in Ansel Adams Wilderness
With high summit-reflecting waters, Ediza Lake is beautiful to behold. The lake is wrapped by meadows and trees and sports massive views of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak, making it a popular destination for hikers in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Inyo National Forest. Starting from Agnew Meadows near Mammoth Lakes, Ediza Lake is reachable on a rewarding full day hike of over 14 miles round trip with 1,250 feet of elevation change. The hike incorporates short sections of Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail. The surroundings are spectacular and Ediza Lake is a great target for backpackers trekking in the Sierra.
The hike to Ediza Lake begins from Agnew Meadows. Start by following directions to Shadow Lake.
The basic directions approaching Shadow Lake are:
- Begin up River Trail (Pacific Crest Trail) from Agnew Meadows (0 miles)
- Stay to the right through a junction where PCT breaks off toward Reds Meadow (0.9 miles)
- Descend into a canyon and stay to the right past another trail to Reds Meadow (1.55 miles)
- Pass Olaine Lake (2.15 miles)
- Turn left up Shadow Creek Trail (2.5 miles)
- Reach the outlet of Shadow Lake (3.85 miles)
There are two more junctions beyond Shadow Lake on the route to Ediza Lake. Hike along Shadow Lake, getting big views of the lake and glimpses of the mountains above. If you like the view of Mount Ritter from here, you’ll love the much bigger perspective of the 13,143-foot peak from Ediza Lake. Push past Shadow Lake and continue up Shadow Creek Trail, bordering the tumbling creek that flows into Shadow Lake. The trail soon comes to a T-junction with John Muir Trail. To the left, JMT crosses a bridge and goes south toward Devils Postpile National Monument. To the right, JMT aims toward Yosemite National Park. Turn right to take John Muir Trail to a junction with the next section of Shadow Creek Trail heading to Ediza Lake.
Shadow Creek Trail overlaps John Muir Trail for the next 0.7 miles. Hike though lodgepole pines above Shadow Creek, which is packed with short, scenic cascades. At the next junction, John Muir Trail proceeds north toward Garnet Lake and Thousand Island Lake. Turn left to take Shadow Creek Trail to Ediza Lake. It is another 1.75 miles up to the lake over mostly gradual creek-side terrain with a few rocky climbs.
This upper section of Shadow Creek Trail begins with a lovely stroll through lodgepole pines along a meandering creek. The slow stream winds its way through forest and small meadows and is lovely to hike along. Things are quite gradual for 2/3 of a mile, until the trail hits a rocky slope on the side of the canyon. Hike up the bedrock, getting above the trees for views of surrounding peaks and ridges. The trail goes back and forth between rocky terrain and gentler creekside hiking for the duration.
At 0.3 miles below Ediza Lake (6.7 miles from Agnew Meadows), take a double log bridge across the creek that flows from the lake. A small cascade just upstream adds a scenic backdrop to the crossing. You’re close to Ediza Lake now. A switchback goes up through a gap between ridges to the outlet of Ediza Lake.
Ediza Lake is a gem in the High Sierra, wrapped by forests, meadows, and formations of boulders. The opening created by the lake gives way to massive views of Mount Ritter and Banner Peak. Take the trail along the lake and you’ll get dramatic views of these lofty mountains. Mount Ritter is 13,143 feet tall and Banner Peak looks just as massive at 12,936 feet. Snow shelves cling to the slopes of these high peaks, which are connected by a jagged ridge.
Proceed along the shore through a few clusters of mountain hemlock and enjoy more views across the lake. Drop to a grassy spot along the shore and, at 0.3 miles past the outlet of Ediza Lake (7.3 miles from Agnew Meadows), reach a marked junction with a trail on the left that ascends another mile to Iceberg Lake, a vivid blue lake below the Minarets. A path continues to the right along the shore of Ediza Lake, offering even more lakeside views.
If you are interested in staying overnight, camping is not allowed on the east or south sides of Ediza Lake. Most of the north shore of Ediza Lake backs up against a rocky ridge, which leaves the west side for camping. There are nice meadows on this far side of the lake where you can put up tents. Another camping option is to continue up the trail to Iceberg Lake and camp by that lake or in the meadow just below.
Ediza Lake is a beauty. Day hikers will reach the lake after 7 miles, but if you spend some time hiking along the shore of the lake, your round trip distance could be closer to 15 miles. The hike begins with a 230-foot descent followed by a 1,250-foot ascent to Ediza Lake, so on the trek back you will finish with a climb to Agnew Meadows. Backpackers may wish to spend an extra day at Ediza Lake to explore the scenic surroundings. For a gorgeous multi-day trek, consider the Ediza Lake – Thousand Island Lake Loop.
Dogs are allowed on leashes on the hike to Ediza Lake. Overnight camping is not allowed around Shadow Lake, along Shadow Creek, or along the south and east sides of Ediza Lake. The trailhead has a small parking area, toilets, and a bear-proof storage locker.
No permit is required to day hike in Ansel Adams Wilderness. A permit is required for any overnight trips and a trail quota is in place. The 18 daily permits for Shadow Creek Trail that can be reserved in advance book up quickly. The other 12 walk-in permits can be obtained at Inyo National Forest Ranger Stations starting at 11 a.m. the previous day. Arrive earlier than eleven, take a number, and wait in line if you are determined to get a walk-in permit. Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is the nearest Inyo National Forest Ranger Station. The center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and distributes permits and rents bear-proof canisters. The ranger station is located at 2510 Main Street (Route 203) on the road into Mammoth Lakes.
When traveling in the backcountry, you may with to carry an SOS beacon and communicator.
While there is no cost for the permit, there is a fee to take the shuttle or a vehicle on the road to Agnew Meadows. If you stay at a campground in the Reds Meadow Area during you visit (like Devils Postpile National Monument Campground), you are permitted to drive in and park at the trailhead. Those not staying overnight at a developed campground will need to park at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort and shuttle in from there (get off at the first shuttle stop for Agnew Meadows). A $10 vehicle fee is charged to drive in. The shuttle charges by the individual (current pricing). From the Agnew Meadows Shuttle Stop, it is an additional 0.4-mile walk down a gravel road to the trailhead for River Trail.
To get to the trailhead: Take Route 395 to Route 203 and drive 3.6 miles to Mammoth Lakes. Turn right onto Minaret Road toward Mammoth Mountain. Reach the ski resort after 4 miles. Unless you are staying at a campground during your visit, park here and take the shuttle to Agnew Meadows. If you are driving in, go 1.4 miles past the ski resort to Minaret Vista Entrance Station where a 10-dollar fee is charged for each vehicle to continue down into the valley. Drive 2.6 miles down a narrow paved road to a horseshoe bend at the intersection with Agnew Meadows Road. Turn right and drive 0.4 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.
Trailhead address: Agnew Meadows Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Trailhead coordinates: 37.682, -119.086 (37° 40′ 55.20″N 119° 05′ 09.59″W)
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Or view a regional map of surrounding Sierra Nevada trails and campgrounds.
|Ediza Lake - Thousand Island Lake Loop |
This multi-day backpacking loop of around 25 miles incorporates sections of John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail to visit a series of stunning Sierra lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Inyo National Forest.
|Shadow Lake |
This 8.5-mile hike crosses a picturesque canyon and passes a plunging cascade to visit a mountain lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Inyo National Forest near Mammoth Lakes.
|Iceberg Lake |
This short extension off the trail to Ediza Lake heads to a higher lake in a sublime setting below a ridge of steep spires called the Minarets.
|Garnet Lake |
This beautiful lake along John Muir Trail is 8.55 miles from the trailhead at Agnew Meadows, making it an ideal lake to visit on a backpacking loop.
|Thousand Island Lake |
This exceptional lake is a true gem of the Sierra and is 8.75 miles from the trailhead at Agnew Meadows via High Trail, a section of Pacific Crest Trail, making it a great destination for an overnight trek.
|Devils Postpile |
This 1 to 1.35-mile hike visits the columnar basalt cliff that Devils Postpile National Monument is named after, with top-down and bottom-up views of the impressive formation. The hike can be extended to include Rainbow Falls at the south end of the monument.
|Rainbow Falls |
This hike of 5.1 miles or more passes the Devils Postpile Formation to visit an attractive 101-foot waterfall with rainbows in its mist.
|Minaret Falls |
This 3-mile hike from Devils Postpile National Monument connects with Pacific Crest Trail to reach the base of a waterfall that tumbles and slides down a rocky slope.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains |
Explore other destinations in Inyo National Forest and the rest of the range.
|Devils Postpile National Monument Campground |
This 21-site first-come first-serve campground provides camping in a pine forest next the Middle Fork San Joaquin River near the trailhead for Devils Postpile National Monument.
Approximately what time of year is the trail clear to hike? Can you get in there in early May?
I would say late June is probably the earliest you could hike it without too much snow. You could probably get by with microspikes in early June. Early May will still 100% be snow covered in all of the sierras.
Would like to hike hike up to Ediza Lake in a couple of weeks. Will it be a problem crossing the San Joaquin River? Is the trail well marked? Is there any fishing up there?
Is this a good fall hike? Around mid October?
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