Who: Patrick and me
Where: Sequoia National Park
Mileage: 18 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +4500ft/-4500ft
More photos: here
I was scheduled to give a colloquium talk at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA on Monday, June 16, so I decided to bookend the drive down from the bay area with trips to the Sierra. In less than 9 days, I drove 1,250 miles, hiked 55 miles, gave a seminar talk, spent 3 nights in motels and five nights in the backcountry. The first trip of this crazy week was planned to be a loop connecting Alta Meadow with the Lakes Trail via an off trail route around Moose Lake, but when Patrick suffered altitude sickness after our route up to Moose Lake, we decided to make it an out-and-back via Alta Meadow, opting to return on the off-trail route we knew instead of finding our way through the Tablelands. We had time pressure as well since we were hoping to have Patrick on a train in Fresno by 5:45pm. It was a beautiful trip and the sunset alpenglow on the Great Western Divide was some of the most dramatic I’ve seen!
Wolverton to Moose Lake via Alta Meadow
6 miles on trail, 3 miles cross-country, +3900ft/-600ft
After picking up our permit from Lodgepole, we drove over to the Wolverton trailhead and began hiking around 10am. The first few miles of the trail climb gently through the forest on the way up to Panther Gap.
After a steep (but rather short) final push, the trail reaches Panther Gap, where we get our first view of the Great Western Divide. We are hiking the High Sierra Trail in August and we thoroughly enjoyed looking out at the mountains we’d be hiking across on that trip.
Continuing along the Alta Trail, we had views of Castle Rocks.
And as we ascended towards Alta Meadow, the Great Western Divide keeps us company.
We stopped for lunch in gorgeous Alta Meadow. It hangs on the side of the slopes below Alta Peak with a magnificent view of the Great Western Divide.
Decades ago there was a trail from Alta Meadow to Moose Lake, but these days the maintained trail ends in the meadow. To continue to Moose Lake, we headed east across the meadow and then through the open forest towards a ridge. We stayed relatively high and had a bit of a rough time in some parts of the woods due to the steepness of the grade. It would probably be easier to descend lower in Alta Meadow before heading through the woods.
When we reached the ridge, we had gorgeous views of the divide and Buck Creek’s magnificent canyon.
We ended up ascending the ridge a little lower and farther south than intended, so We climbed along the ridge over large talus before dropping down the opposite side.
Around 10,200ft, we found the remains of the old trail. It was fairly well-ducked and we followed it to a cute little meadow.
Continuing up, we finally arrived at desolate Moose Lake.
We set up camp in a cozy, well-protected spot right where the old trail rises to Moose Lake. Of course, the Great Western Divide was there to keep us company.
After dinner, we enjoyed the most spectacular spectacular sunset with neon alpenglow on the Great Western Divide.
Moose Lake to Wolverton via Alta Meadow
6 miles on trail, 3 miles cross-country, +600ft/-3900ft
The morning sun lit up our camp above Moose Lake as we got our things together to head back to Alta Meadow.
We tried to follow the old trail we’d traveled in on, but following some ducks we ended up much higher, crossing some annoying talus before gaining the ridge.
We retraced our steps, (stupidly) staying high in the open forest as we headed back to Alta Meadow.
From the meadow, it was easy going back down the trail to Wolverton.
Want to do this trip yourself? Pick up the USGS Lodgepole quad, get your permit at the Lodgepole Visitor Center (register in advance or try for a walk-in, check availability here), and drive to the Wolverton trailhead.