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The Wildflowers of Winnemucca Lake
One of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular wildflower hikes is the five mile round-trip hike to Winnemucca Lake via Carson Pass.
- Trailhead: Carson Pass Visitor’s Center, Highway 88 – Open in Google Maps.
- Length: 5 miles round trip; 2-3 hours.
- Difficulty: Moderate; the elevation gain is 400 feet but it’s mostly gradual.
- Usage: Hikers, horses, dogs. $5/day for parking. Wilderness permit required for overnight.
- Best Time for Photography: Wildflowers are spectacular June through August depending on how late the snow melts.
- Are Drones Allowed: No in Mokelumne Wilderness.
- Trail Info Current: Aug 9, 2017
- Further Reading: Tahoe’s Spectacular Wildflower Trails
- Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map
Note: the elevation profile above also includes the trip to Round Top Lake after 2.5 miles.
Winnemucca Lake via Carson Pass
This amazing, short hike starts at Carson Pass. Before we go any further, let me just say this – don’t do this trail on the weekends if you can! It’s extremely busy because of its popularity. I would even consider it “crowded” during the week.
Your best time to go? Early morning mid-week. And get a camping permit if you can. The campsites around Winnemucca Lake are limited and they’re first-come, first-serve, so you may want to show up before the visitor center opens. Either way, parking is $5.
The trail starts through some covered forest and climbs a few switchbacks in the first half-mile. After that, it’s a gradual climb all the way up to Winnemucca Lake. The trees eventually clear and give way to views of The Sisters, the peaks sitting behind Round Top Lake.
You’ll be walking through an assortment of waist-deep wildflowers as you marvel at The Sisters, often still covered in snow until late summer. There are dozens of species of plants along the way, and you may want to bring a guidebook like the one mentioned in the beginning of this post to identify them all.
Winnemucca Lake itself is a great place to stop for lunch and take a dip on hot summer days. If you want to see another nearby lake (also surrounded by wildflowers), continue for one mile up the trail to Round Top Lake. The hike to Round Top is steeper, but it is generally less crowded than Winnemucca.
Another way to get to Winnemucca Lake is via Woods Lake, and the wildflowers along Woods Creek are amazing also. To make a longer day out of the trip, or make it an overnighter, you can also check out Fourth of July Lake.
Tips for the Winnemucca Lake Wildflower Hike
- Snow has a tendency to linger for some time on this trail. This area of the Sierras gets hit with more snow.
- Get a camping permit at one of the few campsites to take advantage of the amazing photography opportunities with these flowers.
- The final stretch to Winnemucca Lake is very exposed – and hot – during the summer. Keep this in mind.