There is snow in the Sierra. However, you have to head to the high country to experience it. The low amount of rain so far this season coupled with warmer temperatures has led to a less-than-average snowpack, forcing snow-seeking adventurers to head to higher elevations to enjoy winter outdoor sports.
Fortunately, the Carson Pass area is relatively close by and high enough to offer areas of complete snow coverage for those eager to explore the backcountry. I traveled the trail from Carson Pass to Lake Winnemucca last week and found it an exhilarating experience.
The trail starts at the corner of the Carson Pass Information Station on Highway 88 (which is closed for the winter) and winds through the forest toward Round Top Peak. While the trail is not marked, it’s usually well traveled, and the tracks from skiers, snowshoers and hikers are easily followed. After about one mile, Round Top Peak is visible, and visitors can break their own trail. The round trip from the station to Lake Winnemucca and back is about five miles.
The unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having makes the trip particularly enjoyable. I encountered numerous travelers who were enjoying the sunshine, crisp air, and—of course—the snow. Several people were in the area for their first time. Because the snow was densely packed, some were hiking without skis or snowshoes.
While at Lake Winnemucca, there is the chance of watching expert skies descend from the Round Top peak. If you want to extend your trip, you could go on up to Round Top Lake, situated at the base of The Sisters, neighboring peaks to the west This would add about three miles to your trip.
Before embarking on this hike, make sure you have a Sno-Park pass, available here, a map, warm clothing, food, and friends with whom to enjoy the experience. While we continue to hope for more much-needed precipitation, now would be the time to enjoy the snow that we have.