Moose Lake via Alta Meadow in Sequoia National Park

Who: Patrick and me
What: Backpacking
When: 6/14/14-6/15/14
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!

Day 1
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.

The first few miles are through a gorgeous open forest

Hiking up to Panther Gap from Wolverton

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.

First view of the Great Western Divide from Panther Gap

Continuing along the Alta Trail, we had views of Castle Rocks.

On the Alta Meadow Trail

And as we ascended towards Alta Meadow, the Great Western Divide keeps us company.

Hiking up the Alta Meadow Trail

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.

Lunch break at Alta Meadow

Gathering water from a stream in Alta Meadow

Great Western Divide as seen from Alta Meadow

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.

Heading off trail out of Alta Meadow

Picking our way through steep open forest on our off trail route to Moose Lake from Alta Meadow

When we reached the ridge, we had gorgeous views of the divide and Buck Creek’s magnificent canyon.

Great Western Divide from a ridge between Alta Meadow and Moose Lake

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.

How far up this ridge do we have to go now?

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.

Pleasant meadow just below Moose Lake

Continuing up, we finally arrived at desolate Moose Lake.

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.

Patrick at our camp at Moose Lake

After dinner, we enjoyed the most spectacular spectacular sunset with neon alpenglow on the Great Western Divide.

The beginnings of the most amazing sunset I've ever seen

Neon alpenglow sets the Great Western Divide on fire

Checking out the alpenglow from our camp at Moose Lake

Day 2
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.

Morning at our camp at Moose Lake

Moose Lake

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.

Heading down from Moose Lake

Ooooh, endless talus! Patrick's favorite!!

Climbing back up to the ridge to head back to Alta Meadow

We retraced our steps, (stupidly) staying high in the open forest as we headed back to Alta Meadow.

And back through the open forest

We can see our destination off in the distance

Cross-country nearing Alta Meadow

From the meadow, it was easy going back down the trail to Wolverton.

Heading back to Panther Gap from Alta Meadow

A deer didn't mind us much at Methren Creek

Serene forest on the final stretch back 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.

4 thoughts on “Moose Lake via Alta Meadow in Sequoia National Park

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