The Carson Pass Area
- Hilly touring terrain with a few kind of steep hills here and there
- 9 miles in 1 day
- Cumulative gain, loss: +1600', -1600'
- Avg. Relief: 400'/mile
- Topos: Silver Lake, Markleeville (15'); Caples Lake, Carson Pass (7.5')
The Carson Pass area is a fine area for day-touring, and this leg of the series takes you through some of of
the best of it. This tour could be done in either direction. With an average elevation of around 8000',
there should be lots of good snow here well into early spring.
Start at the west shore of Caples Lake, which is a short stroll from Kirkwood Nordic where the previous
crest tour ends. Parking at this end of the tour is questionable. Perhaps you could ask at the nearby
cafe, gas station, or at Kirkwood Nordic if they'll let you park there for the day; failing that, it's
only about a 15 minute walk from the parking lots at the Kirkwood downhill resort.
Mark Chin at Round Top Lake
Ski southeast along the west shore of Caples Lake about 2 miles to its southern end, then continue south
for about another mile along Emigrant Creek. About 2/3 of the way from Caples to Emigrant Lake, start
heading east. Continue eastward for about 2 miles, aiming just to the north of The Sisters, to reach
Round Top Lake. Continue eastward another mile to Winnemucca Lake.
Winnemucca Lake is most commonly reached by skiing south from Carson Pass. That's a fine and popular
shorter ski tour, by the way. Note that Carson Pass is a SnoPark site (permit required; 916-653-8569).
Back to our tour: Ski northeast from Winnemucca Lake just to the left of Elephants Back (if you want a good
view, you could take a side-trek to ascend Elephants Back via the southwest side). From north of
Elephants Back, you could cut the tour short by heading out to Carson Pass, or you can ski down the fine
east-facing bowl to the north of Elephant Back's northeast face.
Sunset from Round Top Lake
From the base of that bowl, go northeast, then north, and then northeast, to get to the popular ski and
snowmobile "Forestdale Creek" trailhead, which is just to the east of Red Lake. There is parking available
There is also plenty of easy ski touring terrain southward from the Forestdale Creek trailhead. The old
Carson Pass road that runs south of Red Lake between the Carson Pass SnoPark and Forestdale Creek trailhead
can be skied as well.
An account of a trip to the Carson Pass area in 4/98.
General info and disclaimer about backcountry skiing
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