Carson Pass Spring, CA

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Highway 88
Summit of Carson Pass, CA
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This unnamed spring is actually NOT located at Carson Pass on Highway 88. Rather, it is located about 1.8 miles south of Carson Pass on foot. This admittedly puts a damper on those folks who wish to fill five gallon jugs. But in return, you get to take a VERY spectacular subalpine hike, see great views, pretty subalpine lakes, and possibly one of the best wildflower shows on the planet.

The water from the spring is easily some of the best out there – significantly better (in my opinion) than a lot of lower altitude fare. It has a quality that is hard to describe. But it is probably some of the most refreshing water I have tasted. And it has the unusual quality that it just seems to satisfy in a way that no other water can. As if the water itself is not good enough, the spring is also located in a truly spectacular location. At about 8900ft in elevation, it is surrounded by wildflowers and views to die for. And it is relatively close to the very popular Lake Winnemucca.

Finding the spring itself is fairly easy. Simply park at the Carson Pass trailhead (NOT the Meiss Meadows trailhead just down the road). Walk over to the trailhead by the log cabin information station. Follow the Pacific Crest Trail until you reach a fork after somewhat over a mile (this is past the fork to Frog Lake). Rather than veering left on the Pacific Crest Trail, go straight (to Lake Winnemucca, as indicated on the signpost).

The trail will pass through open woodland for a few tenths of a mile before things open up to a large meadow along the west side of Elephant’s Back. It is here where wildflowers are at their best if you are here around mid July to mid August. At the end of this meadow, you will cross a small stream and the trail will then veer to thr right. This small stream is actually the output of the spring. Just after crossing it, a trail to your left will take you about 50ft to the spring itself. It is really just a hole from which water comes up. Fill your bottles here. If you plan to go further than this spring (like to Lake Winnemucca or Round Top Lake), it might be better to fill up going back down so that you don’t have to carry your water so far. Of course, you will still have to carry all your water about 1.8 miles back tonyour car. But luckily, it’s almost all downhill.

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