This excellent hike in the Ansel Adams Wilderness combines sections of the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the John Muir Trail. The jagged minarets and beautiful panoramas make this an epic hike. What we loved about this hike was a combination of the distance, elevation, views, lakes, mountains, and just enough tranquility and solitude to make this one of the best hikes in California.
When to Go
The best time to go is during the Summer and Fall. Due to the high elevation snow can potentially be covering the area through May.
How to Get There
The trailhead starts at Agnew Meadows. Parking is available at Mammoth Lakes near the ski lifts where you will have to take a shuttle to the trailhead.
This is a loop hike, that requires a permit. You can reserve permits in advance or by walk-in at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center. It is located at 2510 Main Street, Route 203. Different routes for the area have quotas on the number of hikers. Arrive early in the morning for your best chance to get a permit. Reservations can also be made in advance for Inyo National Forest Trailheads at recreation.gov.
High Trail has a quota of 12 advance and 8 walk-in permits.
Shadow Creek Trail has a quota of 18 advance and 12 walk-in permits.
Thousand Island Lake Trail has a quota of 18 advance and 12 walk-in permits.
Hike Details: Ediza Lake and Thousand Island Lakes Loop
Trailhead: Agnew Meadows
Distance: 24-27 miles (39 – 44 kms)
Elevation Gain: 4,500+ feet (1,370+ meters)
Time: 2-3 days
Day 1: Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake via High Trail
Distance: 9 miles (14.5 kms)
Begin the hike from Agnew Meadow at the High Trail trailhead. This trail begins with switchbacks and is mostly exposed. Several miles of the hike are along the ridgeline with views of the Minarets and Shadow Lake. There is minimal water sources until Thousand Island Lakes. Camp near Thousand Island Lakes or the river just before the lake.
Day 2: Thousand Island Lakes to Iceberg Lake via JMT and Shadow Creek Trail
Distance: 8 Miles (12.9 kms)
After a morning stroll around Thousand Island Lakes, take the JMT to Garnett Lake. It largest lake in the area and is a great place to explore. Hike the trail that encircles the lake or spend some time enjoying the views of the snow-capped Minarets behind the lake. Continue on the JMT at the western most point of the lake. There is a stream flowing out of the river at this point, requiring you to walk over the bridge. Turn right to continue on the JMT. Following the 10,000 foot pass in this section, the trail descends down into the forest. The trail will intersect with another trail, leading you to Shadow Lake (left) or Ediza Lake (right). Head to right and continue on the trail along the eastern shores of Ediza Lake. Look for the small sign for Iceberg Lake. Take this trail, where you can set up camp for the night. It is one of the best backcountry campsites we have ever been to.
Day 3: Ediza Lake to Agnew Meadows via Shadow Creek Trail and JMT
Distance: 7 Miles (11.3 kms)
The last day of the hike is a descent back to Ediza Lake and onwards to Shadow Lake. Follow the Shadow Creek Trail along the lake. The trail then connects to the River Trail. Turn right to return to Agnew Meadows. This last day will be a total descent of nearly 2,000 feet. Wait for the shuttle, and make a quick stop at the Devil’s Postpile National Monument, before heading back to Mammoth Lakes parking.
What to Bring on the Hike
Cooking stove & fuel
Small utility rope to hang clothes
Light waterproof jacket
Pack rain cover
Rent bear-proof canisters from the visitors center, which are required on this hike
During the months of June and July, this hike is overrun with mosquitos. Make sure to bring proper repellent, long sleeve shirts for sunrise/sunset, and bring Benadryl for excessive bites.
Check out our other posts from California:
- Backpacking Santa Rosa, Channel Islands
- Exploring Angel Island: San Francisco
- Hiking Guide to Half Dome
- Hiking Mount Tallac: Lake Tahoe
- Thousand Island Lakes Loop: Mammoth, California
- Trinity Alps Hike to Caribou Lakes
- Ultimate Guide to Point Reyes