Trail Mavens Guide | A Bradley Hut Weekend
Cold weather doesn't keep Trail Mavens indoors, no ma'am. That's why we were so excited to reserve seven spots at the Bradley Hut, one of the four Sierra Club backcountry ski huts dotted around Lake Tahoe's ski area. Nestled between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, the Bradley Hut sleeps fifteen, and provides an ideal jumping-off point to explore the bowls, ridges, and peaks of the Sierras above the lake, all while having a warm room and a wood-burning stove to return to at the end of the day.
We opted to snowshoe the five miles to the hut, though it's also a popular destination for cross country skiers and those crazy/amazing types that are willing to hike an hour up a mountain in exchange for one sweet, sweet powdery run all to themselves. Added bonus: the Sierra Club has no official policy on dogs (read: they're allowed, but you're encouraged to bring yours only if plays nicely with strangers and other pups), so we brought Arizona Rounsaville (pictured below) with us!
The Sierra Club stays relatively mum on the details of the cabin experience, but it is excellent, and we can't recommend it enough. Scroll all the way down for pictures of the adventure, or read on for how to replicate it yourself.
As you might imagine, spots at these gems are hard to come by. To make a reservation at any Lake Tahoe/Donner Pass Area hut mid-season, call Clair Tappaan Lodge at 530-426-3632. Advance reservations are done via email lottery in early November, with priority given to anyone who volunteers in the early summer and early autumn with a work party, helping to maintain and prep the huts for the upcoming winter season. Didn't volunteer? Cross your fingers, hope for the best, and call the lodge in October to find out when your email reservation request is due.
There's overnight parking for the Bradley Hut on a wide shoulder where Forest Road 8 meets Hwy. 89 about six miles south of I-80. If you get to Squaw, you've gone too far. Drivers should make certain their vehicles are behind snow stakes, and if you're planning on visiting on a stormy weekend, bring a shovel to un-bury your car whenever you head back out.
Hiking & Route Finding
Bradley is the easiest of the four huts to locate - heck, it's even on Google maps - five winding miles up Forest Road 8. There are a few junctions on the snowed-over fire road, but continue following signs for 8 and you'll soon find yourself at Bradley's front door. For more detailed maps, purchase the Granite Chief and Tahoe City 7 1/2' quadrangles online from the USGS, or download and print PDF versions here (Granite Chief | Tahoe City).
The hike to Bradley gradually gains 1500' feet in elevation (start: 5900', cabin: 7400'). A fit hiker in good conditions would make it to the cabin in two and a half to three hours; plan for more time if you're breaking trail after a fresh storm. The way out, all downhill, obviously is faster, especially if you're on skis (or, in our dream world, an inflatable inner tube).
When we say 'cabin,' don't be tempted to imagine a building with plumbing or beds. The Bradley Hut is a luxe alternative to snow camping - it has a wood burning stove, plenty of chopped firewood, large pots to melt snow for water, two large tables, and a small assortment of cooking utensils - but that's where the amenities end. You might also find a two-burner stove, propane canisters, matches, and toilet paper stocked in the outhouse next door, but we would advise against counting on those things, just in case. Here's what you should bring with you at a minimum:
- sleeping pad | cold-weather sleeping bag
- stove | fuel | matches or lighter
- cooking pots | plates | utensils | knife | mug
- sufficient food for your trip plus an extra day's worth, just in case
- first aid kit
- toilet paper | toiletries
- water purifier (be sure to use if not boiling water before drinking)
- ear plugs (everyone, including snorers, sleeps mat-to-mat in one room)
- trash bag (plan to carry all your garbage out)
- headlamp (the downstairs of the hut has solar-powered lightbulbs for evening use, but the top floor is unlit)
- playing cards | Bananagrams | wine or whiskey to share with hut-mates
- warm lightweight slippers for hut lounging and quick bathroom jaunts (we were so jealous of a women wearing these)
- inflatable tube for sledding (there's one plastic sled at the house this 2014 season, but more sleds = more fun)
Been to another snow cabin that we should know about and/or visit next season? Let us know in the comments!