drinks before or after mealtimes, please bring change for the donation box. A soft drink coin machine is available in the lodge.

Because the lodge is an old building, constructed of wood and shingles, no smoking is allowed indoors or outdoors. Sleeping accommodations vary in size from very small two-person cubicles to larger family rooms, and separate dorms for men and women. All rooms are furnished with bunk beds with mattresses, pillows, and pillowcases. Trip participants provide their own sleeping bags or sheets, towels, soap, and toiletries. Bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper. The Lodge Manager assigns all accommodations in advance.  For more information about staying at the lodge, please follow this link: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/thingstoknow.aspx.

Doors do not lock; but there are lockers, and you can bring your own padlock. 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 washer, dryer, and refrigerator are available.

All luggage has to be carried or pulled by cart from the unloading zone to the front door of the lodge, then upstairs to your room. We recommend that you travel lightly. If you have a backpack or a carry-on bag, these might serve you better on this trip rather than a suitcase.

Reservations for extended stays before or after your outing may be made by calling the lodge directly at 530-426-3632 or 1-800-679-6775.

Trip Difficulty

Our hikes will be two to five miles round-trip, up and down over uneven ground with possible options for longer hikes. It’s important that grandparents and grandkids get in and stay in good physical condition. Remember, we'll be hiking and playing above 7,000 feet where the air is thinner, and that thin air will make our lungs work harder. Start some kind of aerobic conditioning program now -- you'll be happy you did.

Equipment and Clothing

Imagine you're going camping; you'll need just about the same gear at the lodge, except for plates, cups, and cutlery. That includes day packs, water bottles, hiking boots or sturdy shoes (no sandals) for hiking, and waterproof shoes or Crocs for the beach. We will send you a departure bulletin with reminders about equipment and pre-outing preparation before the trip begins. You should expect evening temperatures in the low 40s and days in the mid-80s, as well as an occasional afternoon thundershower. Note that the lodge is not heated in the summer. The grandkids may want to bring along a favorite game, hobby supplies, a frisbee, a whiffle ball, and books to read.



  • Tahoe National Forest


  • Sorer, Tracy I., Sierra Nevada Natural History.
  • Blackwell, Laird R., Wildflowers of the Tahoe Sierra.
  • Powell, Margie, Donner Summit, A Brief History.



Your leaders are volunteers. We have a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club, conservation, and enjoyment of the outdoors. Our wish is that the children on this outing will become strong believers in the need to protect our wild areas. Who knows -- maybe someday they’ll become Sierra Club activists. We'll be practicing Leave No Trace wilderness principles throughout the trip in order to minimize our impact on the environment.

The Donner Pass area is a readily accessible recreation mecca, appealing to retirees as well as to winter and summer recreational users. As more and more people come to the area, they contribute to a growing environmental problem. We'll discuss the ecological implications of the area's popularity.

While on the trip, please don't hesitate to ask your leaders about any conservation concerns that you may have. We look forward to having you share conservation challenges and successes from your home. Since any traveling leaves a carbon footprint, check out the information that the Sierra Club offers about carbon offsets at: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings



Claudia Hilligoss has been a Sierra Club volunteer participating and leading a variety of trips in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and in the Midwest since joining the club in 1992. Some of her favorite activities are hiking, cross-country skiing, gardening, photography and art. She enjoys staying abreast of environmental issues and participating in events in support of the environmental community. In the past she served as a local group chair in Northern Kentucky, Fundraising Committee of the Cumberland Chapter, Clair Tappaan Lodge Committee. Currently she serves on the National Outings Committee. Her love of nature was sparked as a child exploring the prairie, streams, and lakes of the Midwest. After living and working in the Sierra Nevada mountains for many years, she recently returned to her native state of Indiana to be near family.

Assistant Leader:

Peter Potamianos

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