How the Sierra Club Works

Sierra Club Outings

Sierra Club Outings provide members the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors
Sierra Club Outings provide members the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors
©Photographer: Fred Stillings | Agency:

The Sierra Club successfully advocates for environmental legislation and effectively attracts the public's attention to ecological issues and solutions. But it is the club's spirit of conscientious exploration that has helped make the group so enduringly popular.

When Will Colby started the Sierra Club's annual High Trips in 1898, he believed that the excursions would create an interest in the natural world and foster a spirit of community among members [source: Sierra Club]. He kept the costs low for the mostly middle-class participants, many of whom were college students. Women also joined in even the earliest High Trips.

But by the late 1930s, the High Trips had grown too large and members requested smaller expeditions. Although the annual High Trip continued, the club began to offer burro trips, knapsack trips and more relaxed expeditions to base camps. The Sierra Club also started organizing international expeditions to places like Peru and the Himalayas to satisfy its factions of mountain-climbing members.

The Sierra Club now sponsors national and international outings that focus on backpacking, rafting, sailing, biking, canoeing, kayaking, snow sports and service. There are expeditions tailored to families, seniors and the disabled. Sierra Club chapters host local outings for day hikes, bicycling, bird-watching, peak scrambles and cross-country skiing.

The Sierra Club also provides the opportunity for low-income children from urban areas to explore the wilderness with its inner city outings program, first established in 1971.

To learn more about the Sierra Club, other environmental organizations and ways to help the environment, explore the links below.

Interested in outdoor adventures? Read about ice climbing and other adventure sports, plus watch video from Discovery’s Fearless Planet.

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More Great Links


  • "Yosemite: History and Culture." National Park Service.
  • The Sierra Club.
  • "Sierra Club." Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • "Sierra Club History: Origins and Early Outings." The Sierra Club.
  • Turner, Tom. "Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature." Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York: 1991.
  • "Who was John Muir?" The Sierra Club.
  • "Yosemite." American Park Network.