Mountain Medley, Tahoe National Forest, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14254A, Lodge


  • Stay, eat, and relax at the Sierra Club's rustic Clair Tappaan Lodge
  • Hike the High Sierra and visit the Lake Tahoe area
  • Explore the natural and emigrant history of the Donner-Tahoe area


  • All meals while staying at the lodge, except one on our free day
  • Your ticket to a Shakespeare performance on the shore of Lake Tahoe
  • Presentations about Western history and the area's environment


DatesAug 17–23, 2014
StaffWilliam Baurecht

Trip Overview

The Trip

We will sample the best natural and cultural features of the Tahoe-Donner basin. We'll hike to splendid High Sierra ridges and lakes and enjoy one another’s company; we’ll have time to take photographs, eat lunch with a view, swim, and relax. We'll learn, with a guide, how the Donner Pass area influenced history of the West, and sail Lake Tahoe's shoreline together.

We'll have two evenings out—one for a Shakespeare play performed by professionals under the stars on the shore of Lake Tahoe, the other for our final dinner at a restaurant in historic Truckee, California. We’ll spend our other evenings at the lodge, where we can relax by the fireplace in the living room, share observations about our hikes, learn more about history of the area, discuss conservation issues, or soak and converse in the hot tub.

After each day of hiking, we’ll return to the lodge for hot showers, hearty home-cooked meals, and camaraderie.

Your day pack should be large enough to hold lunch, at least two liters of water, and a warm, waterproof jacket. Sturdy, broken-in hiking shoes are needed for comfort and safety. A detailed clothing and packing list will be sent when you are approved for the trip. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars for observing vistas and wildlife.


Day 1: Clair Tappaan Lodge is at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Check into the lodge by 3 p.m. We will assemble at 4:00 p.m. to get acquainted before dinner. After dinner we'll gather to view the week's itinerary, tour the lodge, and relax.

Day 2: We'll start the week with a leisurely hike to Lake Flora, one of the leaders' favorite alpine lakes, where we'll swim or lounge in the sun surrounded by pines and stunning Sierra granite outcrops and domes. We will also view a panorama of Donner Lake as we stand high above Donner Pass. After dinner we’ll carpool to nearby Indian petroglyphs (rock carvings) and the China Wall built by Chinese laborers on the roadbed of the Transcontinental Railroad (completed 1869), with an opportunity to walk through a tunnel built by the Chinese.

Day 3: Today will be History Day. We'll hike with a guide to Donner Peak (8,019 feet), where we’ll eat lunch and continue to Cold Stream Pass to see where 19th-century emigrants crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains and where their oxen hauled wagons on chains up an incredibly steep incline. Some of us will continue and climb up Mt. Judah (8,243 feet), with its 360-degree panorama of surrounding mountains.

Day 4: This is a free day to visit museums, hike other trails in the area, rent a kayak or swim in Lake Tahoe, or visit shops in towns along the lake. We’ll gather for an afternoon public cruise on Lake Tahoe before we move on to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival near Incline Village, Nevada, where we'll see a professional performance on the lakeshore under the stars. Admissions for the boat ride and assigned seats for the play are included in the cost of the trip.

Day 5: Today we visit Emerald Bay, the jewel of Lake Tahoe. We’ll hike the Rubicon Trail down to the end of Emerald Bay and visit a waterfall, then see entirely new views of the lake on our return to the trailhead. This evening, we may have a guest speaker at the lodge who will explain local conservation issues.

Day 6: We will hike to Castle Peak Pass (7,880 feet) and eat lunch. Afterward, we'll continue to beautiful Round Valley, a crescent of ridges above a pristine alpine valley, stopping at Sierra Club’s Peter Grubb Hut, which is used for cross-country skiing. Some of us may continue on a longer hike to Sand Ridge Lake. We’ll enjoy our final meal, conversation, and laughter at a restaurant in Old Truckee, California (included in the price of the trip).

Day 7: The trip will end after breakfast. You can pack a lunch to take with you as you return home or move on to another place on your vacation.

While leaders will make every attempt to follow this itinerary, all hikes and programs are subject to change depending on a variety of factors including trail conditions, weather, and availability of speakers.



Getting There

The most popular and closest airport to the lodge is Reno, Nevada, only 60 minutes away; limited shuttle service and taxis are available. Other airport options are Sacramento, California (one and a half hours) and San Francisco (about three hours). Carpooling among participants is also an option and has been done from these airports. Those arriving by air or being dropped off at the lodge should plan to rent a car or make arrangements to carpool with other trip participants.

Due to insurance regulations, all transportation to the lodge, trailheads, and work sites is the responsibility of each trip member. Sierra Club leaders are not allowed to make carpool arrangements for participants, but the leader will provide a participant list for those who wish to make carpool arrangements. Additional information regarding travel options will be provided. Do not make any transportation reservations until the leader approves your participation in the trip.

Accommodations and Food

Located in the woods among mountains near Donner Summit, Sierra Club-owned Clair Tappaan Lodge is a rustic retreat known for warmth, good company, and family-style meals. A professional kitchen staff prepares hearty breakfasts and dinners, and provides a daily sandwich buffet from which you can pack a bag lunch. Guests are asked to assist with a chore, such as preparing meals, setting tables, serving, and cleaning up—taking about 20 minutes a day. Vegetarian options are always available, and the staff can usually accommodate other dietary restrictions with advance notice. Coffee, tea, and water are served with breakfast and dinner. Participants are invited to bring their additional beverages of choice. Each morning before breakfast you will prepare your lunch; bring a reusable plastic container to carry your sandwich.

There are a variety of room types, ranging from large dormitories to small, private cubicles for couples. Clair Taappan staff will assign rooms in advance, based on room availability. We will sleep on bunk beds with mattresses. Bring your sleeping bags and/or bedding. Restrooms and showers are communal (two men's and two women's restrooms). Bring your towels and toiletries.

Trip Difficulty

Our hikes range in distance from approximately 4-8 miles (round-trip) along well-traveled trails, with elevation gains of 500-1,500 feet. We invite a range of hiking participants, from strong hikers to those not accustomed to hiking at altitude to others who may not have hiked much recently. Our hikes will always have a "shorter option," so the less ambitious and those who want to take photographs need not worry about holding up others. In previous years, participants' ages varied from teens to 70s; we've been able to accommodate everyone who was in good physical condition.

We'll be at 7,000 to 9,000-feet elevation, where the air is thinner and acclimation may take several days. You can expect a feeling of tiredness and fatigue initially and can ease your transition and enjoyment by getting into shape early. Being physically unprepared is unfair to yourself and other trip participants. You should be able to walk one mile briskly (and three miles on flat terrain more leisurely) without getting winded and be able to carry on a conversation while walking. If you are so able, you will do fine on this trip.

Equipment and Clothing

No special equipment is required; however, you need a light, day pack, layered clothing, two (liter or quart) water bottles or a water bladder, a sun hat or cap, and a rain jacket/pants. We recommend you have “seasoned” hiking boots because of uneven terrain and stones. Sandals are not acceptable. Bring a fleece or jacket, for night and morning temperatures may be in the 40s. We will forward a complete list of items to bring after you have been approved for the trip.



  • Howard, Thomas Frederick. Sierra Crossing: First Roads to California. 1998.
  • Konigsmark, Ted. Geologic Trips: Sierra Nevada. 2002.
  • Lankford, Scott. Tahoe Beneath the Surface: The Hidden Stories of America’s Largest Mountain Lake. 2010.
  • Makley, Michael J. A Short History of Lake Tahoe. 2011.
  • McGlashan, C.F. History of the Donner Party: A Tragedy of the Sierra. 1940/1975.
  • Reid, Robert Leonard. A Treasury of the Sierra Nevada. 1983.
  • Schaffer, Jeffrey P. The Tahoe Sierra: A Natural History Guide. 1975/1998.
  • Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. 2012.
  • Twain, Mark. Roughing It. 1872.



Because of its year-round attractiveness to outdoor enthusiasts, the Donner Pass/Lake Tahoe area, with segments of the Pacific Crest Trail, is one of the most heavily visited in Northern California. We will learn and practice Leave No Trace principles that will minimize our impact whenever we choose to explore the wilderness. At the lodge, we will model recycling, conservation, and minimal use of disposable products. We will witness and discuss conservation implications of intensive use of the landscape we are visiting. An environmental professional who has years of experience with the ecology of the Truckee and Lake Tahoe areas will give a presentation at the lodge and encourage us to enter the conversation.

Your leaders are volunteer Sierra Club members with a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club, conservation, and enjoyment of the outdoors. They hope to impart to you some of their love for the area that we're visiting and for the work of the Sierra Club. They believe that the Sierra Club's Outings program provides an excellent opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and to learn about current concerns. While on this trip, please feel free to ask your leaders about any particular conservation issues and to share environmental concerns from your area.

Since any traveling leaves a carbon footprint, check out the information that the Sierra Club offers about carbon offsets at:

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Tahoe National Park and DL Bliss & Emerald Bay State Parks.



William Baurecht has been a member of the Sierra Club for many years and has led and participated in national lodge, service, base camp, and family outings. He has camped and hiked for most of his adult life. A certified national outings leader, Bill looks forward to sharing his love of mountain hiking, knowledge of Western history and cultures, and commitment to conservation and preservation of national and state parks and monuments.

Assistant Leader:

Helen Bannan-Baurecht has accompanied her husband Bill on Sierra Club national outings in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California, and they are excited about leading this trip together. She has loved the outdoors since her Girl Scout days, which included a stint as a camp counselor. A New Jersey native, she fell in love with the West on her first trip there and focused her teaching career on western history, particularly the lives of American Indians and women.

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