Carson Pass Management Area Information and Permits

Trailhead information signing at Carson Pass trailhead

Due to the popularity of the Carson Pass Area, restrictions are in effect to ensure your opportunities for solitude, a primitive recreational experience, and to protect popular camping destinations from overcrowding and heavy impacts.

As you plan your trip into the Carson Pass Management Area, consider the following:

Where is the Carson Pass Management Area?

Winnemucca, Round Top, and Fourth of July Lakes and surrounding areas are considered the CPMA of the Mokelumne Wilderness. The CPMA was created to protect and promote the restoration of the shorelines and geological features in this high-use area.

Day Use Permits

  • Is there a Fee for a Day Use Permit? No.
  • Maximum group size: 12 people for day-use.

No permits are needed for day hikes in the Mokelumne Wilderness including the CPMA. Day hikers are not permitted to camp overnight. Please follow Leave No Trace guidelines and practice low-impact recreational practices.

Overnight Permits

Permits are required year-round for overnight use.

The CPMA has a different permitting system than the rest of the Mokelumne Wilderness with assigned designated camping sites in the summer at the 3 major lakes. Without the issued and signed, CPMA permit, you are prohibited from camping anywhere in the CPMA or along the trail from Woods Lake/Carson Pass trailhead to Winnemucca,
Round Top, or Fourth of July Lakes.

  • Where can I camp in the CPMA? 

    • Camping and stay limits: Camping is only allowed in 14 designated sites
      • 3 sites at Winnemucca Lake. 2-night stay limit.
      • 5 sites at Roundtop Lake. 2-night stay limit.
      • 6 sites at Fourth of July Lake. 3-night stay limit.
    • Assigned Campsites: During the summer a designated campsite is assigned when you obtain your CPMA Overnight Camping permit.
    • Snow Camping: CPMA must have a minimum of 12 inches of snow on the ground to snow camp.
  • When and where can I obtain an CPMA Overnight Camping permit? 
    • Summer = May 29th - September 29, 2023
      • Permit is obtained IN-PERSON at the Carson Pass Information Station on Highway 88 (Open only in the summer).  
        • Permits for the CPMA are NOT reservable and will be issued on the day of entry on a first-come, first-served basis.
    • Winter = September 30, 2023 - May 27, 2024
      • Permit is obtained IN-PERSON at the Amador Ranger District Office once the Carson Pass Information Station closes. Although camping is still allowed only in the 14 designated sites until 12 inches of snow falls, the campsites no longer need to be assigned on the permit.
        • The Amador District office on Silver Drive in Pioneer, CA is open for in-person visits. ​Office hours for the Amador District office are Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (closed on federal holidays and weekends).
        • For winter CPMA permits - Request permits in person or email your name, phone number, the number of people, the location you would like to stay, and a valid email address to: Walk-in requests will have priority. You will be contacted by 2 pm if you will be able to get a spot. (If the slots are filled you will not be contacted due to the large number of requests.)
  • Is there a Fee? No.
  • Is there a quota? Only 14 CPMA camping permits are available each day.  
  • Maximum group size: 
    • 8 people for overnight use.
    • If you have a larger group than is permitted, reduce the number of people, split the group to visit different areas, or visit an area which permits larger numbers. You are not permitted to camp or travel within one mile of a related group.
  • Only one permit is required per group and must remain with someone in the party at all times.
  • Each permit is good for one trip only.
  • You must enter at the trailhead designated on your permit. 
  • Campfires & Camp Stoves - Campfires are NOT allowed anywhere in the Mokelumne Wilderness (Forest Order 03-23-10). The Campfire permit covers your camp stove and lanterns and must be carried to use an “on and off” switch style gas camp stove.
  • Dogs must always be leashed and controlled. Handlers must physically restrain their dogs on a leash less than six feet throughout the duration of their visit in the CPMA and on all trails within Mokelumne Wilderness. Be considerate to other visitors and protect wildlife. Dog’s off leash can threaten wildlife or present a hazard to the safety or convenience of other visitors.
  • EMIGRANT LAKE : Camping within 300 feet of Emigrant Lake is not permitted to protect and promote the restoration of the shoreline. Camping within 300 feet of the shoreline is only permissible when there is snow on the ground. Make sure you do not dig down and cause resource damage. Pack out all waste and TP.
  • WOODS LAKE offers day use hiking but not overnight backpacking around the lake. This Lake is a developed area with a developed campground, day use area, and has privately-owned recreation residences. Overnight camping is only allowed at the Woods Lake developed campground
  • FROG LAKE: Frog Lake is open for day hiking but not overnight backpacking. This is considered part of the CPMA area, but is closed to overnight camping to protect and promote the restoration of the shoreline.
    • Winter Snow Camping at Frog Lake is allowed once the snowpack is 12 inches deep with a durable snowpack on the ground. Be vigilant of the areas below the snow. Do not dig down to the earth and cause resource damage.

Trailhead Parking - Day Use Fee 

Concession Operated Mokelumne Wilderness related Day Use Areas

  • Fee: $10.00 per vehicle per day
  • Facilities include: The Woods Lake Day Use and Trailhead areas which are now under concession management by Royal Elk Park Managment.
    • The  interagency America the Beautiful passes (Golden Age) DO NOT APPLY to concession facilities with standard amenity fees (which are typically our day use sites).
    • The Royal Elk Park Management concessionaire has developed its own Season pass for the facilities it operates.  

Forest Service Operated Mokelumne Wilderness related Day Use Areas

  • Fee: $5.00 per vehicle per day.
  • Facilities include: Carson Pass, Carson Pass Overflow and Meiss Trailheads. 
    • ​​Interagency Annual, Senior, and Access passes (America the Beautiful) ALLOW the holder to park for FREE at the Eagle Falls, Carson Pass, Carson Pass Overflow and Meiss Trailheads.
    • Winter monthsA Snow Park permit to park is required for parking at Carson Pass and the Meiss Trailheads from November 1 through April 30. Please have the permit placed on dashboard of vehicle.