We are a family of four, just went to Clair Tappaan for our 6th year in a row and loved it. But then again I can see how it can be a good fit for some folks but not for everyone. When we're on vacation, we don't spend time in our room, we're out and about enjoying our destination. Our beds/hotel room are NOT our destination, and we don't care much what they look like! So the fact that Clair Tappaan has bunkbeds does not bother us in the least--the mattresses are comfortable, the rooms are clean, just be sure to bring your own sleeping bag and towels. Pillows and clean pillowcases are provided. There are several configurations of rooms, accommodating 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, or 12 (I think). There are also a men's and a women's dorm for singles. Some rooms have a door directly out to a balcony overlooking the winter wonderland that surrounds this place. The facility is well-heated. Bathrooms are shared, well-stocked, and clean. Meals are decent and wholesome, sometimes quite good, sometimes average, but there's plenty to go around and we don't find ourselves hungry between meals. Good vegetarian options are available at every meal. A nice hot breakfast is served at 8:00AM, dinner is at 6:00PM, and you bag lunch youself from fixings they put out at 7:30 AM. You eat at slightly cramped tables with 8-10 people per table, so you get to know others staying there. It's great for kids, who can make friends and play together. You are expected to do a small (about 1/2 hour daily) chore of your choosing, part of the cooperative experience, helps to keep prices down. Our kids have a blast setting the tables before dinner! If you're not into pitching in with chores, or eating at prescribed times, or sharing a table with folks you don't know, you should stay elsewhere.
The wonder of Clair Tappaan lies partially in the location, and partially in the experience of the lodge itself, a lovely giant log cabin built by a committed team in the 1930's. The lounge has comfy couches, a piano, a crackling fire, and lots of games to choose from. The library is smaller and quieter, with jigsaw puzzles, a great selection of books, and a warm woodstove--a great place to read, write, relax, escape. There's a pingpong room and a hot tub in the basement. Prices are per person, reasonable, and include 3 meals/day. There's a discount for Sierra Club members--it's worth it to become a member.
The location is one of the snowiest places you can go in the area--last year there was 8+ feet of snow pack on the ground, this year was unusual--only about a foot late December. There is a glorious sledding slope right out the door, as well as a cross-country ski path and lots of space to build snow sculptures, snow forts, snow-anything! The lodge rents snowshoes and XC skis, and offers XC lessons, all for a reasonable price. (there are sleds available to use for free) Other snow fun places are close by: Royal Gorge, Donner Ski Ranch, Sugar Bowl, etc.
The ambiance at Clair Tappaan is friendly and laid back. Whatever the weather, the director, Peter, is very resourceful and can advise you on fun things to do. We are adventurers, love new things, and almost never go to the same place twice. Clair Tappaan is our exception: It's become our family's winter tradition, and we love it there. Give this place a try!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Clair Tappaan Lodge is a hostel-style 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. Please note, hostel-style means guests bring their own bedding, towels, and assist with kitchen chores daily. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Clair Tappaan Hotel Norden