Carson Spur


Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 1.4 miles round trip or 1.8 miles round trip via alternate return route
7850 feet
+400, -400 feet or +600, -600 feet via alternate return route
Navigation Map and compass
Time Short
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 lands to the south of Highway 88 between Martin Meadow and Carson Spur offer a variety of terrain from gentle to steep slopes. This area is very wooded, except for the meadow itself, and touring through it gives a feeling of exploring.

The tour to the Carson Spur, a rock outcrop above Highway 88, is but one of the destinations possible in this area. It is short, interesting and is easily made longer by further exploring the area. Obvious extensions lead to the Two Sentinels and Martin Point.

The open slope to the southwest of Carson Spur offers excellent downhill practice when the snow is consolidated and the weather warm. The slope's southern exposure causes it to "corn-up" quickly. Aspiring telemarkers can yoyo this slope and then end the day by descending it, and returning to the starting point by the alternate route described.

A compass is not needed in order to complete this tour. However, carrying one is advisable because the terrain is often non-descript and trees often obscure view of the predominant geographic features. In the worse case, it is a simple matter with the aid of a compass to ski north to Highway 88 and then along the highway back to the starting point.

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.

Image of jet roofs on Carson Spur
Jet roofs on Carson Spur

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. Always stay on the south side of the jet roofs; never travel on the north side.

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 climbing gradually and then more steeply, until you reach the ridgetop (2) adjacent to Carson Spur.

Miles: 0.7 - 1.4
Elevation change: -400 feet

Retrace the route for 0.7 mile back to the trailhead (1) or follow the alternative return route described below.

Alternate Return Route

The following is an alternate return route. It adds 0.4 mile and +200, -200 feet of elevation change. Navigation and skiing are more difficult due to dense trees in some locations.

Miles: 0.7 - 1.4
Elevation change: -600 feet

Descend southwest through mixed open areas and trees for 0.7 miles until the terrain becomes flat (3). In places the trees are dense.

Miles: 1.4 - 1.8
Elevation change: +200 feet

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

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Elevation Profile
with return via alternate route
Elevation 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