Advertising Information
Home Page Mountain Biking Road Biking Rock Climbing and Bouldering Peak Climbing/Skiing/Boarding
Kayaking Hiking and Backpacking Cross Country (Nordic) Skiing Visitor Information

General Information: The hike from Carson Pass to Lake Winnemucca is terrific for families, novice backpackers, or those who have little experience hiking in the back-country. The 2.5 mile trail (one way) is wide and easy to follow with no steep climbing.

The views along the way are expansive and the wildflowers in late July draw photographers and artists from all over Northern California. For those more ambitious souls, the trail continues on to Round Top Lake and then to 4th of July Lake. In fact, this trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Washington State to Mexico! The trail can get crowded during the height of the wildflower explosion and the wind can be wicked here so an early start is advised.

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. There is a $3.00 parking fee per vehicle from June 1 to October 1.

Trail Description: The hike starts beside the ranger station and heads south and east along a wide, well maintained trail. 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. It is on this section of the trail that the best wildflower viewing is had. In late July or early August, depending on the winter, Lupine, Mules Ear, Indian Paintbrush, and tens of other Sierra species of wildflower bloom in a symphonic profusion of beauty.

After this area, the trail again climbs a bit over a series of ridges with steep and rugged Round Top Mountain in the background. Round Top usually holds lots of snow in the creases and couloirs of its north facing cliffs even in September. The contrast of the dark rock and the brilliant lines of snow 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. The lake is snow-fed all year and never gets above heart-stopping cold. The many large rocks along the shore provide wonderful picnicing areas where you can sit back and take in the beauty and power of this Alp-like setting. There are many good campsites around this lake, although the popularity of this area makes solitude a little scarce in high summer.

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'). At the top of the pass , you may be able to spot a small trail heading left (east) toward Round Top. 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. Backpackers will find plenty of level sites for setting up camp. The hike from Winnemucca to Round Top Lake adds just 0.5 miles and under 500 feet of climbing, yet this lake seems to be less crowded than Winnemucca.

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 trail to 4th of July Lake. From the saddle, the trail loses 1000 feet in less than a mile of hiking, putting your hiking boots to the test. 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. There are enough nice campsites to handle the crowds that converge on this lake in high summer. A better idea, however, is to make this trip after the Labor Day crowds head home to put their children back in school.

This hike 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 taking a trail that heads north to Forestdale pass and back to Red Lake. This is a long, hard day hike! Alternatively, you can shuttle a car to Upper Blue Lake and hike down into Summit City Canyon and then on to Blue Lakes.

Environmental Concerns: The wildflowers along this provide enjoyment for thousands! With the number of visitors this area gets, all the wildflowers would be gone if everyone took "just a few." So please, come, admire, photograph and/or paint...but don't pick the flowers or trample them in your attempt to get the perfect angle. It is actually a crime to do so, and the rangers have heard, "Oh, I didn't know you couldn't pick the flowers" enough times that that excuse will not save you from an expensive citation.

Advisory: Bears have been seen enough in this area that proper food storage is recommended. Our bears are not as wily or aggressive as those in Yosemite, and we don't want them to be! Every time a bear gets human food, it is one step closer to death, because eventually that bear will charge a person and have to be killed. For the more information on bear proofing your food, please visit our Miscelaneous Info and Tips page.

Back to Hiking Index

Advertising Information

Home | Sports Shops | Weather | Guide Services | Other Activities | Maps| Lodging | Camping | Dining | Calendar | Photos

Mountain Biking | Road Biking | Hiking/Backpacking | Peak Climbing | Rock Climbing | Kayaking | Nordic Skiing


NOTICE: While the information on this site is thought to be accurate and reliable, it is offered only as a guide and cannot replace sound personal judgement.

All images and text are protected by copyright laws ©2000