This is a 2.5 mile trail with only 500 feet of elevation gain. The hardest part about backpacking to Lake Winnemucca might be obtaining a permit.
Time To Complete
This assumes a pace of 2 miles per hour and adds 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Spring, Summer, and Fall
This hike is best timed to coincide with the spring/early summer wildflower blooms.
On Leash Only
Dogs in the Carson Pass Management Area must be leashed.
$5.00 day-use fees are required to park at the trailhead. Camping is allowed in designated campsites by permit only. There are three designated campsites at Lake Winnemucca and permits can be obtained at the Carson Pass Information Station.
As one of the most scenic and accessible overnight stays in the greater Tahoe region, an overnight trip to Lake Winnemucca will not disappoint. This is also one of the most abundant wildflower blooms in the region, with multi-colored swaths of flowers painting the hillsides. The short 2.5 mile one-way hike across relatively flat terrain makes this a perfect hike for backpackers of most ages and abilities. Tucked under the arching ridgeline of Round Top Peak, Lake Winnemucca is a high-alpine backpacking paradise.
What Makes It Great
The ease of access to Lake Winnemucca combined with the stellar alpine scenery of the Carson Pass region makes this one of the most sought after overnight destinations in the area. From the Carson Pass trailhead, hike south on the Pacific Crest Trail, following well-marked signs for Lake Winnemucca through groves of bunched hemlock trees. The trail emerges into the high country at barren Frog Lake after approximately 1 mile. Shortly after Frog Lake the PCT turns left and continues southbound, while the Lake Winnemucca trail bears right in the direction of Round Top peak.
Continuing to follow the Lake Winnemucca trail, you start to ascend slightly through rocky fields interspersed with blooming painbrush, lupine, and columbine flowers and stunted whitebark pines. The trail drops slightly and after a short 2.5 mile hike with only 500 feet of elevation gain you will find yourself at the shoreline of Lake Winnemucca’s iridescent blue waters.
After setting up camp you are free to explore the surrounding area. Peakbaggers will love the opportunity to summit Round Top Peak to gain a bird’s eye view of their campsite for the evening. Those looking for a mellow stroll around the area will be rewarded with expansive views of the rocky terrain.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a perfect destination for backpackers of all ages, abilities, and experience levels. The relatively short, flat, and well-defined path make this a cinch for those new to the backpacking scene or families looking to introduce their children to overnight camping in the wilderness. Amateur photographers will have a field day with fields of blooming flowers juxtaposed with imposing Round Top Peak in the background.
Because of the popularity of Carson Pass and Lake Winnemucca, backpackers should not expect solitude during the day. However, because there are only three designated campsites at Lake Winnemucca, you will practically have the lake to yourself in the evening.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Lake Winnemucca is part of the Carson Pass Management Area and overnight camping is strictly regulated. Campsites are assigned on a first-come first-served basis at the Carson Pass Information Station and only camping is designated sites is allowed. There are only three designated sites at Lake Winnemucca, so planning ahead is strongly encouraged.
To protect the fragile high-alpine environment, campfires are not allowed at Lake Winnemucca.
A $5.00 day-use fee is required to park at the Carson Pass Trailhead.
To get to Carson Pass from South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 toward Meyers, then turn left on Highway 89, following signs for Kirkwood. Turn right on Highway 88 and continue for 8.7 miles to the Carson Pass trailhead on your left.