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 named after Clair S. Tappaan. At the time of Tappaan’s death, Sierra Club members were organizing to build a ski lodge on Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. In 1989, former Lodge Committee Chairman Lewis F. Clark, said they named the lodge after Tappaan to use his popularity to help with fundraising.
The Lodge opened on Christmas Eve, 1934, according to Lodge old-timer Frank Shoemaker. Clair Tappaan Lodge is the Sierra Club’s largest and most popular lodge, known among its many supporters as the Sierra Club’s “flagship lodge.” Tappaan’s photo hangs in the entry.
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.