Horse Ridge Loop


Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 4.5 miles round trip
8500 feet
+1150, -1150 round trip
Navigation Map
Time Half day
Season Mid-December through early-April
Snowmobiles Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Half Dome and Mariposa Grove
Start Ostrander Ski Hut


Standing on the steps of Ostrander Ski Hut and gazing south across Ostrander Lake, spectacular Horse Ridge with its rim of cornices rises abruptly. Everyone visiting the hut should plan at least one layover day to allow time to explore the ridge.

Image of Ostrander Lake and Horse Ridge from ski hut
Ostrander Lake and Horse Ridge from hut

You will find Horse Ridge broad and dotted with trees. Fog and wind from the south often cause ice, known as rime, to form in the trees. The wind also causes the formation of cornices on the north side of the ridge.

Of course you must first get to the ski hut and there are three marked trails that lead from Badger Pass Ski Area to it.

This loop tour is described clockwise. This is the preferred direction because the crux of the trip, ascending to the ridge, is early on. The top-most part can be very steep and ascending is definitely easier than descending. Refer to the mileage log for more information on this section.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 1.0
Elevation change: +600 feet

From Ostrander Ski Hut (1) ski east and then southeast for a total of 1.0 mile until you reach the base of a spur that ascends to Horse Ridge (2). At first you may find yourself on the Hart Lakes Trail.

Miles: 1.0 - 1.3
Elevation change: +350 feet

Climb south up the spur for 0.3 mile until you reach the top of Horse Ridge (3). The climb gets steeper as you proceed and don't be surprised if you must take off your skis and kick steps for the final 150 vertical feet.

Image of skiers attaching climbing skins before final climb to top of Horse Ridge
Skinning-up at base of climb to top of Horse Ridge

Although being on the spur is relatively safe compared to other places under the corniced ridge, be aware that the top part of this section is potential avalanche terrain — plan accordingly. Once you are on the ridge, be careful not to ski close to its corniced north edge.

Image on top of Horse Ridge with Clark Range in background
On top of Horse Ridge with Clark Range in background

Miles: 1.3 - 2.2
Elevation change: -400 feet

Ski in a generally west direction along Horse Ridge for 0.9 mile until you reach the location where the ridge splits (4). The continuation of the ridge to the northwest narrows and just before reaching a jutting high point there is a bowl to the west that you can descend to intersect the route described below (see dotted line on map). The route described here follows the broad continuation of the ridge to the southwest.

Image near west end of Horse Ridge where it splits
Horse Ridge just west of where it splits

Miles: 2.2 - 3.1
Elevation change: -700 feet

Descend the broad ridge to the southwest and then west for a total of 0.9 mile until you intersect the Merced Crest Trail (5), which is marked and designated as trail number 16. You have gone too far if you find yourself in a long stretch of level terrain. If so, back-track and look for the trail markers or the bowl to the northwest into which the trails descends.

Miles: 3.1 - 4.5
Elevation change: +200, -50 feet

Descend northeast into the bowl along the Merced Crest Trail, then continue northeast past the bowl, then veer slightly more east for a total of 1.4 miles until you reach Ostrander Lake and Ostrander Ski Hut (1).

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