Painting Along the Sierra Trails, Tahoe National Forest, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13246A, Lodge


  • Explore the outdoors and create works of art
  • Improve your painting skills through inspiration and instruction
  • Enjoy the company of friendly people 


  • All meals
  • Accommodations at Clair Tappaan Lodge
  • Watercolor instruction and coaching


DatesAug 18–24, 2013
StaffRick Ramos

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Start the day off right: Hike through the pine forest, follow a sparkling creek, admire a mountain lake, or climb a granite peak. Capture the beauty of the High Sierra using watercolor materials that fit into your day pack. Instruction and supportive critiques will be offered by an expert art instructor. The program is designed for adults with beginning to intermediate painting skills.


This is the perfect trip for those who love to hike and explore the beauty of the mountains, then settle down to capture that beauty in watercolor. Enthusiastic beginners and experienced artists in search of new subjects will enjoy a week of watercolor painting instruction and easy-to-moderate hikes in the spectacular High Sierra.

On a typical day we will enjoy a hearty breakfast and pack a bag lunch to sustain us after our morning hike. Each day we'll carry our equipment to our destination and work "en plein air." Occasionally we'll discover items along the trail that we can use in our paintings. Short demonstrations by our resident artist will give you the opportunity to apply new techniques to your day's paintings. Each day you'll come away with artistic pieces that reflect the spirit and beauty in nature.

You'll be thrilled with the variety of hiking trails available. Most are less than a half-hour's drive from Clair Tappaan Lodge. The area is so beautiful that it may be hard to choose what to capture in watercolor. We'll see gnarled trees, craggy peaks, interesting rock formations, reflecting lakes, and incredible vistas. The pace will be leisurely, with ample time to stop and reflect, take pictures, and store memories. The days should be bright and sunny, and the evenings pleasantly cool.

The day finishes with a return hike to the Lodge about 4:00 p.m., just in time to shower and relax before dinner. In the evenings those interested may participate in a friendly critique. It is always amazing how much we learn from each other!

Plan to arrive around 4:00 p.m. on day one, early enough to unpack and get settled before dinner at 6:00 p.m. and our 7:30 p.m. orientation session. The trip ends after breakfast on the final day.

While every attempt will be made to follow this itinerary, all hikes and programs are subject to change depending on a variety of factors, including trail conditions and weather.



Getting There

The Lodge is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet in California's Sierra Nevada. It is 48 miles west of Reno, Nevada and about 12 miles west of Truckee, California. Participants flying into Reno/Tahoe airport will want to rent a car since public transportation is infrequent, expensive, and unreliable. Travel to and from the trailhead or lodge is the responsibility of each participant. Sierra Club leaders are not allowed to make carpool arrangements for participants; a participant list will be provided for use by the participants for this purpose.

Accommodations and Food

In 1934, Sierra Club volunteers built Clair Tappaan Lodge as a rustic retreat for hikers, skiers, and mountain climbers. Located near Donner Summit, the area receives the highest average snowfall of the entire Sierra Nevada Range, making the lodge a favorite of cross-country ski and snowshoe enthusiasts. In summer, a network of nearby trails offers miles of hiking and provides access to fishing streams, remote meadows and peaks, and good swimming lakes. The Donner Summit area is great for both road and mountain biking and is also widely known as a rock climbers' mecca. Clair Tappaan Lodge has a special rustic charm, with its spacious living room, enormous fireplace, cozy library, and outdoor fire ring.

Since the very beginning, the cooperative spirit familiar to Sierra Club outing participants has been employed at the lodge. Guests assist with daily kitchen chores such as meal preparation and serving, setting tables, or dishwashing. These chores require about a half-hour each day. A hearty breakfast and dinner are prepared by the professional kitchen staff and served in the lodge's large communal dining room. Guests prepare their own bag lunches from plentiful and varied ingredients. A vegetarian meal option is always available. Participants with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, provided that their trip leader is informed in advance.

Because the lodge is an old building, constructed of wood and shingles, no smoking is allowed, either in the building or on the surrounding trails. The rooms vary in size from very small cubicles for couples, to larger family rooms and separate dormitories for men and women. All rooms are furnished with bunk beds. That's all. Accommodations are assigned in advance by the lodge manager. Doors do not lock; however there are lockers, and you may bring your own padlock. Restroom and shower facilities are shared, with two men's and two women's bathrooms. (Bring your own towel). The lodge also has a hot tub, so be sure to bring your bathing suit! A washer/dryer and refrigerator are available. You can make reservations for extended stays before or after your outing by calling the lodge directly at 530-426-3632 or 1-800-679-6775.

Trip Difficulty

We'll be hiking up and down over uneven ground, at elevations between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. Our hikes will be two to four miles round-trip, with a longer hiking option on most days. You will need comfortable, well-broken-in hiking boots. Though the average daily mileage is low, carrying your art equipment and hiking at altitude will give you a good workout. Most of the hikes also have optional swims in refreshing mountain lakes.

Equipment and Clothing

Two months or so before the trip, the art instructor will send you a list of recommended art supplies. Average cost is $50. You must carry all your art tools to each site. Sketchbooks are always a plus.

A detailed list of clothing, gear and accessories to bring will be sent to each participant well in advance of the trip. 



  • Tahoe National Forest


  • Laws, John Muir, The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.
  • Sorer, Tracy I., Sierra Nevada Natural History.
  • Blackwell, Laird R., Wildflowers of the Tahoe Sierra.
  • Powell, Margie, Donner Summit, A Brief History.



Because of its attractiveness to summer hikers and winter skiers, the area around Donner Pass is very popular. We will discuss effects of multiple users on a fragile ecosystem and practice Leave No Trace principles, which will minimize our impact. We will model recycling, conservation, and minimal use of disposable products.

Your leaders are volunteer Sierra Club members. We have a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club, conservation, and enjoyment of the outdoors. We hope to impart to you some of our love for the area and for the work of the Sierra Club. We believe that the Sierra Club's outings program provides an excellent opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and to learn about current concerns. While on this trip, please feel free to ask your leader about any particular conservation issues and to share environmental concerns from your area. 



Rick Ramos, a native Californian, has been a Sierra Club member over 20 years and has been a hike leader at Group, Chapter and National levels the entire time. Rick has been active in the outdoors from childhood and is more comfortable outside than inside. His adventures have taken him from Baja to Alaska and West Coast to East Coast. He has skied and climbed Mt. Shasta in California, backpacked in Denali, Alaska, kayaked in Canada and Baja, and scrambled the canyons of Utah. His love of the outdoors is evidenced by his knowledge of the natural world which he loves to share on national outings.

Assistant Leader:

Arlene Jamar

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