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Winnemucca Lake

Mokelumne Wilderness

Mokelumne Wilderness Links:

July 30th, 2000

5.5 miles
1245 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:11

Rating: 8/10

Directions: Take Highway 88 east. After passing Kirkwood ski resort, and then Caples Lake, but before reaching Carson Pass, be on the lookout for Woods Lake campground on your right. Follow the road to the day use parking lot. Arrive early to avoid the crowds, as this lot can get full. The Woods Lake campground, while great, is often full and is first-come, first-served.   View Driving Map

Jean and I arrived at Woods Lake at 11am only to find that the day use parking lot was full. We had to backtrack a half mile to the overflow parking lot, where we were lucky enough to find one space (someone just left as we arrived). This meant we'd have to hike an extra half mile or so. Originally, I'd wanted to head to Winnemucca Lake, Round Top Lake, then off to Fourth of July Lake before heading back. This would have been an 8.8 mile hike, but now it would be closer to 10 miles. I figured we'd decide later if we actually wanted to do the whole hike.

It was 11:15am as we got started on the pavement and 10 minutes later before we got on the actual trail. It was still morning, but it was clear it was going to be a hot day.

The trail climbs gently but steadily, through the forest. Jean wasn't acclimatized and we had to take our time. Eventually we reached the hillside of wildflowers I'd been so impressed with the previous year. For some reason they didn't look as impressive this year. I'm not sure if that's because of perception or reality, or the fact that the sun was so hot and bright today that the colors were muted. For whatever reason, the hillside didn't look as colorful. Still, that isn't to say that there weren't lots of picture-taking possibilities, especially since I now had the macro lens that I didn't have last year.

Indian paintbrush

Yellow wildflower

White wildflower


We continued on up the hill to Winnemucca Lake. We found one of the few untaken shady spots along the shore and settled down for lunch. Leftover salmon. Yum. While we were there I looked out and found the island which I hadn't seen the year before. I knew the island existed because we saw it from above the year before, but I hadn't seen it at lake level. Now I knew why. The island is mostly granite and completely blends in with the background of the far shore. It would be almost impossible to see unless you were looking for it, which I was.

Round Top

Look very carefully to see the island in this picture!

Rocks in Winnemucca Lake

After a long break we continued on up the trail to the right, up toward the pass. We crossed a large bank of snow in a gully and I even threw a few snowballs in the air. A welcome cool wind picked up as we approached the top of the pass. It's about a 400 foot climb from the lake to the pass, and Round Top Lake sits just on the other side.

Round Top Lake

Round Top Lake looked beautiful, backed by the Sisters mountain range. For some reason, it looked better to me than it had the previous year. Maybe that's because there were a lot fewer people here than at crowded Winnemucca Lake.

Round Top Lake

Nothing better than washing up in a cool stream on a hot day

We enjoyed a break by the cool outlet stream, enjoying the ample tree shade. Then we started the long descent along the stream. The trail was just how I remembered it until the Lost Cabin Mine. At this point there are a bunch of signs which point to a "new trail" to follow. It routes hikers along a narrow trail with views overlooking Woods Lake. I don't remember this at all from the previous year, and I wonder if it was finished in the past year.

The Sisters above Round Top Lake

Eventually the trail intersects with the old dirt road which descends all the way to the campground. After walking through the campground, we turned left to reach the overflow lot (rather than right to reach the normal day-use lot).

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