Plein Air Painting Sites in Yosemite - Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows area on Route 120 (Tioga Pass Road) has so many paintings waiting to be painted that you could easily spend a week there. We will mention a couple of spots to whet your painting appetite.

Just before you get to Tuolumne Lodge area where the Tuolumne River flows slowly, you will see a wide open meadow area. Wonderful views of granite peaks, river, meadows and trees. Set up your gear anywhere along this area. In particular, take the dirt trail along the river to the small bridge (about a quarter mile from parking area) - the photo you see above was taken from that bridge.

Services: Toilets and hamburger/sandwich place near the Lodge. No toilets at the Meadows. TIOGA PASS ROAD ONLY OPEN IN SUMMER!

Tenaya Lake - Also on the Tioga Pass Road before you reach Tuolumne Meadows. A beautiful alpine lake with reflections and alpine wild flowers. Toilets at this site plus many trail heads.

Plein Air Painting Sites around Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe is only 4 hours drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and wonderful plein air painting sites in Marin County, and coastal California plein air painting sites.


Don't forget the Sonoma Wine Country


Glen Alpine Falls and Lily Lake

These two painting spots are so inspirational - they deserve many days of painting at each. The Lily Lake location is beautiful. It reminds us of a remote spot only accessed by back packing for hours. At Lily Lake, paint either on the Lake shore, or, hike up hill behind the bathrooms and set up your easel on the dirt road that starts there. Fabulous views of the whole range of peaks and the lake can be had from that spot.

Lower Glen Alpine Creek Falls/aka Big Falls, aka Fallen Leaf Falls is very impressive The Waterfall is an easily accessible plein air painting site along the roadside. The Falls are best painted in Spring or early Summer when the snow melt creates a good flow of water down the 65 foot cascade.

To Get There:From South Tahoe take Rt. 89/Emerald Bay Rd. North for 3.0 miles from the “Y.” At the brown “Fallen Leaf Lake” sign, turn left onto Fallen Leaf Lake Rd. Continue on the narrow, winding road - it becomes a one lane road that hugs the edge of the lake. At the south end of Fallen Leaf Lake, (4.9 miles in from Rt. 89,) there is a fire station. Bear left at the fire station at the brown sign: “to Lily Lake, Glen Alpine Falls, Desolation Wilderness.” This one lane road winds past the Glen Alpine waterfalls and reaches Lily Lake and the hikers’ parking area in approximately 1 mile from the fire station.

Park in this parking area or along the road near the falls. Bathrooms available at Lily Lake. Painting is good anywhere along this one mile stretch. Paint either at Lily Lake or at the Falls.

Save On Airport Parking

Emerald Bay, Route 89, Lake Tahoe, California

This plein air painting site is truly wonderful - with an amazing view of Lake Tahoe from the road that goes along the ridge line high above the lake. There is a great viewing spot with lots of people around - so is a good place to paint if you are by yourself. Should be quite secure and safe. No public bathrooms or water. These can be found at Sugar Pine State Park a few miles North.

Located on Route 89 on the Western side of Lake Tahoe, and therefore in the State of California. Close to Sugar Pine State Park and Vikings Home Mansion.


Bliss State Park,Highway 89 Near Emerald Bay

Bliss State Park is near Emerald Bay - take the well sign-posted turn off from Route 89 - This is a California State Park.  You will drive about 1 mile down hill towards the lake front.  Park near the trail head of the Rubicon Trail.  Paint at the beach or take the trail - if you take the trail it is steep but very worth while.  We saw Osprey nests up there recently.  The above photo was taken from the Rubicon Trail. 

Bathrooms available at the trail head.


Sugar Pine Point State Park, Lake Tahoe

To Get there from South Lake Tahoe: Drive north along Rt. 89/Emerald Bay Rd. past Emerald Bay towards Tahoe City. The Sugar Pine Point State Park is located approximately 28 miles north of the “Y.” If driving north on Rt. 89, look for the Sugar Pine Point State Park signs after Meeks Bay and before Tahoma. Drive in on the State Park Rd. all the way back toward the Ehrman Mansion. Day fee is payable at the entrance.

Walk along the lake front trail by the mansion to find numerous other great painting spots, including the pier that goes out into the Lake. One of our favorite places is overlooking General Creek. We saw a beaver and lots of geese and other water birds there on a recent trip

Hope Valley, South Lake Tahoe Area

From the South Lake Tahoe “Y,” go South on Route 50. After the agricultural inspection station, in Meyers, turn left onto Route 89 (towards Markleeville.) Travel 11 miles up the hill, past Grass Lake, past Luther Pass, down into Hope Valley. At the “T” intersection of Route 89 and Route 88 (called Pickett’s Junction), turn right. Drive approximately 1 mile to a bridge that crosses Carson River. Park on the right side of the road.

Numerous plein air painting spots are to be found along the road through Hope Valley - a traveling artist can also stop at Sorenson's Resort for lodging or a meal. Painting right across the road from Sorenson's on the Carson River is also wonderful - early morning or later afternoon light is the best.

October is amazing as the aspen trees turn gold up at 7000 ft. altitude My favorite time of year in this part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

Woods Lake

To Get There: Drive west on Route 88 from Pickett’s Junction. After Carson Pass, start down the hill and look for the sign on the Left: "El Dorado Nat'l Forest - Wood's Lake"(10.3 miles from Pickett’s Junction.) Turn a sharp Left onto a narrow paved winding road that travels over two small bridges, past the trailhead and camp parking into Wood’s Lake, (1.4 miles). Drive all the way to the Lake where you’ll find picnic tables and a restroom. Park in the designated spaces.

Carson Pass Locations

Carson Pass Location #1: Continue west on Rt. 88 from Pickett’s Junction. Ascend past Red Lake, up onto the highest point: Carson Pass (8,500’). Drive a short distance beyond Carson Pass and turn into the parking area on the right, at 8.9 miles. Park here and then take the short trail out of the west side of the parking area to views of Round Top Peak, the Elephant’s Back, and wonderful old Western Juniper trees and boulders.

For Carson Pass Location #2

Turn left onto a road immediately before you reach the crest of Carson Pass. Park down along this road and walk to the end. View of Red Lake and Hope Valley in the distance for your plein air painting pleasure.


Southern California Plein Air Sites
Marin County Plein Air Painting Sites
Sonoma Wine Country Plein Air Painting Sites
Other Northern California Plein Air Painting Sites, Big Sur, Point Lobos

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