Location: Devil’s Postpile Shuttle (Mammoth Mountain), Mammoth Lakes, California, United States
We need to say that this is one of the must-do backpacking trails for you since it offers beautiful and popular stretch. You are going to start your adventure at the John Muir Trail that is between Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite. Best of all, you can do this adventure in a long hike weekend. Three days of backpacking here is more than enough.
How To Get The Permits
It is different from most through hikes that need two cars or hitchhiking. You can still complete this adventure with one car by using the YART. This is the benefit if you enter in Mammoth that you can get the permits easier compared to start in Yosemite since the permits are quite difficult to get. Once you visit the Tuolumne Meadow, take one of the YARTs back to Mammoth together with your car. Get more information about YARTs here at yarts.com
The Route To Backpack From Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows
If you want to hike in the same direction, the first thing to do is to get the permits for the River Trail Trailhead. It does not a big deal if you cannot that there are still other options in the Devil’s Postpile area to bring you to the same places. Get permits is easy that you should visit at recreation.gov and then find Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permits. Make sure that you read all the details about Devil’s Postpile Shuttles and bring enough cash to pay anything and the return of YARD from Tuolumne Meadows to Mammoth Mountain.
Right after exiting the Devil’s Postpile shuttle at the Agnew Meadows, you can walk towards the campground. There, you will see the trailhead down the road and take on the left. For the first two miles, you will find The Shadow Lake Trail and the River Trail. For The Shadow Lake Trail, it will branch off to the left in just 2 miles. You should head straight on the river trail and take 2.7 miles so you can reach another junction. Keep your way to the left and follow the sign of Thousand Island Lake. Take 1/2 a mile and you will see the trail on the left. This is the turnoff that will bring you to Garnet Lake.
Go to the Garnett Lake means that you must be ready to deal with the steep hike up the hill. Take the next 1/2 mile and you will ascend over the 500 feet to the junction with the John Muir Trail and also Garnet Lake. We do not recommend this trail if you are traveling with animals.
At the Garnet Lake, you can start looking the best spot to camp. It can be very windy so that you should camp behind the natural windbreak. You can spend the rest of your day enjoying the majestic views of Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter.
For day two, you can enjoy the sunrise at the Garnet Lake with the sun that reflects off of Banner Peak. Pack up and keep your camera runs well that you will pass some of the beautiful views in John Muir Trail, the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Back to the John Muir Trail and you will go to the North toward the Thousand Island Lake. Hike the hill climb as the ridge between Thousand Island Lake and Garnet Lake. After that, traverse across a bench of Ruby Lake and Emerald Lake. Take another 2.6 miles to reach Thousand Island Lake. Stop and then soak in the beauty of the lake with multiple vantage points. What we recommend is the junction with PCT and up the JMT. You will ascend toward the Island Pass to enjoy the view of the lake and the islands around it.
Once in the Island Pass, take another 1 mile downhill and there will be a trail junction to reach the Davis Lakes. From there, you need an additional mile back uphill to explore the first Davis Lake. At this point, you may notice the stretch of JMT. Start your camp at Davis Lakes with its breathtaking views.
Three-day backpacking in this area is awesome that it is worth for you to make a very long day. Following the route above means, you take 20 miles. If you don’t mind to take the next 4.6 miles uphill, you will find the Donahue Pass.
At the Donahue Pass, you can celebrate your adventure because the uphill is ended. Nevertheless, if we have to say about the most challenging part of this hike, the answer is the steep downhill right before you reach the mellow-graded Lyell Canyon floor. Gladly, the ice-cold beer is about 15.4 miles away in the Tuolumne Meadows. It is possible to split the section up and then camp in the Lyell Canyon.
Descending from the Donahue Pass, you can find a beautiful tarn below the Mt. Lyell and the descent will get steep in sections. And then, you can reach the upper end of the Lyell Canyon with some flat trail that will spoil your knees. Nevertheless, don’t be too happy that there will be one last downhill section that will also test your knees before you are reaching at the bottom. At the bottom, you should stop and give a break for your feet to take a quick soak in the river and after that take the last several miles on the mellow trail. At this point, you should stop to look back up the Canyon at the Mt. Lyell and the Lyell Glacier and you could not believe how far you have hiked.
Well, the rest of the hike is flat through the forest so you reach Tuolumne Meadows. There, the YART stop is at the General Store that also serves food with the excellent option of ice-cold beer. It is the time to celebrate your adventure while waiting for the ride back to the Mammoth.
Basic Information About Backpacking From Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows
Backpack, shelter, food, water purifier, rain gear depends on the season, safety essentials (compass, map, first aid, and others), permits, YARTs
RT Distance: 33.69 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4756 Feet
Great for: Camping, fishing, photography, hiking, and backpacking
Ideal for: Intermediate backpackers
Best time to visit: Spring, summer, and autumn
The trail: Point-to-Point
Other highlights: Forest, lake, river, wildflowers, and wildlife