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Carson Pass
(aka Kit Carson Pass)

I was glad that this road was not as busy as nearby Echo summit, but this was not a peaceful backroad either, at least not during the time of year when the fathers of the nation pack their families into cars and chauffeur them across the nation on summer vacation. From the vantage point of this road, the Sierra Nevada Range looks more like a plateau, lined by a series of low peaks, that could just as well be rock outcrops, carved out from a flat top. The most amazing sights about this ride are the many crystal blue lakes, that are strung up next to the road like pearls on a necklace.

1.(4790ft,mile00.0) START-END EAST: jct Nv88 - Nv206 (Fairview Lane), south of Minden, Carson Valley
2.(7080ft,13.2mile) jct with Ca89 to Luther Pass on right
3.(7830ft,19.9mile) jct with Red Vista Rd and rd to Forestdale Divide on left
4.(8574ft,mile22.0) TOP: Carson Pass
5.(7830ft,mile25.7) road reaches Caples Lake
6.(7300ft,mile32.7)road reaches Silver Lake
7.(7450ft,mile39.4) profile turns right off Ca89 onto Mormon Emigrant Trail
8.(8000ft,43.6mile) profile turns right onto Silver Fork Rd
9.(5610ft,mile50.1) START-END WEST: Silver Fork Rd crosses American River


From East. Coming from the dessert further east, the first trees east of Woodfords are an amazing sight. Ca88 climbs through a busy canyon with a narrow shoulder without rumble strips to an open meadow area, from where the main crest of the Sierra Range can be seen for the first time. Continuing straight goes to Carson Pass while taking a right goes over the lower Luther Pass into South Lake Tahoe.

Continuing straight, A wide road without turns rolls along for a while, and then climbs the pass in a single sweeping curve above Red Lake. At the top is a forest service information center and a busy parking lot, where the Sierra Crest Trail crosses. During the Saturday in June when I was here, there wasn't a single free parking space.

From West. But luckily bicyclists don't have to worry about parking spaces that much. In any case, more and bigger parking lots are just a little ways down on this side. The road looses elevation only in bits and pieces, stringing together a number of lakes on this high plateau. The road crosses one lake on a dam. Many of the lakes further down have been taken over by private resorts, that sell camping, expensive meals and gas. Except for the first overpriced restaurant, all of these resorts are some distance off the main road and require additional climbing to get back to the profiled route.

top of Carson Pass, looking east to Red Lake

As the road climbs yet again, it reaches a signed viewpoint named Carson Spur at 7990ft. In my opinion the view from here is more interesting that from the pass summit. It stretches north to a set of isolated rounded peaks, but between here and there are innumerable fins of rock, that are a result of surface stress, much like on one side of a book when bending it.

In order to reach a low point more quickly and to illustrate my ride, the profile turns off Ca88 onto a road signed as "Mormon Emigrant Trail", and then turns right onto the first paved forest road to reach the Silver Fork American River. All of these roads are paved, and these side roads on the lower approaches were actually more pleasant cycling, than the summit section itself.


picture taken from Emigrant Trail Road, part of an alternative lower approach to Carson Pass



( < Tahoe Rim Trail: Section Armstrong Pass - Daggett Pass | Ebbett's Pass > )
Carson Pass , Luther Pass , Echo Summit , Packsaddle Pass : Big Meadow Trailhead > Luther Pass > Ca88 west > Carson Pass > Mormon Emigrant Trail [a road] north > down paved forest road on right > up FR71 > Packsaddle Pass > US50 west > Echo Summit > up Truckee River Road south > back to starting point: 80.7miles with 7770ft of climbing in 6:56hrs (VDO MC1.0 m5:13.6.29)
Notes: I took a mountain bike on this loop because I had no idea this entire road was paved. This is a very interesting loop. Best part is Packsaddle Pass, worst part: Echo Summit. Also - a very hot June day with record heat in Death Valley and Sacramento (or Saecruh-Minnow as the guy on the radio likes to say).