The trail from Carson Pass to beautiful 9,000 foot Winnemucca Lake is an area favorite, known for its gorgeous wildflowers and excellent views. This is a great hike for photographers, because of the picture perfect scenery, and people with dogs, because of the small elevation change and rewarding sights. If you are planning to take pictures on your way, the sun will be on your left if you start in the morning and on your right in the afternoon, as you progress roughly south-southwest to Winnemucca Lake. The moderate 4.2 mile out and back hike begins with a gentle climb through the forest featuring filtered glimpses of Round Top Mountain. About a half mile into the hike, Frog Lake will appear on your left, marking the end of the elevation change. A few different varieties of flowers can be found here. On the hillside to the west of the lake, you can find rare Wood Roses on occasion, and you can see a big field of wild iris if you circle around to the east side of the lake.
From this point on all the way to Winnemucca Lake, you’re in an open area, brimming with vibrant, colorful wildflowers. Scarlet gilia, Indian paintbrush, blue flax, sierra lilies, and numerous other species are scattered as far as the eye can see. As the trail edges along the western flank of Elephant’s Back, there are a few flowing streams and wet areas where you can encounter lupine, columbine, monkeyflower, and, if you’re lucky, small blue butterflies called Melissa Blues. Soon you’ll reach Winnemucca Lake, a great place for swimming, fishing, a lunch break, or letting the dogs play. This is a great place to explore and climb large boulders. The north face of Round Top Mountain falls into the lake, and another field of iris is located to the northwest of the lake. There is a trail that goes along the north side of the lake, and for extreme hikers, you can also reach Round Top Lake and Fourth of July Lake for about an 8.8 mile hike.
To get to Woods Lake Campground, where the trail begins, take Highway 88 east. After passing Kirkwood Ski Resort and Caples Lake, but before you reach Carson Pass, look for the campground on your right. Follow the road to the day use parking lot. It’s generally a good idea to arrive early, as this is a popular hike and parking has a tendency to fill up fast.
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