Trails and Vistas | Melding of art & nature

While I’ve been lucky enough to attend several Trails and Vistas art hikes over the years, words cannot do justice to the experience. There is something about the combination of all of the sights, sounds and senses that gives these hikes a feeling and essence different from anything else you will find in Tahoe.

Jeff Engerbretson | Trails & Vistas

It’s as if enjoying the power of the artists who dance, sing, play music or create unique art allows you to experience the nature of the Sierra in a new and more enlightened way. It is a dramatic experience that every visitor or Sierra resident should experience at least once.

“It’s as if enjoying the power of the artists who dance, sing,
play music or create unique art allows you to experience
the nature of the Sierra in a new and more enlightened way.”

Last year I attended the art hike on Donner Summit. What stood out the most was the dramatic contrast between the vibrant colors worn by the dancers, the deep blue of Donner Lake and gray of the stark granite rock faces. Music and art seem clearer and more powerful under the bright sunshine, even when it must compete with the soft wind of a summer afternoon. I also remember the ethereal dancers above a granite-lined pond and the jarring notes of a bagpiper emerging from the woods.

Jeff Engerbretson | Trails & Vistas

“Trails and Vistas’ mission is to create community through the celebration of art and nature,” says Trails and Vistas’ executive director Nancy Lopez. “It’s a soft way to get people interested in protecting the earth.” She wants people to slow down and find community while enjoying a beautiful place and art.

Every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., groups of approximately 20 are led on a 2.5- to 3-hour hike that winds through the natural surroundings for approximately 3 miles roundtrip. They encounter musicians or dancers along the route, stopping at each artist’s spot to spend a few minutes enjoying his or her performance before hiking on through the aspens or firs to the next encounter.

Scott Thompson | Trails & Vistas

Lopez hopes that people will “put away the cell phones and cameras and be in the present moment. We are all about getting them to look up and take in their surroundings.”

This year’s theme is based on a line from a 300-year-old poem by Matsuo Basho: “Each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.”

Before the art hike, the staff goes out with the artists on the route to find a site. “We want the site to speak to them,” says Lopez. “We find that particular aspen grove, body of water or granite cliff that they want to work with. It’s a pure collaboration between the artist and the site.”

Jeff Engerbretson | Trails & Vistas

The art hikes are on Sept. 10 at Spooner Lake and on Sept. 18 at on at Donner Ski Ranch on Donner Summit so the hikes can highlight two stunning locations with different focuses.

The hike at Spooner Lake State Park focuses heavily on music. The hike is a softer, easier one on dirt through the aspen groves in the meadow. The hikes at Spooner Lake State Park feature Tahoe Flow Arts, performance artist Angelique Benicio, Lorna Denton, Wolf Lobo Schaeffer, conceptual artist Leslie Ehrenfeld Chapman, Emily Tessmer, Peter Joseph Burtt, Reno Taiko Drums, Motoshi Kosako and Paul McCandless, Jessica Fichot Quartet, Todo Mundo and Angelika Healing Music with world-beat drummer Michael DiMartino.

The Donner Summit hike on Sept. 18 offers a granite trail winding through the stark, rocky landscape, with high-altitude views of Donner Lake. On this hike, the focus is eclectic with a healthy mix of art and music. The hikes at Donner Ski Ranch feature folk music with the T-Sisters, performance artist Angelique Benicio and Wolf Lobo Schaeffer, Tahoe Flow Arts, InnerRhythms Dance Theatre, Emily Tessmer, Motoshi Kosako and Angelika Healing Music with world-beat drummer Michael DiMartino.

Jeff Engerbretson | Trails & Vistas

World Concert

If hiking is not your thing but music and art in nature is, Trails and Vistas also hosts a World Concert: Truckee Tahoe Peace Project on the breathtaking outdoor stage at Sand Harbor State Park at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 10. You can see performances from the same artists, musicians and dancers featured in the art hikes, but in a more traditional way — sitting down — unless of course, you just have to get up and dance along. And, you most likely will.

How can you beat the setting of Sand Harbor’s theater just above the shore of Lake Tahoe? According to Lopez, the concert offers a “variety of music from around the world. It is really thinking about how we can bring together all humanity and use music to break down barriers, offering all these different cultures in one night — from Columbia to France, jazz to soul and blues. It celebrates diversity and what unites us.”

Tickets for the art hikes are $45 for adults and $12 for children ages 5 to 12 years old. Participants should be able to hike up to 3 miles at high elevation. Tickets for the World Concert vary according to seating.

For more information or tickets to the art hikes, visit For tickets for the World Concert, call (800) 747-4697 or visit and use the promotion code HIKE16 to receive $10 off each ticket for Lower Gallery seats.

Sept. 10

Art Hikes | Spooner Lake State Park | 9 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
World Concert | Sand Harbor State Park | 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 18

Art Hikes | Donner Ski Ranch | 9:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m.

Tim Hauserman
Tim Hauserman wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and the children’s book “Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time.” Most of the year he writes on a variety of topics, but you will find him in the winter teaching cross-country skiing and running the Strider Gliders program at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. He has lived in Tahoe since he was a wee lad and loves to be outdoors road and mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and cross-country skiing.