Ostrander Ski Hut Via Horizon Ridge Trail


Summary

Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 9.0 miles one-way
Starting
Elevation
7250 feet
Cumulative
Elevation
Change
+2300, -1050 one-way
Navigation Road (groomed), marked trail and map
Time Two days round trip
Season Mid-December through early-April
Snowmobiles Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, El Capitan and Half Dome
Start Badger Pass Ski Area on Glacier Point Road. The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot.


Description

The ranger station at Ostrander Lake is converted to a ski hut for the winter months and reservations are coveted for this backcountry hide-away that lies at the edge of the lake where the terrain rises abruptly to corniced Horse Ridge. After initially skiing along groomed Glacier Point Road the tour to the hut via Horizon Ridge climbs to its high point on the ridge, descends to its junction with the Bridalveil Creek Trail route, and finally climbs Heart Attack Hill before the final relatively easy last mile to the hut located on the edge of Ostrander Lake.

Image of skiers ascending the bowl below Horse Ridge
Ascending the bowl below Horse Ridge

Ostrander Ski Hut accommodates 25 guests and the resident hut caretaker. A lottery each fall determines who gets the bunks for the following winter. For details contact:

The Yosemite Association
P.O. Box 230
El Portal, CA 95318
209-379-2646 (phone)
209-379-2486 (fax)
info@yosemite.org

Be aware that all the prime dates for the hut are taken during the lottery.

There are three distinct routes to Ostrander Ski Hut. Of the two primary trails, Bridalveil Creek Trail and Horizon Ridge Trail, the Horizon Ridge Trail has some distinct differences and advantages. The Horizon Ridge Trail traverses more open terrain affording views of the surrounding mountains. It is also 1.1 miles shorter and more mileage is spent on groomed Glacier Point Road. These facts make it very attractive in poor weather though you will find yourself more exposed as you traverse the ridge. On the down side is the extra 350 feet you must climb.

Image of skier on the Horizon Ridge Trail
A beautiful day on the Horizon Ridge Trail

The third route, Merced Crest Trail, is significantly more difficult than either of the other trails.

You can combine Bridalveil Creek Trail and Horizon Ridge Trail to form a pleasant loop trip to and from Ostrander Ski Hut and enjoy considerable variation in terrain. If you choose Horizon Ridge for the return trip, the ridge offers an outstanding downhill run when the conditions are just right.

Most people take a full day to ski to or return from the hut. In fact, all routes are more difficult than you might expect and it is not uncommon for people to arrive after dark by headlamp. Get a very early start, preferably no later than 9 a.m., to avoid a late arrival and possible bivouac.

After the strenuous trip to the hut, you will want to plan one or two layover days to absorb the magnificent beauty of the area. The obvious day tour from the hut climbs onto Horse Ridge. An easier trip to the east will provide you with a stunning view of the ragged peaks of the Clark Range. The longer day trip to Buena Vista Peak can't be beat when the snow and weather conditions are favorable.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.7
Elevation change: +150, -50 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski northeast on the groomed trail and Glacier Point Road for 0.7 mile until you reach a high point (2). The first 50 yards is not actually on the road, but you will probably not notice the transition from the connecting trail to the road.

Miles: 0.7 - 1.0
Elevation change: -50 feet

Continue skiing on Glacier Point Road for 0.3 mile until you reach Summit Meadow (3).

Miles: 1.0 - 2.8
Elevation change: -350 feet

Continue skiing on Glacier Point Road for 1.8 miles until you reach the turnoff to Bridalveil Campground (closed in winter) and the Ghost Forest Trail (4).

Miles: 2.8 - 4.1
Elevation change: +150, -150 feet

Continue skiing on Glacier Point Road for 1.3 miles until you reach Bridalveil Creek Trail (5). The turnoff for Bridalveil Creek Trail is marked with a sign and the trail is designated as trail number 21.

Miles: 4.1 - 4.5
Elevation change: +50 feet

Continue skiing on Glacier Point Road for 0.4 mile until you reach Horizon Ridge Trail (9). The turnoff for Horizon Ridge Trail is marked with a sign and the trail is designated as trail number 15.

Miles: 4.5 - 6.4
Elevation change: +700, -100 feet

Turn southeast (left) onto Horizon Ridge Trail and follow it over gentle terrain for 1.9 miles until you reach the base of the ridge (10). Here you have covered 70 percent of the mileage but are only 350 feet above where you started at Badger Pass Ski Area. In the next 2.6 miles you will climb 1250 feet and much of the time the trail will be steep.

Miles: 6.4 - 6.9
Elevation change: +550 feet

Ascend Horizon Ridge to the southeast for 0.5 mile until you are adjacent to and west of Peak 8232 (11). This section, climbing at the rate of 1100 feet per mile, is the steepest section and even steeper than Heart Attack Hill that is just up ahead.

Miles: 6.9 - 7.4
Elevation change: -250 feet

Descend to the southeast for 0.5 mile until you reach the intersection of the Bridalveil Creek Trail and the Horizon Ridge Trail (12).

Miles: 7.4 - 8.0
Elevation change: +450 feet

Continue southeast (straight) on the combined trail, in about 50 yards you reach a large clearing that climbs southeast, and you ascend the clearing for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach the point where the trail turns abruptly southwest (right) (13) . The hill you climb is aptly called Heart Attack Hill. You will shortly come to a grand view to the east and north if you continue climbing southeast instead of turning. With the High Sierra as a backdrop, Mt. Starr King, Mt. Clark and the Clark Range lie before you.

Miles: 8.0 - 9.0
Elevation change: +250, -100 feet

Continue on the combined trail for 1.0 mile until you reach Ostrander Ski Hut (14) at Ostrander Lake.

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour