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All About Dallas Sierra Club Outings

The Dallas Sierra Club conducts an active outings program with more than 50 outings or related events per year. Membership is not required to participate in our our outings. On any weekend, we may offer a day hike in or near Dallas, a car camping trip to a state park, a backpacking trip, a float trip, a bike trip, a trail maintenance project or an outdoor skills class. We regularly charter a bus to go backpacking or hiking in the southern Rockies, Big Bend National Park and other destinations far from Dallas.

Types of Outings:

Day Hikes – These one-day or half-day hikes are popular with the greatest number of people. They are usually in or near the Metroplex but may be a couple hours’ drive away. Check our outings list and a weather forecast for reminders about what to bring (always comfortable shoes and sun protection, but for some hikes you may need boots, water, lunch or rain gear). Advance registration is not required for most day hikes. Exceptions will be noted in the description of the outing.

Car Camping – This doesn’t mean sleeping in a car, but camping in a tent or under the stars within a very short walk from a car. Recent car camping trips have included Colorado Bend State Park (TX), Beavers Bend State Park (OK) and Queen Wilhelmina State Park (AR). Cabin or lodge accommodations have been optional alternatives to tent camping on some of these trips. If camping, you’ll need a tent, sleeping bag, food and other suitable camping gear. Dallas Sierra Club doesn’t provide food or equipment. These outings usually leave Dallas on a Friday after work and return by Sunday evening. Advance sign-up is required. Our car camping trips generally feature one or more day hikes from the base camp or a nearby trailhead. 

Backpacking – Backpacking trips allow hikers to range away from campgrounds, exploring places that can’t be reached by road. Outings within two to five hours of Dallas typically begin on a Saturday morning at a preset rendezvous point, generally a trailhead. Consequently, participants usually drive or carpool from the Dallas area on Friday after work, camping or staying at a motel near the trailhead Friday night. After setting up a car shuttle (if needed) on Saturday morning, the group hikes most of Saturday and camps in the backcountry Saturday night. Sunday morning, the group hikes out (usually getting off the trail between 11 AM and 3 PM) for return to Dallas. Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas is a popular destination. We offer longer backpacking trips to Colorado or northern New Mexico in summer. We are experimenting with fly/drive backpacking options. Our backpacking trips are rated from easy to very strenuous. Details of our rating system are here. Advance registration is required for all backpacking trips.

Bus Trips – For over 40 years, the Dallas Sierra Club has offered bus trips to hike, backpack, snowshoe or ski in New Mexico, Colorado and the Big Bend of Texas. Three or four times a year, we charter a 40-passenger sleeper bus with professional driver for trips of three, four or five days, usually on holiday weekends. Our recent bus trip pattern has included a trip to Big Bend National Park in February, an “Explorapalooza” trip to a selected region of Texas at Memorial Day and a trip to the mountains of New Mexico or Colorado at Labor Day.

The sleeper bus enables us to leave Dallas in the evening, convert the bus seats to bunks around 10 PM, sleep, eat breakfast in a café and arrive at our trailheads in time for a full day of hiking. We break into four or five smaller groups for hiking different itineraries, all predetermined several days before departing Dallas. Most groups will backpack each day, but some may day hike from a base camp. Before the return trip, there’s usually time to hike well into an afternoon, eat dinner at a restaurant, sleep and arrive in Dallas by 6 AM. Our bus trip start and end point in Dallas is the parking lot between the Walmart and Sam’s Club at Midway Road and Interstate Highway 635.

“Explorapalooza” trips use a bus that’s not a “sleeper” and, instead of backpacking, include short day hikes on most days. These annual trips are explorations of natural landmarks and natural and cultural history in a selected region. There are options to tent camp or to “glamp” in a cabin or motel.

Details and registration forms for bus trips are typically available in a PDF file linked to the bus trip description within our online Outings Calendar three months before departure. Registrations are complete after the requisite forms and payment have been received and acceptance to the trip has been confirmed.

Canoe / Kayak – We offer a limited number of canoe and kayak outings, typically weekend canoe-camping trips that follow the model of the weekend backpacking trip. Most trips are on flat water (including moving water). Advance sign-up is required.

Bicycling – We offer a limited number of morning bicycle outings on trails or roads in the metro area or beyond. A helmet is required.

Service Projects – These are a way to give back to the areas we use. Our monthly Cedar Ridge Preserve trail maintenance takes place on third Saturdays of every month. Check the DSC Outings Calendar for details.

Classes:

Twice a year (usually in January or February and in August or September) we offer our Backpacking 101 class. The class is about six hours on a Saturday. Volunteer leaders with decades of backpacking experiences present a comprehensive survey of what prospective backpackers need to know to anticipate and enjoy a backpacking trip. The curriculum covers packs, tents, clothes, food, cooking, sanitation, sleep gear and any questions you’ve got.  We charge a fee for this class, but participants tell us over and over that the course is well worth their time and admission. We schedule backpacking outings for beginners a few weeks after each class.

We offer a Wilderness Navigation class twice a year that’s twice the value and half the cost of any comparable course in metro area.  Learn map and compass skills that can save your life or make finding your way in the wilderness possible. This is a two-night class with an optional field practice on a weekend day after the class. Check the Outings List periodically for class dates.

How to Find Out About Outings:

The best way is to check www.DallasSierraClub.org/outings often. We publicize some, but not all, outings on Meetup.com, Facebook and Twitter. We offer a free monthly newsletter, Outings News, about Dallas Sierra Club outings. Anyone may subscribe to Outings News by clicking here for easy sign-up instructions.

Other Stuff You Need to Know

Reservation/ Registration: Sierra Club outings are open to members and non-members. We limit group size on outings, usually to twelve or fewer for backpacking. We require advance registration for all car camping, backpacking and bus trips. Day hikes may or may not require a reservation, so follow instructions posted for a specific hike.  Some outings may require special qualifications and capabilities. Check the description on the Outings Calendar for reservation / registration requirements and forms.

Cancellation: If you must cancel inform the leader as soon as possible so that someone else can go in your place.

Cost: The Dallas Sierra Club doesn’t charge a fee for most outings, but there are sometimes costs payable to third-party vendors. You’ll pay for your own transportation to and from the trailhead. Participants are responsible for their own food and equipment, with few exceptions. There may be costs for permits, camping sites, admissions, etc. For convenience, the Club may collect to pay these costs. We do charge for bus trips. Bus trips are fundraisers if we sell enough seats.

How Difficult: Day hikes near Dallas will be easy for people who can walk a comparable distance in their neighborhood at a pace of two or three miles per hour without discomfort. We rate the difficulty of backpacking trips according to the scale found by clicking here. The scale considers daily miles, daily elevation gain and altitude. We who live 500 feet above sea level find exertion at altitude above 8,000 to 10,000 feet requires more effort and time than similar exercise at home, so altitude is heavily factored into our rating system. Most people in good physical condition who walk, run or do other regular cardio-vascular exercise will be capable of strenuous or possibly very strenuous backpacking. At least one backpacking experience at lower altitude is strongly recommended before backpacking in Colorado or the New Mexico mountains. Staying hydrated, eating well and ibuprofen often mitigate the headaches and mild nausea that sometimes come with exertion at high altitude.

Medical Form: Many outings will require completion of a medical information form. The form alerts the trip leader of medical history that might impact your participation in the trip. It also provides potentially valuable information in an emergency. View a medical information form here.

Waiver: Participants must sign a release of liability before they may participate in a most Sierra Club outing. Minors must have the form signed by their parent or legal guardian. Waivers might not be required for some metro area day hikes where emergency medical services are readily available. Read our group waiver form here.

Restrictions: Firearms and smoking are prohibited on outings. Pets are not allowed unless specifically authorized in an outing’s description. Backpacking trips are limited to twelve or fewer participants. Canoe/kayak trips are limited to twelve or fewer boats. We discourage use of audio-video devices on outings, excepting brief calls.  We practice leave-no-trace outdoor ethics and don’t build ground fires except in campgrounds with dedicated fire rings or grills.

Leaders: All our outings leaders are volunteers with some training about how to conduct outings. Leaders on trips where medical help may not arrive for hours are required to complete and periodically renew training in wilderness first aid, although neither they nor the Sierra Club assumes responsibility beyond trip organization. Leaders will assist you within their limitations. It’s every participant’s responsibility to be aware of personal limitations before going on an outing. If you’re interested in becoming an outings leader, relate your interest to a trip leader and/or the .

Families: We welcome families on almost all trips. A responsible adult must accompany anyone under eighteen years. A liability release and consent for emergency medical treatment must be signed by a parent or legal guardian for minors under eighteen except on day hikes in urban areas where emergency medical service will be readily available. The responsible adult should read the trip description carefully to judge whether children in his or her care are capable of the outing.

Carpooling: Carpooling to outings is encouraged to promote fellowship, conserve energy and reduce pollution. Sierra Club leaders are prohibited from assigning people to vehicles, but they may identify participants seeking a ride or willing to drive. Carpools are strictly voluntary arrangements between riders and drivers, with leaders assuming no liability for arrangements. Before carpooling, participants should agree about how to share costs, meeting time and place, overnight stops and what to do if anyone wants to come back early or late. An easy general formula for cost-sharing is division of fuel cost plus 8 cents per mile among all passengers, including the driver, rounded down to the dollar.

Membership: Outings are open to Sierra Club members and non-members alike. We encourage membership in the Sierra Club by all who support the Club’s, mission to explore, enjoy and protect the natural environment. Annual membership costs as little as $15 and may be purchased or renewed online from this web page. Members receive Sierra magazine monthly and discounts for Dallas Sierra Club classes. Joining automatically makes one a member of the national Sierra Club, the Lone Star Chapter and the Dallas Group (“Dallas Sierra Club”). 

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