Yosemite National Park has a wilderness location ideal for those of us who have that desire to spend overnight next to a remote mountain lake. The trailhead is located just south of Glacier Point Road. During the winter months, one can snowshoe or cross country ski to this almost seven mile round-trip location. I’m talking about the stone cabin on the north side of Ostrander Lake.
Twice I hiked into this wilderness area. Once, during October of 2006 and the second time was May of 2013. This adventure is much easier from the trailhead on Glacier Point Road. The trailhead starts at an elevation about 7,000 feet and continues through the mountain canyons to 8,500 feet at Ostrander Lake. This moderate hike is mostly level for 2.6 miles, following through a few meadows and a portion of the Bridalveil Creek drainage. After the second junction, the trail will start increasing in elevation.
Along the trail are the scars from the catastrophic fire that burned this mountain during the 1990s. Those small saplings I witnessed along the trail a few years ago are now four-to-eight-feet tall pine trees. The wildflowers that were blooming during late spring are today patiently waiting through their hibernation period of winter before revealing their brilliant colors of spring. So maybe a hike during June will surprise you with spring colors across this burnt landscaping.
On the ridge, just before reaching the hut, look toward the east and walk in that direction about 50 yards to experience the distant views of the Clark Mountain Range that surrounds Yosemite Valley.
Hike another 10 minutes following the trail over the next ridge and Ostrander Lake comes into view. During the winter, the snow covered mountain (Horse Ridge) behind this picturesque lake is a great photo opportunity. The two-story stone cabin is located along the trail this side of the lake.
Ostrander Stone Hut was built in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It sleeps 25 skiers with stove, bunkbeds and solar lighting. During the winter months, a park attendant is on duty at the hut. Unfortunately, for the summer hiker this hut is locked after snow season, but reopens after the first major snowfall. Keep in mind that reservations are a must with the park service if you plan to stay overnight. Reservations are more than $ 30 per night.
Ostrander Lake is the head waters of Bridalveil Falls which was originally called Pohono Lake along with the Pohono Trail. Ostrander Lake was named after Harvey J. Ostrander, a descendant of Alexander Ostrander of 1783 from Smithfield New York. Harvey arrived in the 1860s during the California Gold rush. He built his log cabin at the junction of Glacier Point and Mono Trails. A short distance from this geographic location is the Bridalveil Creek. Less than a quarter mile northwest is the famous Ostrander Rocks and to the south only three-plus miles is Ostrander Lake (another trailhead). For the fisherman, this lake also has a great number of 10-to-12 inch Rainbow Trout.
Whatever season you choose to hike or cross country ski into this wilderness area of Yosemite, you will not be disappointed with this winter or summer adventure.