Did an overnighter to Thousand Island Lake and back on Saturday, 17 September 2016, to Sunday, 18 September 2016. Started 12PM via the PCT High Trail at Agnew Meadows Trailhead. Arrived at campsite by 6:10PM. Little more of a brutal/long hike than I expected, but I carried most of the weight for group of two, other person was a little slower as this was a first for them backpacking. Left next day at 11AM via the River Trail. Arrived at Agnew Meadows Trailhead at 3:30PM. Significantly easier and faster hike back. You are descending from Thousand Island Lake the entire way, except for the last 1.5 mile pitch back up to Agnew Meadows, which is pretty steep. Took along a first-time backpacker who did very well but struggled the last two miles both ways. It's a long hike but worth it.
This was the first weekend after Labor Day. The shuttle was closed down for the season (stops after Labor Day), but the road to Agnew Meadows was still open (closes after October 1, after which you can hike in/ski in from Minaret Vista ranger station. I'm not sure if gate will be unlocked to drive/park at Agnew even if there is no snow. So that would add about 3 more miles to the journey both ways), so we could simply drive to and park at the Agnew Meadows Trailhead since the road was open. However, the trailhead was extremely packed, and there were no spaces to park. I somehow found a way to slip my truck into a small spot between a handicapped spot and a tree. You cannot park your car on any non-dirt/non-paved surface. Cannot park on top of any foliage. They will check this and put stickers on your wheels to mark overnight vehicles. So you can't get away with not purchasing a permit and overnight your hike (they take down your make/model/color when you pick up your permit, not sure how that works for when people get their permits night-dropped though...).
Temperatures for this weekend were about high 70s to low 80s during the day. I hiked in camo pants and t-shirt. Could have gone shorts. Temperature fell to high 30s low 40s at night. I went to sleep in shorts and shirt and woke up to put a jacket on (had a black synthetic MSS surplus sleeping bag). Other person had a 0 degree North Face Furnace bag and slept in shorts/shirt and was fine. I don't recall wind being an issue at all. Saw two does and two fawns on the High Trail hiking in. Saw another doe prancing through our campsite right as we were going to sleep towards end of dusk. Woke up and had alpine lake–filtered french-press coffee. 10/10. Altitude didn't prove to be a problem to me, but other person may have been getting too winded for normal towards the last 1.5 mile stretch on the way back. Doing this trip there and back all within 28 hours is probably not recommended for newer hikers. But that's all I could do with when I got the entry date for my permit and a normal work week.
Additional hidden costs to get to Thousand Island Lake from the Bay Area:
1) $30 fee to get through Yosemite Park ranger stations via CA-120. We left night before entry date so we passed through after-hours ranger stations, so it was free. However, if you go through in the day and pay, the pass should be good for 7 days, which should be long enough to cover you on your return route. If not, you will have to pay $30 again at the Tioga Pass ranger station. Good news is that both payments add up to $60 which qualifies you for the $60 Yosemite Annual Pass, so now you can go anywhere in Yosemite for free now and not have to pay a fee. I'm not sure how to get those two receipts exchanged for the pass, but Rangers could probably do it then and there. So keep your receipts. My trip was under 7 days, so I only paid once. However, my $30 is good towards the Yosemite $60 pass or America the Beautiful $80 pass up to a year I believe. Again, save your receipts either way.
2) Permits: 2 $5/person permit reservations plus a $6/group reservation fee totaled $16. Had to rent a bear canister for two days at $2.5/day for total of $5. Total for permit and fees for two people was $21.
3) Minaret Vista ranger station fee (to get from Mammoth to the Trailhead to park) was $10.
Wish I could have stayed longer and climbed Mt. Ritter at Thousand Island Lake on Day 2, then Day 3 hike over the pass between Thousand Island Lake and Garnet Lake and camp at Garnet, then Day 4 hike to Shadow/Ediza Lakes and camp, and Day 5 hike back. Life got in the way, but it was a great trip nonetheless. I also packed too much food, clothes, and water. I hiked in and hiked out in the same outfit, and then slept in clean dry clothes with a jacket. Didn't need anything else. Carried too much water (6L for 2 people) when I could have filtered along the way (didn't know that since I've never been). Used my Sawyer Squeeze for first time which was great. Thousand Island Lake water tasted as pure as it gets.
That's all I have. Was a good trip. Hope all that was helpful. I didn't get any of that info when I was researching.
"If you have just 1 day in the Lee Vining area, I highly recommend to go on this hike", - said one review I've read, and I most whole-heartedly agree.
The trail is very easy - it's almost level, so if you are feeling ok at high elevation, it will feel like a walk in a city park. The views, though, are so gorgeous, that no city part can match!
The loop is actually 8 miles, not 16, if you start from the Saddlebag Resort parking. And you can cut the trail in half by taking a ferry from there across the Saddlebag lake.
More photos of this incredible hike here: Twenty Lakes Basin (Lee Vining)
Just finished this trail yesterday. The autumn colors really came out and was a magnificent sight to see! Our trip from Agnew Meadows to Ediza Lake was a total of 14 miles. This is a good trip for beginners that are just getting into backpacking! The steep ascend to Shadow Lake is a good challenge, which is highly rewarded with the view.
This is the most gorgeous hike I have ever been on. Wow. My life won't be the same. Definitely make this a three day trip by spending the night at Ebiza lake and on Day 2, hiking to Thousand Island lake, and then on Day 3 taking the PCT back (nearly all downhill) to the Shadow Lake trailhead. I've never seen anything more beautiful.
I consider myself a pretty seasoned hiker, but I found this hike to be unusually brutal. I did do it in one day though, and didn't get out early enough so I didn't have much time for breaks.
Beautiful hike. Shadow Lake is breathtaking especially when the water is calm and you can see the reflection of Banner and Ritter in the water. The climb up to Shadow Lake from the bridge is exhausting and very rocky and was only 0.5 miles but took close to an hour. Plan for these climbs when trying to calculate the amount of time it will take. Shadow Lake is a good place to take a break. The climb out of Shadow up to Ediza seemed even more tiring but there is a lot of shade and a creek with several waterfalls follows the trail. There are also some beautiful marshes. There are some extended sections of rock (similar to the Shadow Lake climb). The hike ends with a sketchy log bridge which was kind of cool. Ediza Lake is magnificent. Enjoy all the work you did to get here because you are much closer to the tops of the Minarets than you were when you started! The wildflowers were in the middle of their bloom at this elevation where they had all withered down lower in the valley.
I was hoping to get to Iceberg and maybe even Cecile, but I was exhausted and couldn't take any more climbing. I am glad I skipped those as I just barely made the last bus out of the valley. I'll do those on another trip.
Remember that repellent wears off, especially with sweat. I put plenty on, but had to rush on my way back to make the shuttle bus and didn't put more on. I was eaten alive by mosquitoes, especially near Olaine Lake.
This hike would be absolutely amazing as a camping trip so you can go at your leisure and take plenty of breaks.
You really couldn't ask for anything more on this trail. Hiking under a canopy of trees, raging waterfalls and of course the tranquil, yet breathtaking Ediza Lake. My numbers read 14 miles out and back with 1802 ft total elevation gain. A bucket list item for sure.
My husband and I enjoyed this hike Memorial Day weekend 2014 while camping at Red's Meadow. We hike pretty regularly and accomplished the 15 miles, 2898 ft ascent, as a day hike in just over 7 hours with plenty of snack breaks and even lunch at Ediza Lake.
The first mile is pretty flat along Agnew Meadow and just as you enter into the Ansel Adam's Wilderness it drops down into the valley. At 2.8 miles you pass the first lake, Olaine Lake. Very pretty but don't stop here!! Continuing on, just as you pass the bridge, the up hill trek begins. But don't be discouraged, it's more like an epic stair climber with GORGEOUS mountain views. At 5.5 miles you will be welcomed into Shadow Lake. This is one of the most beautiful and rewarding mountain lakes I have ever seen. And if you don't feel like doing the whole 7.5 miles to Ediza, this is a worthy stopping point. Moving on past Shadow Lake the trail meanders for another 200 ft elevation climb (only 2 more miles!) And these 2 miles are stunning, with glassy clear rivers, towering trees, and majestic peaks. As you round the last corner, Mt Ritter, Banner, and the Minarets give you quite a show. And my husband says he hasn't seen anything like it since the Swiss Alps! The time of year we did the hike, there was still snow on the lake (and crunchy patches along the trail) I would suggest waiting till mid June or July for the snow to melt. Reward yourself with a nap and head back. It's mostly downhill from here.
Here's a few extra pointers...
-You will be crossing quite a number of little creeks, so waterproof hiking boots are a plus.
-Bring lots of water. We went through 3 Liters each in out hydration packs, so lugging a water bottle isn't a good option. Or just bring a water filter pump and enjoy abundant mountain water.
- Be prepared for possible random thunder shower.
- Bring more food and snacks than you think you need. We had 2 Clif Bars each and an MRE (meals ready to eat) which we prepared with our JetBoil (an excellent investment)
Just finished 5 days at Ediza and had so much fun. After getting a little wet crossing on some rocks near the camping area and filling my boots FULL of water, 3 of the nicest guys helped me set up camp and were the BEST company one could ask for on what started as a solo trip. We will be friends for life!! Lake is beautiful but last mile and a half on the way DOWN was grueling.
Diana W. on Shadow and Ediza Lakes Trail
Fantastic destination. One steep climb early on (to Shadow Lake), then a slow ascent to Ediza. Gorgeous spot, the hike is a good workout but not completely draining. What will get you is climbing back out of the valley on the way home (after you pass Shadow & Olaine).
Diana W. on Shadow and Ediza Lakes Trail
One of the most beautiful lakes in the world!