The trail to Woods Lake is a there-and-back route consisting of rambling hills along forested slopes and stream banks that is suitable for beginner and intermediate snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Because of its elevation and the dense canopy of trees, this trail has the added benefit of having snow later in the season when much of the lower elevations have gone bare.
From the trailhead at the 8,574-foot summit of Carson Pass, begin with a gradual descent through forested slopes that open up to occasional views of big skies and granite formations. The trail is very well marked with blue diamond blazes hammered into the trees, and it drops into a valley of meandering streams and eventually brings you to the quiet picnic area of Woods Lake.
White and red fir trees, lodgepole pine, and whitebark pine line the trail and only thin out when the trail begins to level and leaves the thickest part of the forest for meadows just below Woods Lake.
Though the blazes do a good job of signing the trail and even marking sharp turns, intersecting trails, such as the route to Winnemucca Lake, confusingly have the same blue diamond markings. The main intersections are marked with a brown signbox in the trees, though the signage within the boxes has disappeared, so be aware of which direction you should follow at these forks.
Woods Lake itself is a popular summer recreation area that offers camping, swimming, picnicking, year-round vault bathrooms, and hiking trails that access other area peaks and lakes. The campground is closed during the winter, and with the access road being snowed in, you may find yourself alone at the edge of a lake lined by snow-covered slopes.
From the lake, turn around and begin the climb out of the basin and back to the trailhead, again being cautious about remaining on the correct trail. It is about 1.9 miles back to Carson Pass.
A California sno-park permit is required to park at the Carson Pass parking area from November 1 to May 1. You can get more information about sno-park permits at 916.324.1222.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.