The hike starts from Wolverton, an area with parking lots, trailheads, and refreshments. In old times, Wolverton served as a small ski resort. To reach Wolverton, proceed south on Generals Highway (California 198) about two miles from Lodgepole. Turn right at the signs for "Wolverton" and follow the mountain road to its dead end and park in the westernmost parking lot. Follow signs for "Alta Peak Trail" and "Pear Lake Trail".
Follow the well-beaten trail for around 2 miles, where the trail splits. The path less taken is the Alta Peak Trail (right), although the Pear Lake trail (left) is an important one for winter travelers. After another mile or so, you come to Panther Gap, with its nice views into Kaweah Canyon and of the Great Western Divide. The trail traverses the canyon wall for another couple miles, until you hit Merhten Meadow at 9000 feet elevation. From here, the climb steepens, as you wind around the very prominent Tharps Rock. From 10000 feet to the summit, the climbing steepens, passing through a pretty high alpine forest, with sparse but massive red fir trees. The true summit of Alta is not terribly prominent, but obvious, and requires a bit of class 2-ish scrambling on granite slabs.
This is a straightforward dayhike over good trails during the summer. Water tends to be a bit scarce, although we found a good source of water around Merhten Meadow very late into a dry season.
If you're skiing or snowshoeing this route, don't forget shovels and avalanche beacons. You traverse some fairly steep, very open slopes on this hike.
From the summit of Alta, there are likely quite a few ski descent options (I have not done any). I have marked a few in this map.
Most descents are done from "Winter Alta", back toward the Pear Lake Hut. The Tablelands are suitable for ski exploration (don't get lost), and see a lot of traffic on the Sierra High Route ski traverse during the spring months.
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