Carson Pass

Highway 88 / Carson Pass information

Currently at the Pass

Carson Pass Information Station is closed for the season and will reopen Memorial Day Weekend, 2020.

Phone: 209-258-8606

As of Oct 12, 2019

 It is a good time to get out and see the fall colors. You will need a Sno-Park permit to park at the pass after Nov. 1, 2019 until Memorial Day, 2020.

For information and wilderness camping permits, please contact the Amador Ranger Station (information on our Contacts Page) or visit our Facebook page by clicking here.

HWY 88/Carson Pass 

An all season roadway, Highway 88, the Carson Pass Highway, enters the Eldorado National Forest 64 miles east of Stockton near the Dew Drop Fire Station at the 4300 foot elevation and continues through the forest for 38 miles until in reaches Carson Pass at the 8573 foot elevation.  From there it descends into Nevada near Woodfords. Much of the highway parallels the northern ridge above the Mokelumne River canyon then follows the Carson River Route of the Emigrant Trail.  Several historic sites can be accessed on a driving tour described in Gold Rush Trail, a guide by Frank Tortorich. 

With a elevation change of over 4000 feet, from west to east, the forest changes from foothill woodland, chaparral, and mixed conifer to the true fir, and subalpine forests of the Carson Pass area.  Over eighteen developed campgrounds, both public and private, are accessible from the highway, as well as miles of fishable streams and rivers, and major and minor lakes and reservoirs affording the visitor many recreational opportunities. 

At the summit the Carson Pass Information Station offers visitors a chance to stop and stretch their legs and learn more about the area.  Wilderness Permits, Campfire Permits and campsite reservations for the Carson Pass Management Area are all available at the stations along with maps. books and more.  The station is open everyday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Stop in!

Whatever the season, the Carson Pass Highway is open for fun. 

 

Carson Pass Station

Carson Pass in the Summer

 The Carson Pass area offers one of the most beautiful and scenic areas in the High Sierra. Carson Pass Special Management Area is set aside from the rest of the Mokelumne Wilderness for two distinct areas. First, the Round Top Geologic Area which has extinct volcanoes and its glacially sculptured land is evident as one walks the 10 miles of trails in the area. Dramatic changes in the landscape are still occurring after two hundred million years.

Second is the Round Top Botanical Area. Wildflowers have been blooming each summer for the past ten to twelve thousand years. Different soil types and elevation changes will produce wide variety of lush and beautiful wildflowers. The peak season can vary from mid-July to the first week or two in August depending on the previous winters snow pack. For wildflower information you can call the Carson Pass Station at 209-258-8606.

Many activities are available in the area. To get some ideas check out the Things to Dounder the Discoverdrop down menu.

The area of Carson Pass is rich in history as well as having great outdoor activities. Feel free to take advantage of the Docent lead interpretive hikes that occur throughout the season. Check the schedule out under the Upcoming Events Calendar on the Home page or head to our Carson Pass Facebook page.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs right past the station. When you visit look for the PCT hikers who will have many interesting stories from their adventures along the trail. You may even be able to practice your foreign language as many hikers have come from other countries to experience the unique adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada along the PCT.

Headed for the wilderness for camping? You can obtain your wilderness and campfire (stove) permits at the Station. Need a place to camp and the campgrounds are full? The helpful Docents at the station will direct you to areas where dispersed camping is allowed.

A couple of important items. Remember to bring $5 for the user fee collected at the parking lots at the pass and many of the other parking lots in the area. This fee goes towards maintaining trails and the area for your use. Also, please have your dogs leashed for their safety and the safety of our wildlife. Loaner leashes are available for free from the Carson Pass Station.

Have a wonderful experience in one of the most beautiful areas of the Sierra Nevada.

Carson Pass Station

Carson Pass Winter Fun

SNO-PARKS
Sno-Parks in the Carson Pass area are located at the Meiss Trailhead, the Carson Pass Information Station,  Iron Mountain and Hope Valley. They are open November 1-May 30.  A Sno-Park permit is required. For more information on Sno-Parks  and to purchase a permit on line, click here. Permits may also be purchased at locations such as REI and local retailers, also at the Amador Ranger Station, 26820 Silver Drive in Pioneer  (209) 295-4251. However, permits are not available for purchase at the Sno-Park.

The cost is $25.00 per season or $5.00 a day

The Sno-Park hotline is (916) 324-1222
 
 
BACK COUNTRY SKIING AND SNOWSHOEING AT CARSON PASS  
Located at the crest of Carson Pass on Highway 88 the Carson Pass Information Station is a great place to start your adventure.   The Station is closed in the winter, but several trails start from the Sno-Park lot next to the station where restrooms are also available.Follow the trail leaving the parking lot just to the side of the Information Station traversing through a beautiful primitive forest to Frog Lake at one mile.  Continuing on the trail will bring you to Winammuca Lake, Round Top Mountain, and Elephant’s Back. You will be in a wilderness area so there are no blue diamonds on the trees to mark the trail so you must be responsible for your navigation. 
 
If you go west of the station a few hundred yards you will find another Sno-Park rea for the Meiss Meadow trailhead. You won’t be disappointed with the magnificent views of Meiss Meadow and Lake Tahoe.
 
 
ICE FISHING
in the Carson Pass area is available at Silver Lake, Caples Lake, Red Lake, and Woods Lake.  A variety of trout including Mackinaw, Brown, Brook, and Rainbow trout are available. Many of these hungary fish can weigh from five  pounds to an excess of twenty pounds for the Mackinaw. Ice conditions can change rapidly so caution is advised.
 
 
KIRKWOOD SKI AREA – DOWNHILL AND CROSSCOUNTRY SKIING AND SNOWSHOEING
Kirkwood is recognized as one of the top ski resorts in the country, offering 15 lifts, 2 high speed quads, 65 runs and 2,000 skiable acres. This advanced mountain is known for its steep chutes and impressive cornice skiing. There are also groomed trails for the intermediate and beginning skier. Lessons, rentals, and lodging are available. Located just 33 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe, about 100 miles from Stockton, and 177 miles from the Bay area makes Kirkwood very accessible.
 
For weather, road conditions, rentals and lodging call (800) 967-7500 or visit www.kirkwood.com 
      
The cross country ski and snowshoe center is located on Hwy.88 one quarter mile east of the Kirkwood turnoff and next to the Kirkwood Inn. If you enjoy being surrounded by wilderness trails and you enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing then give the Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Center a try. Located at 7,800 feet and soaring to over 9,000 feet. With 80 km of groomed skating and snowshoe trails with two trails that are dog friendly. The diverse terrain provides excellent skiing for all abilities. Traverse around lava cliffs and wilderness trails or meander down to Caples Creek and visit beaver dams and open meadows. Trail passes, rentals, lessons, tours and retail are available at the cross country center (209) 258-7248. Trail passes and rentals are also available at Red Cliffs lodge at Kirkwood. 
 
 
SNOW CAMPING 
Snow Camping can be a challenging and very rewarding experience. If you are camping in the Carson Pass Management Area you must have a minimum of twelve inches of snow on the ground. Camping within the management area is only allowed at designated sites at Winammuca Lake, Frog Lake, Round Top and 4th of July lake. Open fires are not allowed above 8,000 feet so plan to use your camp stove. A wilderness permit and camp fire permit are required and can be obtained from the Amador Ranger Station on Silver Drive in Pioneer.
 
Dispersed camping is allowed on the North side of Highway 88 in the Meiss Meadows area.  This area is dog friendly and no wilderness permit is required.  A fire permit is required,however.
 
 
SNOWMOBILING
Snowmobiling is not allowed in the Carson Pass Management Area or Meiss Meadow area, but close by good areas for snowmobiling are Iron Mountain, at the junction of Mormon-Emigrant Trail Road and Highway 88, and Hope Valley just east of the pass. Each has a Sno-Park staging area, miles of groomed and ungroomed trails, and acres of open country. Silver Bear Snowmobiling Trails begin at the Iron Mountain Sno-Park about 25 miles east of Jackson. Hope Valley Snowmobiling Trails launch from the Hope Valley Sno-Park on the east side of the pass.