Distance: 6½ miles
Elevation gain: 2,300ft (from 8,200 - 10,381 ft)
Summer is the perfect time to visit Round Top and Winnemucca lakes, south of Lake Tahoe and near the ski resort of Kirkwood. If you can time your visit just right - sometime around the middle of July - we have it on good authority that you can find yourself surrounded with one of the finest displays of wildflowers in Northern California.
We were hiking a little too early in the season to witness the full flourish of the blooms but were compensated greatly with alpine meadows, abandoned buildings, fast flowing brooks and the last remaining patches of winter's snow.
Our featured route takes a counter-clockwise route along Pack Trail from Woods Lake Campground and includes an out-and-back spur trail to the 10,381ft summit of Round Top Peak. You could choose to lengthen or shorten the route with the options listed below, or even set out from the alternative Carson Pass trailhead, which is shorter but inferior to the loop trail.
Both trailheads require a day use fee to park and be sure to pack some insect repellent - the bugs around the lake sure are hungry. Access to Woods Lake Campground is via a paved road off CA-88.
(a) Pack Trail loop only (5m loop). Avoids steep summit trail and visits both Winnemucca and Round Top lakes.
(b) Carson Pass Trail (2m ea/way). Out-and-back route from Carson Pass to Winnemucca lake. Sno-park permit required Nov 1 - May 30.
(c) Sisters Peak. Short but steep side-trip to bag another summit.
(d) 4th Of July Lake (2m ea/way). Side-trip from Round Top lake.
- Trailspotting Images: Round Top on Flickr
- NorCal Explorer: Winnemucca & Round Top Lakes