Hiking and Sketching in the Colorado Rockies

Destination: Grand Lake, CO

| Activities: Hiking and Sketching

Hike through forests and meadows, along sparkling creeks and cascading waterfalls. Stop along the way to sketch the beauty of summer in the Rockies. We provide a watercolor set and journal that fits in your day pack, along with expert art instruction and a supportive, creative hiking group. Maximum group size: 12


  • Hiking on some spectacular trails in Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Experiencing a variety of Rocky Mountains ecosystems, from Aspen and Pine forests, mountain meadows and wildflowers
  • Practicing using your sketchbook in a new way to really see and record the beautiful vistas
  • Learning some basic art elements to improve your drawing and watercolor sketching techniques
  • Enjoying the camaraderie of other women who love to hike and be creative


  • Two experienced AGC hiking guides with expertise in CO ecology and instruction of field sketching and watercolor
  • Six nights lodging in rooms with 2 or 3 people
  • All meals from dinner on day one, to breakfast on the final day
  • All transportation once you arrive in Denver CO
  • A small travel sketch set with journal, water brush, travel watercolor set, and micron pen

What's not included: Travel to and from the Denver airport, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and travel insurance.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is for women in good physical condition who can hike for two to five hours a day in mountainous terrain. There will be an option of hiking distances on 2 days, giving you the freedom to determine whether you're more inspired by the hiking and surroundings, or the time to stop, sketch, and smell the wildflowers. You will have the opportunity to participate in all of the options if you train for a rated 3 trip by engaging in aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. Rating: 1 [2] [3] 4 5.

This is both a hiking trip and an opportunity to learn and practice basic art elements. Enjoy the mountains and improve your drawing and watercolor sketching techniques.

We will spend one night at a hotel near the Denver airport and five nights at the Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge. Shadowcliff is a non-profit organization focused on sustainability. The property is made up of rustic lodges and cabins built through the efforts of approximately 650 volunteers over the course of 4 decades. The Cliffside Lodge, which we will have to ourselves, has a deck, kitchen, dining areas, a large third floor lounge with a fire place, and fantastic views. There are 5 bedrooms, each with one double bed and a set of bunks, and there will be 2 - 3 women in each room, with two available single supplements. Beds will be assigned randomly. There are a total of four shared bathrooms, none of which are attached to individual rooms. We feel that this is a great place for our group to connect with nature.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Arrive today at the Denver airport by approximately 4PM in order to check into our hotel by 5PM. We'll be staying at a nearby hotel with an airport shuttle, and will meet in the hotel lobby at 5:30PM to head to our first dinner together as a group.
We'll leave Denver about 9:00 am for the two-and-a-half hour drive to Shadowcliff Mountain Lodges, elevation of 8,600 ft, and our home for the week. Shadowcliff is located on Grand Lake, right on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. After sharing a picnic lunch, we'll have an intro to sketching materials and playing with watercolors, with an interactive color wheel exercise. Then, we will walk to the Kawunweeche Visitor Center, 1.5 miles gentle uphill, as we continue to acclimate to Colorado's higher elevations We'll stop along the way to do some easy thumbnail (tiny) sketches to learn about drawing composition. Next, we'll settle into our rooms in Cliffside Lodge at Shadowcliff. After dinner we'll head outside for a nature walk and sketching the sunset over Grand Lake and the mountains. (B,L,D)
This morning we'll hike right from our lodge on the North Inlet Trail, which is part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The out-and-back trail provides an opportunity for two hiking groups: Whomever wants a longer hike, Cascade Falls is 7.4 mile round trip. The falls are multi-tiered cascades that drop roughly 50 feet through a narrow granite chute. Those wanting to stop and sketch/paint the meadows and mountain vistas along the way may opt for a shorter hiking distance. Regardless, later in the afternoon we will have short lessons and practice to learn about perspective, proportions, and perception in landscape drawing. We will also cool off in the stream and enjoy the atmosphere at Shadowcliff, which often includes evening music jam or games. (B,L,D)
Today, we'll hike on the East Inlet Trail past Adams Falls where a rocky outcrop provides views of the rushing falls though a narrow gorge. We continue hiking through aspen and lodge pole pine forests and lush meadows with abundant wildflowers. The out-and-back trail today starts with a gradual up and then proceeds more steeply above the mountain valley with numerous rocky outcroppings and spectacular vistas. We'll again have the option to split into two groups for a faster or slower pace and more or less opportunities to stop and sketch trees, rocks, and wildflowers. While distances and elevation changes will be determined by the group paces, the maximum distance this day will be about 7.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1000 ft. Our art class today will focus on value, light source, shadows, and shapes. (B,L,D)
This morning we will get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms above timberline. We drive an hour to the Alpine Visitor Center, situated at an elevation of 11,800 feet, with exhibits about the alpine ecosystem and spectacular 360-degree views across the Continental Divide. From the visitor center, we'll hike downhill for 4 miles, dropping 950 feet in elevation, to Milner Pass, an alpine lake and our van. If the weather is conducive, we will stop for quick watercolor sketches along our hike. Options include close-up studies of tiny alpine plants, the snowy peaks of the Never Summer Range, and a series of pristine tarns (small alpine ponds) and their reflections. We'll demonstrate techniques for reflections and water before our drive back to Grand Lake with time to explore the town, starting with the local art gallery. (B,L,D)
Today we have options for a longer loop hike (7.5 mi, 1300 ft. elevation gain) on the Onahu, Tonahutu, and Green Mountain trails, or an out-and-back hike of 3 miles with time to explore some great views, historic buildings and points of interest in the area, as well as more time to watercolor sketch. Tonight, feeling like the accomplished hiker/artists that we are, we'll go out to celebrate at our final celebration dinner in Grand Lake. We will also share our favorite sketches from the week - a mini-art show of our own. (B,L,D)
Today we'll pack up and clean up, sadly bidding farewell to our home for the week and this gorgeous Park. We'll be back at the Denver airport by 12pm and you can plan flights out any time after 2PM. (B)


(13 reviews)
4.6 Food
4.3 Lodging
4.8 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

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Sharon S.
7 months ago

Good company and I really like the hike sketch combination

Lorraine S.
7 months ago

The incredible leaders and women in the group! I showed up and everything was taken care of in detail until the end of the trip!

Linda B.
7 months ago

Meeting all of the women. The hikes and the added art component.

Leslie F.
8 months ago

An exceptional group of women with a lot of humor and depth of experience! I felt lucky and blessed to be a part of it all! Claire and Brenda were caring, attentive and knowledgeable guides who fostered a comradery among all of us! I learned a lot about hiking, sketching and the Colorado environment that I did not know before. I look forward to my next AGC trip in 2024!

Susan Y.
4 years ago

Kathy L.
4 years ago

Loved it all. The sketching opportunities and short lessons were great.

Susan O.
4 years ago

Both the hiking and the sketching parts were great, and very well organized but still flexible.

Deborah C.
4 years ago

The trip exceeded my expectations! Highlights included the opportunity to just sit quietly and observe the natural environment while sketching. The art lessons were totally helpful and fun. It did not matter what our drawings ended up looking like -- what mattered was seeing nature with new eyes. I loved sitting out in the open (the alpine meadow, the valley meadow, the waterfalls) while quietly sketching and doing watercolor. So peaceful, absorbing, and relaxing. The food was superb! The location of the lodge was absolutely beautiful! I loved the quiet early morning walks on the interpretative trail next to the lodge.

Anita B.
4 years ago

I loved the hiking in Colorado. The first few days we did not hike much.

Zoe O.
4 years ago

I absolutely loved the balance of watercolor and hiking. I feel like I learned a lot and also had a chance to just enjoy being outside. It was also so lovely to meet so many interesting women!

Carol M.
4 years ago

A great trip. I Had never hiked in the Colorado Rockies and truly enjoyed that experience and sharing it with a great group of gals. Enjoyed the "art" classes in the lodge and especially on the trail. Great to learn new tips and techniques for sketching and the use of watercolor paint. The guides, Brenda and Claire, had different artistic styles and were eager to share. There was plenty to learn and to apply to my own work. Came away with a better understanding of my own "artistic" style. Hiking, art and food all great.

Aseeyah R.
4 years ago

Being an experienced nature journalist I didn't think there was much to learn on this trip but boy was I wrong! I feel a new confidence in going into nature, taking out my art supplies and sketching. The food was also beyond my expectations. I'm looking forward to another sketching/hiking trip.

Susan Y.
4 years ago

  1. Where do we eat?

    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and most dinners in the lodge. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. You'll go out for dinner one night where you can order off the menu and other nights relax in the lodge and have dinner there.
  2. I live near sea level, how can I prepare for the elevations on this trip?
    Altitude affects everybody differently, and can affect the same person differently over time, so there’s no real way of knowing ahead of time how the elevations on this trip may affect you. The trip has been designed to help you gradually acclimate, with hikes that have more significant elevation gains and losses coming later in the week.The highest elevation you will be at during this trip is 9000'. If you have previously had trouble with altitude, please call the office before you register.
    Here is a link to a blog post that specifically addresses elevation: http://blog.adventuresingoodcompany.com/blog/high-altitude-hiking-what-you-need-to-know
  3. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    f we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  4. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.