Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From Winnemucca Lake to Round Top Lake

Round Top Lake, Eldorado National Forest, California
Round Top Lake and The Sisters, Sierra Nevada, California

Path to Round Top
Path to Round Top
Glacially formed Round Top Lake in the Sierra Nevada is named after the impressive Round Top mountain, which comes into focus while hiking from the Carson Pass Information Center on Highway 88 via Frog-Lake to Winnemucca Lake. The lake's namesake can also be seen from further away; for example, from the saddle between Carson Pass and Meiss Meadows. This is Sierra crest territory with ancient volcanic summits such as Round Top and The Sisters. The latter are seen in the top picture, backdropping Round Top Lake with its dark, craggy, north-facing cliffs and seasonable, bright snowfields.

The near-timberline Round-Top-Lake area is reached by either ascending from the Woods Lake Campground or from Winnemucca Lake. Taking the Winnemucca route, you need to cross the outlet at the northwest corner of Winnemucca Lake, from where you will hike the one-mile-long trail to Round Top Lake.The trail ascends across open slopes to a granite ridge. From the ridge crest, you will head west between shrubs and occasional whitebark pines until Round Top Lake comes into view.

On a warm summer day, you will find hikers and backpackers taking a break in the meadows around the blue-green lake. Others may attempt to climb to the top of Round Top, by taking the path next to Round Top Lake's inlet—shown in the right-side picture above. This unsigned trail leads to a saddle between Round Top and the east Sister. From there, magnificent panoramic views will be enjoyed, whether you manage to continue your summit climb or start your return. 

Round Top lake is a cirque lake (see, for example, Round Top Geologic Area), carved out of the bedrock underneath an Ice Age glacier, whose tremendous weight forced it downhill from its position between and aside Round Top and The Sisters.

Geographic Keywords: alpine lakes, extinct volcanoes, Eldorado National Forest, Mokelumne Wilderness, Carson Pass Management Area, California.

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