Winnemucca Lake Wildflower Hike

Lake Tahoe

Hike among especially colorful wildflowers and open meadows to a cliff-lined alpine lake.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
7.8 km
Ascent
192 m
Descent
192 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
2.6 km
High Point
2.8 km
Gradient
Winnemucca Lake Wildflower Hike Map

Winnemucca Lake is one of many alpine lakes in the Sierra Nevada around Carson Pass, and wildflowers fringe most of them as the snow melts. This one happens to have an especially brilliant display of color near its shore, however, and it can be reached by an especially scenic, moderate hike. Late June and July are the best times for wildflowers, but early June and August also have plenty of blooms in a typical year. You can visit the lake at other times of year as well, though it requires snowshoes or skis in winter.

Description

The easiest way to reach Winnemucca Lake is via the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass. There is actually another trail called Winnemucca Lake Trail that begins at Woods Lake, a bit west of Carson Pass. It is a perfectly good way to get to the lake as well but requires more elevation gain and a short drive along a dirt road. The easier alternative mapped here begins from the paved parking lot at Carson Pass and uses the PCT then a signed side trail to the lake. A $5 daily pass is required to park at either trailhead.

Start going south on the PCT—a very well-traveled path. It gains elevation gently on a hillside of sparse conifer forest and views of surrounding mountains, which may still be covered in snow. The first body of water you’ll reach is not Winnemucca Lake but Frog Lake, a smaller body with its own display of flowers. Rising above it is a gray hill called Elephant’s Back. You can hike to the top of this on a side trail if you wish.

Near Frog Lake is the junction where you’ll leave the PCT for the trail that leads to Winnemucca Lake. This trail leads gently upward through rocky meadows where the color show really hits its peak. You’ll see blue lupines, yellow mules ear, red Indian paintbrush, many small, yellow buttercups, and other, rarer varieties if you look closely.

Soon comes the granite-strewn basin of Winnemucca Lake, and a great place to dip your feet. To explore more, you can continue up the trail toward Round Top Lake, or follow the actual Winnemucca Lake Trail down toward Woods Lake.

Sources: https://carsonnow.org/story/08/04/2011/wildflowers-along-winnemucca-lake-trail https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/eldorado/recarea/?recid=80482 https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/eldorado/recarea/?recid=80479

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area