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General Information: The Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area is a fantastic winter snow-shoe and cross-country ski area. From relatively flat, easy trails to steep bowls and couloirs everyone from novices to experts can find something to keep them smiling. Heading south from Carson Pass, you can visit three fine lakes from 2.5 to 5 miles away. The first, Lake Winnemucca, is an easy one hour ski from the parking lot, followed by Round Top Lake, set in the shadow of towering Round Top Mountain with the extreme "Moon Couloir" staring down at you. Finally, 4th of July Lake offers a long, pristine winter tour with lots of serenity and grand views of the winter Sierra.

 

Where To Start: Pick up this trail at Carson Pass on Highway 88. From Lake Tahoe, starting on US 50 head west towards Sacramento, but turn left onto Highway 89 (Luther Pass) just past the Agricultural Inspection Station and before you start up Echo Summit. Follow this road up over Luther Pass and down into Hope Valley. Highway 89 "Ts" into Highway 88 where you turn right toward Carson Pass. At Carson Pass, park in the lot on the south side of the highway. A Sno-Park pass is required and can be obtained at the Shell station on highway 50 as you head out of South Lake Tahoe.

Trail Description: The ski tour starts beside the ranger station (which might be buried under snow in a big winter!) and heads south and east along a trail that is most often already skier-packed. The trail climbs gently but steadily for one mile up to the tiny Frog Lake. From here, the trail continues more south with less climbing and expansive views west as the land falls away to the west towards Caples Lake and Kirkwood Ski Resort.

After this area, the trail again climbs a bit over a series of ridges with steep and rugged Round Top Mountain in the background. The contrast of the snow-draped mountain with dark rock spines falling from the summit make for some dramatic and photographic scenery. 1.5 miles past Frog Lake and 2.5 miles from the trail head, you will climb a small ridge and be rewarded with your first view of Lake Winnemucca. Carved from stone thousands of years before by glacial activity, Winnemucca is a stunning example of a high alpine lake, with cliffs plunging directly into the water on the south side of the lake. Of course, in the winter, all you see is a flat spot which you assume is the lake!

Round Top Lake: For those wishing to continue on, the trail crosses the outlet of Lake Winnemuca and immediately begins to climb more steeply towards a pass just to the west of Round Top Peak (10,380'). For more information on climbing this peak, visit our Round Top Peak page under Peak Climbs. From the pass, it is a short flat hike to Round Top Lake, another picturesque glacially formed lake surrounded by cliffs. OVernight tourers will find plenty of level sites for setting up camp. The ski from Winnemucca to Round Top Lake adds just 0.5 miles and under 500 feet of climbing.

4th of July Lake: The trail from Round Top Lake continues south contouring along the side of Round Top Mountain for perhaps another half mile before reaching a saddle and then plunging down a steep slope to 4th of July Lake. From the saddle, the trail loses 1000 feet in less than a mile of skiing, making for a quick, fun ski down, but a long climb back. But camping at 4th of July Lake is worth every ounce of effort! The lake is a natural depression filled with clear Sierra snow melt and surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. The fourth side, to the south, has a precipitous drop of nearly 1000' into Summit City Canyon with views for miles up the canyon. 4th of July is far enough, that you are almost guaranteed solitude during the winter.

This ski tour is usually done as an out-and-back, but it is possible to make a loop by descending into Summit City Canyon, heading up canyon, then heading north to Forestdale pass and back to Red Lake. This is a long, hard ski tour and should be attempted only by experienced skiers in excellent condition.

Environmental Concerns: Pack it in, pack it out!

Advisory: The weather can change rapidly in the Sierra. In particular, the wind can go from calm to gale in this area within moments. Be sure to bring extra clothing and wind gear.

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