Schooling naturally – a wide range of organizations provide a plethora of outdoor-learning alternatives • Sacramento Information & Assessment


By Maggie Nichols

When children go back to school, it’s natural that our thoughts turn to education.

Outdoor education has gradually made its way into more and more classrooms across the country – but what about adult education? Picking up a new hobby or activity can be daunting, but if you want to learn to knit, for example, you can watch a few videos or sign up for a class.

Did you know that you can also use it to learn outdoor activities?

There are countless ways to help you safely explore the diverse and exciting outdoor playground in the High Sierra. If you’re unsure of where to go or how to make the most of your time in the wilderness, consider a guided hike. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association offers many guided hikes around the Tahoe area in the spring, summer, and fall—many for free! Depending on what interests you, you can join a trip to learn fall photography tips, enjoy spring flowers in the mountains, or visit a gushing waterfall in early summer.

The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science also offers special guided hikes that introduce people to topics such as bird watching, native nocturnal creatures, local scientific research, and even dragonfly research. A variety of events are held at Nevada State Parks, from history walks and meadow yoga to ranger chats and after-dark scorpion hunting—armed with black lights! Interested in giving back while getting off? The Sugar Pine Foundation offers numerous educational opportunities to replant trees in burn scars and weed out both overgrown vegetation and water-sensitive new growth during drought years.

When you’re ready to take the next step in your outdoor adventures and learn new skills, there are many local organizations that can help. Learn to backpack on a multi-week guided backpacking workshop with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, where you’ll learn the skills needed and then practice them while backpacking with an experienced local guide. Delve deeper into specific skills like map and compass navigation in an REI workshop; or Wilderness Medicine, through Lake Tahoe Community College’s Connect Community Education programs.

Mountain biking might pique your interest. Truckee-based Battle Born Prodigies offers personalized mountain bike lessons in Tahoe. Whether you’ve never sat on a mountain bike or are looking to improve your form, Battle Born Prodigies offers customizable courses to suit your needs. If you’re looking for a group to ride with and learn through osmosis, the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) often organizes mountain bike day trips. They also frequently host bike tuning days at Bijou Bike Park in South Lake Tahoe, where you can learn to service your bike before taking a ride in the park with TAMBA members.

Have you ever wondered how you got into climbing or bouldering? Numerous climbing gyms around Reno offer climbing and belay courses, including Basecamp, Mesa Rim, and North Peak. And if you already know the basics, there are ways to delve even deeper with lead climbing courses or crack climbing workshops. Although not always available, REI occasionally offers outdoor climbing tours and workshops. Check schedules at other REI locations (such as Folsom or Roseville) if you’re willing to travel a bit for an educational campaign.

While the warm weather is still with us, why not hit the water for a guided paddling trip? Clearly Tahoe offers one of the most unique ways to see Lake Tahoe – from the comfort of spacious, see-through kayaks. They run trips around the lake, including some that are pet-friendly. They even have after hour glow tours to see the lake and enjoy the stars after the sun goes down. The Tahoe City Public Utility District has nightly SUP paddleboarding (stand-up paddleboarding) and evening sailing classes on its list. Learn how to confidently sail a boat with courses from Lake Tahoe Sail or Sail Tahoe Blue; You can even enroll with Cruisers Academy for a four-day course departing from Tahoe City.

Photo by Robson Hatsuka.

Right here in town, Sparks Marina Paddle can help you learn to SUP. Make it even better by signing up with The River SUP Guy for an exciting SUP class on the Truckee River. Or find a new way to challenge yourself and relax by learning how to combine yoga with paddleboarding at Tahoe City Kayak. If power boats are your thing, check out the many boating courses offered by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

In addition to boater education, the Nevada Department of Wildlife also offers a variety of other adult outdoor education courses. Learn about hunting, fishing, and archery, or go out with a ranger to see Nevada’s diverse wildlife first-hand.

Always wanted to try fly fishing? Matt Heron Fly Fishing in Truckee can take you, teach you the basics and help you hone your craft along the Truckee River. Recon Fly Fishing also offers guided trips and personalized courses for the budding fly fisherman. The Great Basin Guide Service offers fishing trips on Pyramid Lake, while Current Fly Fishing operates guided catch-and-release fly fishing trips as far south as Mammoth Lakes.

Even the fading summer is no reason to stop dealing with going out! While hikes, horseback rides, and paddle boarding are wonderful in the fall, there are plenty of winter recreation opportunities with Tahoe on our doorstep! Most local ski resorts offer courses for beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders. Escape the crowds by learning to snowshoe at an REI clinic or even take an overnight snow camping class through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

The internet is brimming with information to help you learn a new skill or better prepare for your next outdoor adventure – but for most of us, hands-on learning is hard to beat. There is no shortage of opportunities to get outside with an outdoors specialist in Reno-Tahoe. With often small group sizes and many personalized lessons, why wouldn’t you want an expert to support, guide and teach you new skills?

Maggie Nichols is an avid outdoor adventurer and avid nature lover. She began leading canoe and hiking expeditions in her youth and never stopped.