Every year there is the great question of when the wildflowers will be in full bloom up in the high country. Carson Pass and the trail to Lake Winnemucca is the local gold standard of color for quite a few people.
Timing a trip to catch everything at the most brilliant best is a gamble of major proportions. The length and voracity of winter and the snow or lack of it when spring arrives has a great deal to do with exactly when the colors of the multitude of wildflowers up there will be at full burst.
There really is and always has been only one way to find out. You have to go up there and take a hike.
Short of that, what you get is someone else’s view of whether it’s time to go or not. A call to the information cabin at Carson Pass is a good gage of when it might be best to go.
This year the flowers started poking up relatively early. In lower regions, they were making their way to the sunny side by early May. Not much color between 6 and 7,000 feet, but they were growing and getting ready.
All of this is to say that if you want to see the plethora of petals up there, you’d better make a date very soon — like this week.
Judging by a trip we made on July 16, it is time to go if you want to see them. There is little between the trailhead on the north side of Carson Pass and Frog Lake. A few lupines at this lower elevation have already gone to seed.
Making your way past Frog and heading to Lake Winnemucca you’ll see more, with purples, reds and some whites keeping things interesting.
There is a large open meadow just short of Lake Winnemucca where the most vibrant blooms always seem to be. This is where it is best right now. Your camera will still get a very good work out here.
Your eyes will delight your soul as you take in the reds, pinks, salmons, fuchsias, purples, light blues, yellows and mixed colors, against a backdrop of greens.
When you get to the spot where there is still an active flow of water, you might, maybe, still be able to find a few elephant heads in bloom. They are hard to spot, and are on the backside of peak appearance.
Take a break at Winnemucca and enjoy this wonderful alpine lake. Sit in the shade, dip your toes in the water — it’s cold — have a snack or lunch and simply enjoy being there. That alone is worth the hike.
Go just a bit further and find you way over to the outlet of the lake. You could find a periwinkle or two.
On your way back to the trailhead, keep your camera out. It’s possible to discover new eye pleasing treasures as you hike the trail in reverse.
It looks very much like things are at the leading edge of winding down. After this week, the blooms may start a serious fade out.
Reality is that this hike at Carson Pass is great whether the wildflowers are bursting out all over or not.
Remember to take water and food for your trek. A hat, sunscreen, rain jacket and bug spray are always needed in the high country. If you take it in with you, take it out with you too. Leave no trace.
Your doggies may accompany you on the trail, but must be on a leash the entire time. Pick up after your pooch, please.
Pay your parking fee before you head out on the trail. Always be polite and courteous out there.