Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Mokelumne Wilderness

The 105,165 acre Mokelumne Wilderness straddles the crest of the central Sierra Nevada, within the Stanislaus, Eldorado, and Toiyabe National Forests. This area lies within portions of Calaveras, Alpine, and Amador Counties and is bordered by State Highway 4 on the south and State Highway 88 on the north. Watersheds drain to the Mokelumne River on the west slope and the Carson River on the east slope. New Management Guidelines were recently adopted for the Mokelumne Wilderness.

The Mokelumne Wilderness is a rugged landscape of great scenic beauty. Much of the area is dominated by volcanic ridges and peaks. The prominent feature is disputably the rugged Mokelumne River Canyon. There are many smaller streams flowing through deep granitic canyons but only a few lakes concentrated in the northern portion of this spectacular area. Elevations range from about 3900 feet near Salt Springs Reservoir to 10,380 feet at Round Top. Precipitation averages 50 inches annually on the west slope and as little as 15 inches on the east slope, 80 percent of it in the form of snow. Snowcaps typically linger into June in the Round Top region to the north and on the Mokelumne Plateau to the south, while the Mokelumne River Canyon above Salt Springs Reservoir can be free of snow as early as March. Summers are generally dry and mild, but afternoon thundershowers occur periodically and nighttime temperatures may dip below freezing anytime.


Permits are required for overnight camping. Permits are not required for day hikes. For more information, please either visit the Eldorado National Forest or the Stanislaus National Forest.


Campfires are allowed with the proper permit below 8,000 feet in elevation. Camp stoves are allowed in the entire wilderness. Your Wilderness Permit is also your campfire permit while visiting the Mokelumne Wilderness provided you are in a location where a campfire or camp stove is allowed.

Campfires are prohibited in the following locations:

* Above 8,000 feet
* Carson Pass Management Area
* North Fork Mokelumne River Canyon along Salt Springs Reservoir
* Blue Hole Trail (see Blue Hole Fire Restriction link)

Campfires are prohibited in these areas to reduce human-caused fires, impacts to vegetation from firewood collection, and to reduce the visual impacts of fire rings and surface scarring.

Method of Travel

Travel is restricted to horseback or foot only. Trails in the Mokelumne Canyon are maintained in a primitive and challenging condition and are not recommended for stock use. All means of mechanical transportation, including bicycles, are prohibited in wilderness. Wheelchairs are allowed. Stay on trails and do not shortcut switchbacks or create parallel ruts by walking alongside the trail.


Visitors are required to bury human waste 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites. Toilet paper must be buried or packed out. Garbage must be packed out.

Group Size

Maximum group size: 12 people for day-use, and 8 people for overnight use.


Domestic pets are allowed in the Mokelumne Wilderness at this time. You are responsible for their actions and waste as well as their welfare. In the Carson Pass Management Area pets should be leashed or physically restrained at all times. Elsewhere within the Wilderness, dogs should be either leashed or under direct voice control. Dogs can disturb other campers, get in fights with other dogs along the trail, and scare wildlife away. The Amador and Alpine County leash laws will be enforced inside the Wilderness Boundary where dogs off leash are an impediment or hazard to the safety of any person, or where dogs are harassing or molesting wildlife.

Wilderness Ethics

Wilderness areas can provide breathtaking vistas and quiet solitude. They are special places that require special behavior from each of us. Regulations alone will never guarantee protection of these special places, that will come only with your understanding of what not to do when visiting. Please educate yourself and follow Wilderness Ethics.There are several day hikes for this wilderness listed below. Permits are not required for day hikes, but please review the permit information above for overnight permits.

Day Hikes

1. Carson Pass Trailhead to Winnemucca Lake - 2.5 miles. An easy hike with great vistas. This trail passes through a spectacular wildflower display which reaches its peak in mid-July to August.
2. Winnemucca Lake to Round Top Lake - 1 mile. A steeper trail into higher elevations approaching Round Top Peak. Excellent photo opportunities of the surrounding landscape and hardy, windblown alpine and sub-alpine plant species.
3. Woods Lake Trailhead to Winnemucca Lake - 1.5 miles. This moderate hike leads you into the cool forest and opens up to magnificent, flowering meadows in mid-July and August.
4. Woods Lake Trailhead to Round Top Lake (Lost Cabin Mine Trail) - 1.9 miles. This steeper trail weaves along a creek through red fir forests with scattered open rocky areas. Look for a variety of vivid flowers tucked in the cracks!
5. Caples Trailhead to Emigrant Lake - 4.3 miles. The longest trail meanders gently along the shore of Caples Lake, climbing slightly through mixed rocky and forested areas, ending with a steeper ascent to grassy meadows surrounding shimmering Emigrant Lake.


The Mokelumne Wilderness is located south of the Lake Tahoe Basin on Highway 88.