Such Great Heights

Go Off the Grid in the Sierra Nevada

But no Donner Party endings here.

By Margaret Seiler Published in the February 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

With most of the population (and most of the direct flights from Portland) along the coast, California’s towering eastern edge can feel like another planet altogether—where the Sierra Nevada mountain range takes in Sequoia (our cover image), Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, as well as the left footprint of ski-resort-ringed Lake Tahoe.

Just northwest of the lake, one place to feel far from the world (but be just 40 miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport and its direct flights from PDX) is the Lost Trail Lodge, a hike-, bike-, ski-, or snowshoe-in backcountry inn near Truckee (, rooms from $230/night, full lodge rental from $1,480 plus cleaning fee). The rugged timber home built by the current innkeepers’ parents has luxe touches like roaring fires, jetted tubs, and a chef’s kitchen available for guest use. Winter is peak season at the lodge, which tends to close for the spring melt, mid-April to mid-June. But summer and fall bring mountain bikers (a single-track network skirts the property), hikers (the Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby), and, the innkeepers say, return guests who are getting older and are no longer up for the snowy four-mile winter trek to get there.

With easier access in summer, the lodge can also be a base for a day trip to Lake Tahoe itself, or to ride Squaw Valley’s aerial tram to a mountaintop pool and roller rink, or make a leisurely loop through quaint old gold rush towns like Nevada City, complete with swimming-hole stops along the Yuba River.

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