California Alpine Club brings together explorers at Echo Summit and beyond |

California Alpine Club brings together explorers at Echo Summit and beyond

Claire Cudahy

Atop Echo Summit with expansive views of Lake Tahoe sits a beloved lodge owned by a club of outdoor-minded individuals.

The California Alpine Club was founded in 1913 by a small group of Bay Area hikers, and more than 100 years later, the group has grown to include over 700 members and two lodges.

“The club’s philosophy is to explore and enjoy the outdoors,” said John Hannum, a 20-year member from Santa Rosa, California.

In the beginning years, the club organized outdoor activities around the Bay Area, and in 1925, the group acquired its first clubhouse, the Alpine Lodge located on Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley.

In 1952, the club purchased its second location, the Echo Summit Lodge near South Lake Tahoe.

Club members, who pay yearly dues plus a per-visit fee to stay at the lodges, have been organizing events at Mount Tam and Echo Summit ever since.

Members trained as “hosts” set up trips to the lodge, which others can join in on.

“It’s operated as a co-op where the trained hosts are given custody of the lodge for a weekend, week or 10 days and they provide for other members to come and join in. Everybody pitches in and helps with the cooking, cleaning and such,” explained Hannum.

Members are also required to help out with at least one volunteer day a year, which could include chopping timber for the two wood stoves that heat the Echo Summit Lodge all winter or general upkeep at the Alpine Lodge.

“It’s a very friendly place that’s low cost and everybody really enjoys it,” said Richard Thornton, an eight-year member from Walnut Creek, California. “It was a great place for me to take my kids when they were younger to participate with other families and sort of get the whole feel for a big extended family experience.”

The lodges are intended to be off-the-grid spaces focused around community, outdoor recreation and evenings filled with cooking, games and conversation.

The nonprofit, volunteer-run club also raises money in order to give grants to environmental and conservation organizations in the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. In 2016 they awarded eight grants, including funds for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Eldorado National Forest Interpretive Association, Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, Pacific Crest Association and the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science.

In the spring, a birding and conservation fundraising week is held at the Echo Summit Lodge, and in the fall, a music, food and wine fundraiser is held at the Alpine Lodge.

The club has left its mark in other ways throughout the Sierra Nevada. Between 1916-1923, members placed hiker registers on 19 different peaks throughout the mountain range.

But the adventures of the California Alpine Club are not limited to the Golden State. With the advantage of group rates, the club has organized week-long canoe trips through Canyonlands National Park and excursions through the Swiss Alps.

“Certainly we are always looking for new members,” said Thornton.

New members are accepted by application. Yearly dues are $100 for an individual, $170 for a joint membership and $20 for a student, plus the daily cost of meals and accommodations for each stay at the two lodges. Booking for private events also is an option.

Discover more about the club at

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