Round Top & Winnemucca and Fourth of July Lake

MODERATE 13 reviews
#28 of 78 trails in

Round Top & Winnemucca and Fourth of July Lake is a 10.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Kirkwood, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

10.2 miles
3681 feet

dog friendly




nature trips

rock climbing



cross country skiing



wild flowers



Pristine alpine lakes, picturesque creeks, abandoned mines and glorious summer wildflower displays. Certainly one of the best hikes in the Lake Tahoe area, the trails to Round Top and Winnemucca Lake promise pristine alpine meadows and lakes, fast-flowing creeks, abandoned mines - and in summer, one of the finest wildflower displays to be found anywhere in Northern California. There's something for everybody in this area, which is why our guide also lists enough alternative routes and side-trips to please everybody. Elevation gain: - 2,300ft (from 8,200 - 10,381 ft)

After visiting the lakes in the area many times I finally got a chance to actually climb Round Top itself last week. I know all the trails in this area get crazy busy but it’s for good reason...probably one of the most spectacular areas in the entire Sierra.

I approached Round Top via Carson Pass, this time of year it was pretty empty on a Tuesday. The hike to Winnemuca Lake is very gradual, and it’s a beaut. After Winnemuca stay right toward Round Top lake if looking to summit. There seemed like multiple vague trails heading up toward the saddle so I just picked the path of least resistance (all these trails seem to link up further up anyway).

From the saddle the trail heads up steeply and after some scrambling you’ll find yourself atop the West Ridge. This isn’t the true summit but if exposure and heights aren’t your thing this would be an excellent stopping point. The actual summit is further East, and requires some exposed downclimbing and a small class 3 section at the end...but boy are the views worth it. The wind was howling so I didn’t stay up top very long but you can bet I’ll be back.

Beautiful, beautiful area. Just be prepared to share.

11 days ago

18 days ago

amazing and awesome views.

18 days ago

Started at Carson Pass Visitor Center and got a permit, hiked past Frog Lake and Lake Winnemucca and on up to Round Top Lake. We had planned to camp there (site 6) but it was so windy and cold that we backtracked down and stayed the night at Winnemucca. Still windy but a little less exposure than Round Top. Such a beautiful hike with breathtaking views of the Two Sisters Mountains and Round Top. Would backpack here again in a heartbeat. The elevation itself is challenging but the trail wasn't strenuous and it was well marked.

30 days ago

1 month ago

1 month ago

2 months ago

There were lots oh hikers in this trail, it was still fun but I wasn't expecting the crowds encountered.
Make the effort to summit round top, it can get crowded but the 360 views make it worth while.

2 months ago

Amazing. The wildflowers are blooming everywhere on the way to Lake Winnemucca. Continued onto Round Top Lake and the trail took you over some areas of snow. Round Top was beautiful with waterfalls abound. I am glad I went the extra distant to Round Top.

2 months ago

2 months ago

The summit of Round Top is a hidden gem, nestled between the crowded Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe. Heading up the Round Top Lake Trail, we did not see a single soul. We saw a lone person descending from Round Top along the Pack Trail, the only distraction from an ascent of complete solitude.

My father and I begun our ascent on the Round Top Lake Trail (Pack Trail), opting for a more direct ascent. The trail to Winnemucca Lake would have required more mileage on the ascent (along with a more gradual climb), while the Pack Trail seemed direct and challenging. We cruised for the first mile before encountering the first patch of snow near Lost Cabin Mine. From here, some navigation was required. We were able to relocate the trail in time to follow it for the steeper portion of the ascent to Round Top Lake. It's established and passable with sturdy hiking boots as of 7/22/17.

We arrived at Round Top Lake roughly an hour after our departure. Sunrise was two hours behind us and the lake was illuminated, with the sun sparkling off the water. Multiple wildflowers bloomed around the perimeter as the lake itself shone deep blue, with hints of turquoise and magenta scattered about it. We rested at the base of the lake and looked up at the intimidating Round Top Peak. The path of the Pack Trail was discernible from the base of the lake.

The Pack Trail continued past Round Top Lake's tributary and begun its incline on steep, loose terrain. The trail, while established and relatively easy to follow, increased in grade from there as the ground deteriorated to sand and scree. We followed it past a major snowfield (which is still sticking around, and probably will persist through August) to the saddle between Round Top and The Sisters. This ascent gains roughly 600 feet over the course of 1/2 mile, with 250 feet coming in just 1/5th or so.

From the saddle, there are multiple lightly-used trails that pick their own way to the summit. The official trail curves around to the Southwestern base of the final ascent, essentially leaving you on your own for a challenging scree. I chose to ascend rather directly from the Northwestern side while my father followed the trail. Our experiences were relatively similar. We met up shortly before the "wind shelter," where we dropped our packs and continued to the "official" summit.

The summit of Round Top offers exhilarating views to the North and to the South. To the North, Round Top Lake and Winnemucca Lake are immediately visible. Caples Lake decorates the landscape further back as the dominant Lake Tahoe is visible well in the distance. Some mountains of Tahoe (Price, Ralston, Tallac?) are easily seen behind snow-littered peaks in the foreground. To the South, Deadwood Peak contrasts sharply with the canyon as it stands out against the background of Sierra peaks. A light haze from the fires slightly decreased the visibility, but did little to detract.

We rested at the "wind shelter" (a semicircle wall of rocks to protect against Southern wind), collecting ourselves mentally before the descent. The challenging, loose ascent would prove to be more hazardous and difficult for a short period of time. We descended, sliding intermittently, down the rocky/loose section of the descent. We got down to the saddle without any major injury.

The next section of the descent was fun, as we primarily took the snowfield down (rather than the steep, sandy, loose trail). I was dressed in shorts without gaiters (my father as well) so we could not go sliding; we went glissading with trekking poles instead. The descent took roughly half as long as the ascent.

From Round Top Lake, the hike got continuously more populated, as it was later in the day (~10:30 AM) and Winnemucca Lake is the more popular destination. Though Winnemucca Lake is undeniably beautiful and snow was still present, the hike down was relatively cumbersome. We arrived back at the trailhead at 11:30 AM, completing our 4-hour hike.

5 months ago

I can't really speak for the trails since I did this when the rangers said it had 25 feet of snow. In such a setting it is easy to get disoriented in the forest without many waypoints. But it seems to be a very popular area and there are plenty of ski and snowshoe tracks to follow. Once you get out of the forest it totally opens up and it is easy to find your way. I am tempted to give 4 stars because it is unclear during the winter but ultimately how can a place like this not be a 5 star? Just know that you need to practice your navigation skills in heavy snow.

With that said the parking at Carson Pass is very clear and creates an easy access point. I snowshoed, hiked and finally climbed Round Top Peak from its western ridge (similar to the "pack trail" in the map). Amazingly beautiful place, and the round trip only took me about 6 miles. You can add on as much as you want. My big interest is to return with skis, climb the area again and ski down. I'll be back...

10 months ago