|Where:||Sequoia National Park|
|Elevation gain:||3000 ft|
Pear Lake Ski Hut (also called “Pear Lake Ranger Station”) is a small ski hut nestled 6 miles deep off the highway in Sequoia National Park near Wolverton. Depending on weather (snow) and trail conditions, the hut opens its doors usually between December and April. The cabin is available to the public, but registration is required. When registering you are able to pick 3 dates that work for you best. Registration is $40 per person and as I mentioned before, if you are awarded you will be charged immediately. I found out a couple weeks after registering that I was awarded February 11th, 2017. Little did I know that this was going to be an epic winter in our California Mountains. The remaining available nights to the hut are on a first come first serve basis.
Every year, there is a lottery for the Pear Lake Ski Hut. The lottery opens up usually on October 16th and sometime in early November you will receive your confirmation letter or denial. If your application was accepted, your check will be cashed or your card will be charge. There is no refund if you are going to cancel, so if the date doesn’t work anymore I would recommend selling it to someone else. The Facebook site is a good place to find someone to buy it off of you.
How to enter the lottery
1. First check the Sequoia Parks Conservancy’s Pear Lake Ski Hut website for details on when registration for the lottery opens.
2. Click on Registration on this site when date opens and fill out the form online. In past years this was done on paper and faxed, but now the availability of online resource has made it easier for you to put in your lottery reservation.
You must fill out a wilderness permit before heading to the hut. The Giant Forest Museum offers a self-registration box. Make sure that you leave one copy there and put the other in you pack.
From Three Rivers, take 395 North. After going to the Giant Forest Museum (easy to find on the way), drive 2.7 miles and turn right onto Wolverton Rd. Drive about 1.4 miles to the north side of the parking lot area to the trailhead.
From Wukaschi Lodge, take 395 South. Drive 3.4 miles and turn left onto Wolverton Rd. Drive about 1.4 miles to the north side of the parking lot area to the trailhead.
Facebook – Before going a great resource to ask questions, check old write-ups and read about the hut keepers notes on conditions, etc.
Ski Hut Website – This is the huts official page where you can: check the calendar, register for the lottery, reserve a spot, learn more about the hut, etc.
Alta Market & Ski Shop – The Market is a great place to rent snowshoes/hiking poles and pick up anything last minute that you may have forgotten for your trip.
Mid-January hit and it was time to make my infamous excel sheet to send out to those who were joining me on the trip. This hike would definitely be a little more out of our comfort zone then our normal hikes. We had done a guided snow-shoe overnight hike to a hut in Austria (Bielerhohe to Wiesbadner Hutte) a little less than a year ago. The excel sheet includes: trailhead info, weather/driving conditions, tentative schedule, driving directions, permit location, trailhead parking, ski hut website, facebook site, accommodations, hiking times, emergency information, rules/regulations and the packing list. This excel sheet I put together for attendees (knowledge is key) and to send over to at least 2 people outside of the trip; anything goes wrong they know who to call and our itinerary.
7:00pm – drive to hotel in Three Rivers
5:30am – wake up and drive to Giant Forest Museum (1 hour drive from hotel)
7:00am – put in permits at Giant Forest Museum, drive to Alta Market & Ski Shop (20 min drive)
8:30am – Alta Market & Ski Shop opens to pick up snowshoes, head to Wolverton Ski Area/Trailhead (10 min drive)
9:30am – Leave Trailhead
3:00-5:00pm – Arrive to Hut
6:00am – wake up, breakfast
7:00am – head back to trailhead
12:00pm – drop off snowshoes at Alta Market & Ski Shop and head home
5-10 hours: Wolverton Parking Area to Pear Lake Ski Hut
4-7 hours: Pear Lake Ski Hut to Wolverton Parking Area
The hiking times were approximate from a ton of trip reports I read online. Something to take note is hiking times are much longer if you are breaking trail, if you accidentally veer off trail and if visibility/conditions are bad. Always take into account that your hiking speed is different than others.
We didn’t leave Los Angeles until about 8:30pm on Friday night. It was a long rainy drive the entire way and we didn’t get to our hotel in Three Rivers until 1:30am. The next morning was tough, but the 6:00am wake up call wasn’t impossible. We dressed up exactly in what we were going to hike in order to not spend extra time on that when we would arrive to the trailhead. After grabbing a cup of coffee at the local store that was open, we headed up towards the epic adventure that was to take place. The rain let up and was drizzling lightly during our drive. I’ve driven 198 numerous times and this was the first time I had seen water everywhere. I swear every big curve in the road there were waterfalls peaking through the trees, even water flowing off them into the road.
Just about a mile from the Giant Forest Museum was the first signs of snow. 7:00am hit as we reached the Museum to fill out the self-issuing permit. One copy in the registration box and one copy straight into my pack. I had to drive quite slowly because the roads hadn’t been completely cleared yet. We reached Alta Market & Ski Shop around 8:00am, which was fine because at this point we had to put our tire chains one. We picked up our snowshoes and some essentials for the trail and by essentials I mean a couple bag of chips.
*Note: Alta Market & Ski Shop is inside Wukaschi Lodge and opens at 8:30am. If you are renting snowshoes, you cannot reserve ahead of time it is on a first come first serve basis. The lady I spoke to over the phone also mentioned if you get there at 8:30am you should have no problem getting snowshoes.
The trailhead was a bit difficult to find because of all the snow. We located some footsteps from days ago near the trailhead and found the sign a few feet away. Something that doesn’t happen very often near a trailhead is to find a spot right at the trailhead. Due to the winter conditions I’m guessing, we got the first spot and we were the only car in the parking lot. I guess we were the only crazy ones out there. But you know what this meant, we were going to be breaking trail the entire route to the ski hut as it had snowed 6-12″ in the past 24 hours.
The clock was ticking and we finally hit the trailhead at 10:30am and this was a much later start that I had expected/hoped for. The beginning of the trail is quite easy to follow. The winter trail to Pear Lake is similar to the summer route. There are small yellow triangles affixed to the trees every 100-200 yards or so. Since the snow covers the trail, this is the route to follow (note: they are quite hard to find, so keep very alert during the entire hike). Bring a gps, compass and a map as all saved us in finding our way a couple of times.
The first mile and half was a gradual climb, nothing too difficult through a dense forested area. We were in a winter wonderland, it was quite, all white everywhere and just perfect the way the snow sat on the ground and sprinkled on top of the trees leaves. After 1.5 miles you will reach a junction Panther Gap is straight, you will continue left on Pear Lake via The Hump Trail. We stopped here for a bit as we saw a bit of a climb ahead of us on this beautiful untouched snow covered slope. We took turns breaking trail as the 1700 ft climb was pretty brutal over the next couple miles. This section of the mountain is called “The Hump”. With no switchbacks to follow, we had trouble a couple times finding those triangles on our way up, because of this I am sure we added a little more mileage onto the direct route. About halfway up we decided to take a break and have some lunch.
We continued on and during this part of the climb it had started to snow on us; it was so picturesque. We reached the ridge and at this point we ran into the one other person that would be joining us for the night. He was a split boarder and was making much better time than us up the mountain. Once we finally reached the top of the Hump we were sitting at around 9,400 feet. We ran into him again as he was getting ready to drop into Heather Lake Basin by snowboarding down. Of course my sister and I were absolutely jealous because this was a perfect pow day out there. Instead we trotted down in our snow shoes in knee deep snow. At the top of the Hump, the views were glorious as the clouds rushed out of site allowing us to see much of Pear Lake Basin and Tokopah Valley.
We slipped ever so quickly down the slop full of fresh snow reaching Heather Lake just as the split boarder was splitting is board up for the walk across the lake and to another climb section. We opted to cross the lake as well, I can’t say I have ever walked on a lake before. It was a more direct route than going around, this took us to the other side where we had another bit of a climb up a steep, but short incline. For another mile or so we had to work our way into another downhill section. It was getting pretty late at this point, meaning that we only had a couple hours of sunlight left and the cold would come in fast after the sun set behind the ridge.
The rest of the way up to the hut was a gradual climb, we guessed we had a little less then a mile. This portion of the hike we were exposed on the mountainside and it offered vast views around. We saw little signs of avalanche activity on the other side of the valley, but nothing on this side. I couldn’t believe the beauty we were in and took many moments to stop and look around a little. We were literally steps away from the hut as the sun set behind the mountain, it was perfect timing. The hut was covered with over 10-15 feet above it, we could literally walk form the snow onto the hut.
The hut is nestled perfect inside the trees just off a slope up to the lake. “Pear Lake Ranger Station” was built during 1939-1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The hut sits at 9,200 feet and sleeps up to 10 guests. We sat around the table inside while we cooked and waited for our socks/wet clothes to dry. Mmmm chips never tasted so good. Couple hours later we ate dinner. There is a guest book that each of us made sure to sign before retiring for the night.
The next morning we woke at 6am to get going. The sun wasn’t shining on us yet and it was incredible cold on our first hour or so until finally warming up one set up at a time. About an hour later the sun, the sun, the sun shined on us and it never felt as good as it did. The snow was a bit harsher the way down and after a bit we had to delayer as it warmed up quite a bit. It took us over 8 hours to get to the hut and we got to our car within 5. The way down wasn’t as nice as the way in as we were walking on much more icy terrain. Once we got halfway down the Hump slope, the ground was very icy and much less enjoyable. At the junction we ran into a few people who were doing day trips out there. The trail was easy to see where cross-country skiers had made their tracks. We actually missed the turn off to where the exit was to the trailhead so we had to take a quick cross-country climb up to the main road. We finally reached our car and it wasn’t alone, much more cars in the ski area. We headed to drop off our snowshoes and were on our way home by 12:45pm.
Note to self: I definitely need to get better shoes for these kinds of trips. Next buy: insulated snow boots.
What is available at the hut?
10 bunk beds with mattresses – we only had 4 people at the hut so we used one mattress against the was and 1 mattress under us. I’m pretty sure that that helped keep us warm even when we had to turn off the wood pellet stove for the night.
Wood pellet heating stove with fuel – this was pretty awesome, we were able to hang anything that go wet just above it to dry. It was quite cold when we were out there, so having this was a luxury. The wood pellet stove must be turned off before you go to sleep for the night and before leaving the premises.
Composting toilet – just outside the main room, very easy to access and perfect during the night not to have to turn on a light and wake up anyone or go outside in the cold ha.
Coleman cook stoves – they had 2 of these that we used to heat our water and dinner.
Solar lighting – once it got dark, we turned this on for a little and made sure to turn it off once the meter shows yellow. There are propane lamps that can be turned on.
There are there for a reason and there is a list that they keep at the hut. Please make sure you follow these.