Celebrate Your Independence
The Fourth of July Lake is located in the Mokelumne Wilderness of the Sierra Mountains. It is situated in the Carson Pass management area of the wilderness which is the most visited section. The draw is the outstanding lakes that frequent the northern parts of the Mokelumne. The Mokelumne are unique to the Sierra which are known for its Granite features. While there are fabulous granite outcroppings here, the Mokelumne are made up of volcanic ridges and peaks. Originally occupied by the Minok Indians the word Mokelumne roughly translates to People of Fishnet. Along this hike we will pass by the two tallest mountains in the Mokelumne Wilderness. Those being Round Top at 10,382, which is an ancient volcanic vent made up of hardened ash and lava and the neighboring mountain, The Sisters, two peaks, one of which is 10,153 in elevation. To reach our destination we will approach Round Top from the north circle around to the west of The Sisters and arrive at The Fourth of July Lake which is south of The Sisters.
Overnight stays or campfires require a permit which can be obtained at the trailhead in summer months. No campfires are allowed above 8,000 feet. There is a five dollar exact change day use fee to park in the often crowded parking lot. Self pay booths are on site and there is overflow parking just west and across the street.
The trailhead is located along side the visitor center at Carson Pass. Initially we are on the Pacific Crest Trail(PCT). At about one mile there is an unmarked Y intersection. To the left is Frog Lake. Take the right trail and continue another quarter of a mile. This is a marked intersection with the left fork being the PCT. Take the right fork heading towards Winnemucca Lake. This section of trail quite often has a vast array of wildflowers that last into the month of August. Distant panoramic views include Caples lake off to the right. At 1.35 miles past leaving the PCT, Winnemucca Lake comes into view. Soon you arrive at another intersection. To the left is Winnemucca Lake, to the right is Woods Lake. Go straight towards Round Top Lake. The trail crosses a tree trunk bridge over a creek and starts its climb towards Round Top which looms ahead on your left. This section of trail is about .90 miles. Round Top Lake comes into view with Round Top Mountain directly behind it and The Sisters to the right of Round Top also behind the lake creating a dramatic effect. Thick blocks of snow and ice commonly hold onto the northern cliffs of these mountains deep into summer. From Round Top Lake there is another trail intersection. To the left is Round Top Lake to the right is another trail to Woods Lake. Go straight ahead towards the Fourth of July Lake. The trail climbs again to a maximum elevation of 9300 shortly after Round Top Lake. We now begin our descent to The Fourth of July Lake which is located at 8160 elevation. As a day hike remember to save some energy for the return trip. Soon you come to a rock outcropping that used to have a sign. All that remains are two stubs which supported the sign. it's a nice resting spot. Off to the right you will notice a ribbon like trail heading up to a peak. That is Fourth of July Peak. As a possible side journey, it offers great views of the area. There is no register on top as of this writing so bring one if you are in the area. The trail begins to serpentine down into the canyon. Spectacular granite mountains surround The fourth of July Lake and often have water falls from melting snows. The two mile descent would be a drag but for the fact that you can see The Fourth of July Lake from the top and it tends to draw you in. Just thinking of the cool swim ahead lures you down the canyon. A trail intersection at the bottom directs you to the left for Summit City Creek and to the right for The Fourth of July Lake. The destination is all that you want it to be. A lovely setting but don't forget the bug spray. The overflow from The Fourth of July Lake forms Summit City Creek which flows another 1,000 feet down into the canyon to the east of the lake. Be sure to take in some views into the abyss east of The Fourth of July Lake before you begin the two mile climb to the top returning the way you came and continuing out to Carson Pass. Still have some energy on your way back ? Try to bag Round Top or The Sisters.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.