Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

August 16, 2018

Winnemucca, Round Top and Fourth of July Lakes Aug 2018

Fourth of July Lake as we entered the bowl.

As luck had it, we hit the Winnemucca-Round Top Lakes Loop trail in July/August when wildflowers were in full bloom, making this a most colorful hike! 

Late July and early August were the wildflower extravaganza on the east hike up from Woods Lake to Winnemucca and then Round Top Lake.  
Details:  Either can be done as day hikes, although it depends on your fitness of course, and your ability to acclimate to elevation.  We started at 8200' elevation and climbed to over 9400'. Both of my hikes started at the Woods Lake Trailhead, with the short one as a loop and the longer trip as an out and back.

Distance: With some additional exploration, we hiked about 14 1/2 miles on our trip to Fourth of July Lake.  The Round Top loop was about 6 1/2 miles with a little exploration beyond Round Top Lake, toward Fourth of July Lake, to help plan my annual backpacking trip with one of my grandsons the next week. Both trips were rewarding and fun thanks to the flowers, and the snow banks here and there at the higher elevations.
Elevations: 9419 was the highest recorded on both hikes, but we estimated about + 50-75 on our boulder scrambling. 2864 ft elevation changes recorded on Fourth of July Lake trip; 1325" recorded on Round Top Lake hike.
Parking:  It costs $5 cash in an envelope per day for both day trip and per day for a full backpacking stay. We parked at Woods Lake Parking.

  • There is a restroom in the parking area.  
  • The parking is adequate sized and you can park along the road if it is full.  
  • There is water available from creeks (bring your purifier) and the lakes. 
  • No poison oak.  
  • Not suitable for strollers but we saw happy kids on the loop day hike, and yes, even backpacking kids!
  • Many campsites at our 3 destination lakes do not have any close access to water, but more disappointing was the lack of any lake view.
  • These are popular trails and lakes so getting a "wilderness/solitude" experience is less likely. On the other hand we met so many generous and friendly folks!
  • No quad maps were available from the ranger cabin.  I expected to get one for my grandson to both educate him during our stay, and to keep as memorabilia of our trip.  It is important to keep aware of your location as you hike the area.  People do get lost there, so GPS, compass and map, and even your trackers like AllTrails are wise.  
  • Be prepared for unexpected rain and for winds, which are common to the area.
Our AllTrails unedited tracks from Woods Lake Trailhead to Winnemucca, Round Top, then Fourth of July Lake. 

Backpacking permits must be picked up at the Carson Pass Information Station, manned mostly by volunteers, on the first day of your trip.  I confess, this system is poor. "First come-first serve", right at the cabin, not at the destination.  They assign campsites.  Groups were divided all over each destination, rather than grouped together, and my grandchild and I had to break camp and move three times over 5 days.  No online reservations from Mokulumne Wilderness. Two groups offered us good sites for our two nights there so we accepted them with love and appreciation, as our assigned site didn't had a flat tent area.
4th of July Lake has sandy beaches!
There wasn't a fee for the camping permit on the bright side.
Day permits are not required.
Fire Permits required for use of any campstove etc.
Others have posted tracks you can use on AllTrails, but here are links to mine unedited to view the maps:
Fourth of July Lake
Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes Loop

It was smokey due to forest fires around CA, but there were rivers of color along the hike down into the Fourth of July Lake bowl that stood as tall as my preteen grandson!.
I loved the hikes.  I chose to go clockwise both times, personal preference, although most people choose counter clockwise.  We spent 5 days and 4 nights.  

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