Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Backpack to Thousand Island Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness

thousand island lake backpacking

Ingredients for a stellar backpacking trip: an idyllic destination, stupendous views along the way, and the chance to catch a mirrored sunrise on a lake. A trip to Thousand Island Lake in the Eastern Sierra’s Ansel Adams Wilderness has this magical trio. The High Trail (a section of the Pacific Crest Trail) is a 10-mile entrance into this beautiful slice of the Sierra, with a setting that’s (of course) straight out of an Ansel Adams photograph: a 9,500-foot-high glacier-fed lake in a granite bowl backed by iconic Banner Peak.

backpack thousand island lake

backpack to Thousand Island lake

backpack to Thousand Island Lake

The trek in is Sierra spectacular as far as meadow and mountain scenery, but it's not easy! Altitude can make it a bit more of a huff and puff, but take plenty of breaks en route, hydrate, and keep your spirits up! The reward at 9,500 hundred feet is the sanctuary of solitude as you soak in the sunset on the lake with beautiful Banner Peak reflecting on the water. and reflecting on the water.

You’ll need a wilderness permit to camp at Thousand Island Lake. Make a reservation ahead of time for your permit. There is a quota and spaces fill up. You'll start at the Agnew Meadows trailhead. The High Trail is often used as the most reliable route to the lake, though you can consider hiking in on the combined Shadow Lake Trail, River Trail, and John Muir Trail. The best thing to do is consult the Mammoth Welcome Center in Mammoth Lakes for current trail information and maps for the hike. No campfires. No dogs.

thousand island lake backpacking

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