Carson Pass Sno-Park

The Carson Pass Sno-Park is located near Caples Lake on the south side of Highway 88 at the summit Carson Pass, 60 miles east of Jackson and 27.3 miles south of Lake Tahoe in Alpine County. Snowmobiling is prohibited at the Carson Pass Sno-Park, though snowshoeing, snow-play, and cross-country skiing are recommended here.

The Carson Pass Sno-Park is within the El Dorado National Forest and the Mokelumne Wilderness area. Carson Pass is popular with hikers throughout most of the year, and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, Tahoe-Yosemite Trail, and the Emigrant Summit Trail have access points at Carson Pass. Several high-elevation lakes can be accessed from Carson Pass, including Lake Winnemucca, Red Lake, Fourth of July Lake, Frog Lake, Woods Lake, and Round Top Lake. The Kit Carson Historical Marker is also at the Carson Pass Summit. The Kirkwood Resort Mountain Resort is also located nearby.

Additional Carson Pass area sno-parks are the Hope Valley Sno-Park, Meiss Meadow Sno-Park, and the Iron Mountain Sno-Park. Winter weather can be extreme at Carson Pass- be sure to check weather and road conditions prior to visiting.

Recreation Activities

The Carson Sno-Park has several cross-country ski trails, and snowshoeing and snow play are also recommended here. Snowmobiling is prohibited at Carson Pass.

Seasons Accessible

The Carson Sno-Park is open from November 1 - May 30. Sno-Park permits are required, and are available online or from several vendors near the Carson Pass area.

Sno-Park Permit Vendors

Permits for the Carson Sno-Park are available online from the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Restoration Division or from designated vendors:

Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, 3 Webster Drive, Markleeville, Ca. 96120, (530) 694-2475

Bear Valley Cross Country, 1 Bear Valley Road, Bear Valley, Ca. 95223, (209) 753-2834

Kirkwood Mountain Resort General Store, 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, Ca. 95646, (209) 258-7294

Explore Tahoe Visitors Center, 4114 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150, (530) 542-4637

Lake of the Sky Outfitters, Inc., 1023 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150, (530) 541-1027

Sunrise Ski and Snowboard Rental, 3202 Highway 50, South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150, (530) 577-3176

Tahoe Paradise Chevron, 2986 Highway 50, South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150, (530) 577-1127

Carson City Ranger Station (ESIA), 1536 South Carson Street, Carson City, Nv. 89701, (775) 882-2766

Sno-Park Permit Sales, California Department of Parks and Recreation, 1725 23rd Street, #200. Sacramento, Ca. 95816-1700, (916) 324-1222

California State Parks Division of Vehicular Recreation Sno-Park Program

Sno-parks provide access to cross country ski trails, snowmobile routes, and snow play areas. Sno-parks are operated by the California State Parks and Recreation Office of Highway Motor Vehicular Recreation (OHMVR) in cooperation with the United States Forest Service. All of the sno-parks in California are in the Sierra Nevada’s, and are open from November 1 through May 30. The California Sno-Park Hotline can be reached at (916) 324-1222. Sno-Parks operated by the state are designated by brown signs located along highways.

There are 19 sno-parks operated by the OHMVR, and permits are required for each one. Day permits for $5 and season permits for $25 are available from designated Sno-Park vendors, by mail from OHMVR, or on-line. On-line purchases are subject to an additional $1.95 service fee. Permits must be displayed on the left side of the dashboard, and clearly seen from the outside of the vehicle. Permits are non-refundable and non-transferable, and parking at a Sno-Park without a permit may result in a $94.50 fine. California Sno-Park permits are also valid in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sanitation facilities are provided at each of the parks. Camping, littering, and over-night parking are prohibited.

The Sno-Parks are located in areas that can experience road closures in harsh weather conditions. Call CalTrans at 1-800-427-7623 or check the CalTrans website to get information on roadway conditions when planning your trip, and carry chains and a shovel. Winter recreation can be hazardous, so it is important you consider your skill level, wear proper clothing, have respect for the terrain and park rules and regulations, and adhere to posted warnings for your safety.

A printable brochure of Sno-Park locations is available from the OHMVR website and can be found here.

Share your experience. Please leave a comment below if you've visited this sno-park.


Latitude: 38.695259 Longitude: -119.989327 Elevation: 8593 ft


Trail System

Two Nordic Trails begin at Carson Pass:  the Wilderness Boundary Trail, and the Mokelumne Wilderness Area trail.

The Wilderness Boundary Trail is 2 miles long, and the difficulty level is moderate. It is a 2 mile trail that begins in the Carson Pass Sno-Park and travels south to the Mokelumne Wilderness boundary. It runs west along the boundary before dropping to intersect Woods Lake Road, and travels up the steep drainage between Woods Lake and Winnemucca Lake. Blue diamond tree markers identify the trail.

The Mokelumne Wilderness Area Trail begins the the Carson Sno-Park and is 2-20 miles one way. The difficulty level is moderate to difficult and is recommended for experienced back country skiers who must be able to navigate with a compass and map. The trail is unmarked and offers skiing through forested areas, open landscapes, around alpine lakes, and challenging downhill terrain. Overnight camping permits are required.

The El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol provides emergency aid to snowshoers and cross-country skiers, and offer classes in winter back country skills, avalanche awareness, and lead back country tours.

Approximate Operating Season

November 1 - May 30

Leave a Comment