Two Sentinels


Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 2.8 miles round trip or 3.1 miles round trip via alternate return route
7850 feet
+800, -800 feet or +1000, -1000 via alternate return route
Navigation Map and compass
Time Several hours
Season Mid-December through April
Snowmobiles Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Caples Lake
Start South side of Highway 88 at the summer trailhead for Thunder Mountain, 0.2 miles east of an eastbound passing lane and 0.3 mile west of the Carson Spur. Parking is in a small plowed area.

Alternative parking on south side of Highway 88 along the eastbound passing lane in small cuts made by CalTrans. The passing lane is located between 0.5 and 1.2 miles west of the Carson Spur. Special notice.


The Two Sentinels guarding the ridge above Kirkwood Meadows offer most of the allure of the Martin Point tour without the very steep sections. The terrain, the snow and the vistas are all worth the effort to reach this destination. The tranquility of lunch on this high ridge with the slopes falling off below you is a reason to return again and again.

Image between Carson Spur and Two Sentinels
Between Carson Spur and Two Sentinels

Like the Martin Point tour, the Two Sentinels tour offers an alternate return route. Skiers proficient in the telemark turn and who enjoy powder skiing through trees, dense at times, will want to choose the alternate return route that follows the east-west drainage that lies to the north of Martin Point. This route ekes out the last foot of elevation drop before heading back to the highway. Depending on the temperature, the powder in the drainage lasts for a week or more due to protection from the sun by the ridge to the south and the trees.

A word of caution. A compass and the knowledge of how to determine general directions are advisable if you plan on leaving the ridge and skiing through the trees on the return.

The jet roofs along the ridge of which Carson Spur is a part are designed to accelerate the wind and blow snow off the ridge thereby preventing the build-up of a cornice that would eventually avalanche onto the highway below. GAZ-EX avalanche control cannons are located on the slope that descends to the highway and are used to clear the slopes of potential avalanche. Stay on the south side of the jet roofs; never travel on the north side.

Finally, don't be surprised to find SnoCat tracks left by the crews that service the jet roofs and other avalanche control equipment.

The tour to the Carson Spur is a short version of the Two Sentinels tour. It will allow you to see the "jet roofs" and practice tele-turns if you desire.

Image of one of the Two Sentinels
One of the Two Sentinels

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

This mileage log begins at the summer trailhead for Thunder Mountain. Adjustments to the described route are required if parking at the alternative location.

Miles: 0.0 - 0.7
Elevation change: +400 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski east for 0.7 mile, at first gradually and then more steeply, until you reach the ridgetop (2) adjacent to Carson Spur.

Miles: 0.7 - 1.3
Elevation change: +400 feet

Ski southeast for 0.6 mile until you reach the first of the Two Sentinels (3).

Miles: 1.3 - 1.4
Elevation change: Nil

Ski southeast for 0.1 mile to the second of the Two Sentinels (4).

Miles: 1.4 - 2.8
Elevation change: -800 feet

Retrace the route for 1.4 miles back to the trailhead (1) or follow the alternative route described below.

Alternate Return Route

The following is an alternate return route. It adds 0.3 mile and +200, -200 feet of elevation change. Navigation and skiing are more difficult due to dense trees.

Miles: 1.4 - 2.7
Elevation change: -1000 feet

Descend west through the trees for 1.3 miles until the terrain becomes flat (5). The trees in this section are dense in places. Ski north and away from the creek when necessary to find more open terrain.

Miles: 2.7 - 3.1
Elevation change: +200 feet

Ski north for 0.4 mile until you reach Highway 88 and the trailhead (1).


Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Elevation Profile
with return via alternate route
Profile with return via alternate route
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour