Located only 3 miles from I-80, the Peter Grubb Hut feels worlds away. Built in the late 1930s as a tribute to Peter Grubb, this scrappy hut is one of four popular cabins operated by the Sierra Club in the area. As a single day snowshoe, the hike in is a good workout, gaining 700 vertical feet over 3 miles. From there, Castle Peak and Basin Peak beckon for those looking for more adventure. This is a popular area for backcountry skiers as well.
What Makes It Great
If you don't plan on staying overnight (more on this below), begin your adventure by parking at Donner Summit, head under the highway and follow the summer road toward Castle Peak. The route is heavily traveled, but make sure to have your navigation dialed in beforehand as many snowshoers wander off to other areas along the way. The 700 vertical feet of gain tops out just below 8,000 feet, so you're going to get a good burn on the way up to the hut.
Beautiful winter meadows in the Round Valley and sparkling, snow-adorned forests guide you to the hut itself, a plucky building that is a cozy shelter, despite its haphazard architecture. Staying overnight is a lot of fun, but make sure you have reservations. While you might get lucky just randomly popping in, many an unprepared hiker has had to take shelter the "snow cave of shame" that inevitably builds up next to the hut every winter.
Once at the hut, the wide open terrain above treeline offers excellent opportunities to explore the open meadows or even go for Castle or Basin Peaks -- making sure you have avalanche beacons and equipment, of course. Carpenter Ridge is another nice destination for a day hike, as it sits just opposite the hut itself.
Who is Going to Love It
Even if you are only touring for the day, the wilderness around the Peter Grubb Hut is worth a visit. Snowshoers looking for a good all day outing that happens to be a nice workout will love exploring the terrain to -and beyond - the hut. Note that it can become a bit of a social outing on the trail, at least to the hut, especially on weekends. Staying at the hut for a multi-day experience is a lot of fun and provides more time to check out the peaks, ridges, and meadows in the area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Directions from SkiTahoeBackcountry.com:To reach the Peter Grubb Hut, take I-80 to the Boreal / Castel Peak exit. Overnight parking is found at the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot by taking a left, away from Boreal’s lot. A California Sno-Park permit ($5 per day / $25 per year) is required to park here. Walk under the interstate and begin your approach on the summer road to Castle. Follow the main trail less than 2 miles northwest towards the ridgeline between Castle and Andesite Peaks. From this ridgeline, contour north for less than a mile towards Basin Peak, and locate the large meadow that makes up Round Valley. The hut sits just inside treeline, on the western edge of the large meadow.