Ediza, Garnet and Thousand Island Lake Loop
Mammoth Lakes, California
Why would you want to hike and carry your gear for 24 miles? How about waking up to lake front and mountain peak views everyday and the potential to see a total of 7 lakes. The sunrises, sunsets and mirror-like reflections at each of these lakes along with the stars at night will provide you with a huge playground to explore. The end of the loop will also reward you with great views of the peaks you saw while camping at each of the lakes, giving you a beautiful conclusion to your multi-day backpacking trip.
The trail starts in Agnew Meadows campground in Mammoth Lakes, where you can park your car. You'll need to get a Wilderness Permit for the Inyo National Forest to be able to camp overnight - specifically, the Shadow Creek Trail. You can obtain a permit online at Recreation.gov or attempt to get a walk-in permit at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center (Inyo National Forest Ranger Station). Details on the hours and location of the Welcome Center can be found HERE.
We recommend hiking this loop over 4 days - this will give you enough time to explore each lake, relax and smell the flowers. As there are multiple trails that lead to and/or connect each of the lakes, we've provided a brief summary for you to follow. Be sure to print the U.S. Forest Service map for Agnew Meadows Area Trails and bring it with you as a reference. You can find the map by clicking HERE.
Day One: Starting from Agnew Meadows, take the Shadow Creek Trail to Ediza Lake. Along the way, stop and take a break at Shadow Lake. Camp overnight at Ediza Lake. I highly recommend doing a morning hike to Iceberg Lake from here (only two miles roundtrip) - the trail, the perfectly calm and clear lake and the peaks above it are all worth the short hike. You'll find the trailhead on the west side of Ediza Lake (look for the Iceberg Lake sign).
Day Two: Hike back down the Shadow Creek Trail and take a left onto the John Muir Trail to reach Garnet Lake. Camp overnight at Garnet Lake.
Day Three: Catch the John Muir Trail again and pass Ruby and Emerald Lakes to get to Thousand Island Lake. Note that there is no sign for this trail. You will see the trail go up on the northeast side of Garnet Lake. Make sure you do not take the trail directly next to the bridge on the east side of the lake. The trail next to the bridge would lead you to the River Trail which also could bring you to Thousand Island Lake, but it would take you much longer and you'd miss out on seeing Ruby and Emerald Lakes. Camp overnight at Thousand Island Lake.
Day Four: Starting from the east side of Thousand Island Lake, take the Pacific Crest Trail aka the High Trail, back down to Agnew Meadows. Be sure to start early so you'll have plenty of time to take photos with the amazing canyon views.
Below is the approximate mileage and elevation change for each day of the trip:
One: Agnew Meadows to Ediza Lake: 7.3 miles +1,250 feet
Two: Ediza Lake to Garnet Lake: 5.4 miles +665 feet
Three: Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake: 2.4 miles +465 feet
Four: Thousand Island Lake to Agnew Meadows: 8.8 miles -1,515 feet
At the time of this writing, there were camping restrictions for portions of each of the above lakes to restore areas that have been heavily used over the years. Check in with the rangers to see the latest camping restrictions before you start your hike.
Pack light. This is a multi-day backpacking trip and you don't need to break your back. Check our Backpacking Hacks & Tips page for a few ideas.
Don't forget to bring a bear canister as they are required here.
Do not leave anything with a scent in your car - bears can and will break into your car. There are bear-proof storage lockers at the parking area for Agnew Meadows. Be sure to leave your name and date of return on anything you leave in the lockers.
Email your itinerary with dates and trail names (or this webpage) to two emergency contacts and tell them when you will contact them to let them know you've made it back safely. This way, if you ran into an emergency and didn't make it back they'd know when they should contact the Rangers/Police.
Be sure to check the weather before you go as conditions at this location can rapidly change.