Benson Hut

January 14, 2018 · Tahoe National Forest

A snowy section of the PCT on snowshoes, a wonderful stay at Benson Hut (one of the Sierra Club’s backcountry huts), and a day hike to Tinker Knob.


17.9 mi

Elevation gain

3,638 ft


2 days

The trail

Check out the route in detail on AllTrails.

Sun Jan


Car to Hut

We left the city around 6am, picking up Scouts along the way. The roads and the weather were clear as we drove to Donner Pass area. We made a quick pit stop at the Starbucks in Colfax, and fueled up with coffee and some breakfast snacks.

We parked the car across the street from the Clair Tappaan Lodge and started our hike to Benson Hut along the road. About 2 miles along the road, we veered off onto the PCT. The trail was icy and day hikers were slipping and sliding as we hiked past them. As we climbed higher, sections of the trail became more covered in snow, but luckily the snow was quite hard. We continued without our snowshoes until we were about at the top of Sugar Bowl ski area. Stani had a little of fun running onto the hill and chasing some of the skiers. I sternly called her back to the trail and noticed that she had a gash on the back of her rear paw. It was bleeding, so we cleaned and bandaged it up, and continued up the trail.

There was a tricky point as we climbed a ridge that had a cornice at the top of it, making the ascent quite steep and a little scary. We struggled up the slop, slowly kicking steps into the snow with our snowshoes.

Once on the ridge, the going was easy. The trail varied between snow and dirt, but we mostly kept our snowshoes on. We passed a group of 3 people on skis who had stayed at the hut the night before. It seems that most of the people who had reserved the hut had decided that there wasn't enough snow to make it worth it. The hut was meant to be full tonight as well, but we figured we might also be the only ones there.

Tired, we arrived at the hut and kicked off our snowshoes.

Sure enough, we had the hut to ourselves. We lit a fire, started melting snow for drinking and cooking, cleaned up a little, and set up our bunks. Hot drinks were had, and eventually dinner. We stayed up till about 9, huddled around the cast iron fireplace, and then retired to bed.

Mon Jan


Tinker Knob

We were up early, but moving slowly. We melted some more snow and cooked a warm breakfast before strapping on our snowshoes again and heading further down the trail towards a small peak called Tinker Knob. The round trip to the peak and back to the hut took around 3 hours. We rested for a few minutes before grabbing our packs and heading out.

The Scouts were traveling at different paces and Stani had a hard time keeping the pack together. At one point we were quite far from each other and Stani ran off out of sight to catch Sven who was up in front. It was a little scary as Stani essentially disappeared into the woods while she followed her nose at high speed to find Sven. The rest of the group eventually caught up and tried to stay together for the remainder of the hike.

We decided to see if we could take the ski lift back down to the village, so we went a little off trail and hiked up to the top of the lift. At the top, Sven asked the lifty and he agreed to let us ride it down. We went in two seperate chairs, Jrah and Sven on one, and Jing, Stani, and I on the other. It was pretty intense riding down the lift, as the height was extreme and we were facing down the entire time. Once off the lift, we walked along the side of one of the ski trails to the village gondola, which took us back to the road about 1/2 a mile from the car.

We had our street shoes on and were driving back to Colfax for another Starbucks stop around 4pm.

Preparing for this trip

Here is some information that comes in handy when preparing for this trip like this.

Trip posted by KP