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My wife and I did this trail as an overnight backpacking trip on 9/16/18. We were celebrating our one year wedding anniversary and we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful location.

Rather than doing this as an out-and-back, we decided to do it as a loop. We began on the High Trail (PCT) from the Agnew Meadows Trailhead toward Thousand Island Lake. At about the three mile mark you get a spectacular view of the Minarets, Mt. Ritter, and Banner Peak looming over Shadow Lake. Eventually, about eight miles in, you reach Thousand Island Lake. As you may have guessed, this lake is very unique because it has a ton of islands. The lake is at the base of Banner Peak, making this a very scenic location to set up camp. In the morning, we set off southbound on the JMT. Two miles later we reached Garnet Lake, which provided amazing views of Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter. We continued another four miles to Shadow Lake, with the last half mile paralleling a beautiful creek with numerous waterfalls. When you reach the east end of Shadow Lake, you can look back across the lake to the west for an awesome view of the Minarets and Mt. Ritter. Then it’s a steep, rocky descent through the gorge along the Shadow Creek Trail. When you reach the bottom, it’s an easy couple miles and a final uphill push back to the Agnew Meadows Trailhead.

I recorded my loop at 18.7 miles with 3,406 feet of elevation gain. It ended up being just a couple miles longer than the out-and-back to Thousand Island Lake, but with twice as many spectacular views. I couldn’t imagine missing out on everything we experienced on the back half! It was challenging, but well worth it.

Mid-September turned out to be a great time to go. It wasn’t very busy, the weather was great, there were no bugs, and the colors of autumn were starting to appear. It did get pretty cold at night, but it was a small price to pay given the other huge upsides.

Overall, this was my favorite hike so far and definitely the most scenic. I would highly recommend trying it!

You can download my recording if you decide to try the Thousand Island, Garnet, and Shadow Lakes Loop Trail instead of just the out-and-back trail to Thousand Island Lake. It will make navigating a lot easier!

Happy hiking!

We really enjoyed this trail. If you're not in a hurry stop at all the lakes along the way, it's well worth it. We didn't find it too strenuous but we were only packed for a day hike.

Trail is well maintained, water sources are becoming an issue, however not critical.
Several areas are “ no use” restoration in progress” and made finding camping spots a challenge at the end of the day.
No real issue with mosquitos but nights are hitting freezing.
Had excellent fishing at Shadow Lake.

hiking
10 days ago

I wanted to write a review to explain a few things about the hike to Minaret Lakes.

My buddy and I are in our early 50s. We're both sporting pot bellies but still in good shape. So, no, we're not 20 years old. The important thing to remember is that we live close to sea level in Southern California.

We made it to Mineret Lakes, but we certainly struggled. The main issue is that we overpacked for this trip. My pack was around 50 lbs. Originally, we were talking about staying for days. The plans changed after we arrived. The ranger station is 7560 feet and Minaret Lakes is 9800 feet in elevation. The major issue we had was that we weren't aclimated to the elevation. The last two miles of the hike has a lot of switchbacks. The last mile in particular had no shade so you're exposed to the sun. And, in our case, we suffered due to the high altitudes. I found that the air was very arid and I needed water fairly often.

So, we had the perfect trifecta of bad. We were not used to the high altittudes, we carried too much weight, and we weren't really in shape fthe way we needed to be for this trip. There was also a fire close by that ate into our oxgyn supply. We strugled but we did it! And to be fair, we did run into a guy who was 80 years old who was on the trail, but he had help carrying his gear.

What I learned from this trip would be to keep my backpack without water at around 20 pounds. You have to have a bear can, you can find light ones. I wouldn't even bring a stove if I were to do this again, and just rely on cold foods. We got on the trail at 9:00AM. i would start at 8:00AM. I didn't have poles, they certainly do help.

If you plan to spend a couple of days fishing then perhaps you should extend your stay. I found that this is a good overnight trip. Beause of this you can pack lighter. You also have to keep in mind that there isn't a lot of shade at Minerte Lakes. So, if you plan on staying a day it very well may be in broad sunlight.

If i were to fish the lakes I woiuld leave by 8:00AM and arrive before 3 and spend a few hours fishing. Wake up the next morning, take pictures (it's breathtaking first thing in the morning) fish for a few more hours and head back home. The fish are swelling at first light.

Mineret Lakes is stunnning. It's a gerat place for fishing, and photography. The trail up is wonderful as well. Plan on having lunch at Mineret Falls. This is reated as intermediate, which seems accurate. However, from the Devils Post Pile ranger station to the lakes the rangers tell me that it's 8 miles.

Overall, this is a great hike. I learned a lot about what not to do from t his hike and despite struggling I did love this hike! There are rental showers within close driving distance. We managed to hike down the mountain, used the bathrooms, showered, went out to dinner in Bishop and slept our own beds before midnight (O.C. area) all within the same day. We did this entire trip over a three day weekend. We also showed up at the ranger station on Friday and got our free passes instead of applying online. After Labor Day, it's easier to get the passes.

Moderate is a fair rating for this trail. Decent inclines but spectacular views. Not too crowded and plenty of water around if you have a filter.

Did this hike for the 3rd time. Trail wasn't crowded. It's the first time I've done it without snow on switchbacks. It's my favorite Mammoth hike, safe for solo.

hiking
15 days ago

Amazing views the entire time your on this trail. Keep your head up though there are horses on this trail.

Excellent trail

hiking
19 days ago

Awesome hike! Hiked this trail on Monday, 8/27/18. Great weather! The views are unreal! Switch backs are a bit tough but well worth it.

backpacking
23 days ago

It was beautiful!! The switch backs were pretty intense.

hiking
23 days ago

Trail hiked on August 27, 2018, the projected weather for this location was said to be sunny with haze, 64-72 degrees @ 8000 feet of elevation and up. A wind and gust projection of 24 mph with zero rain. I experienced no haze, but the wind and gusts never let up.
I arrived to the parking loop at approximately 0550 hours with very few vehicles there already. I officially began recording the trek at 0615 hours. The first mile was definitely a heart pumper and warm up for me, the only reason I didn't break a sweat was because my face and hands were frozen from the cool temperature! There seemed to be endless stairs in the first mile to gain some elevation. I was far too consumed in snapping photos that I almost lost track of time and later realized i spent 40 minutes in the first mile. The 2nd mile was a nice break from endless stairs and horse droppings (in part I think the fresh droppings occasionally served a purpose in providing warmth, it was everywhere), if i would have got there any earlier I would have walked through the steam of it! At that early hour I was able to hear a creek, and caught sight of some very jaw dropping lakes- so beautiful! At around the 2.6 mile hiking down into the Barney Lake area, I was very much surprised by a Black Bear as much as I surprised it. Fortunately the bear was trained better than I was- it ran away! I froze and then proceeded to do everything backwards by snapping a photo, recording it and then yelling. I then thought it would be a smart idea as to not disrupt it again and thought tiptoeing through that area was much smarter- NOT!
Hiking into mile number 3, the terrain change was immediate. Everything became rock, unstable footing, caught poles, rolling ankles, and then I was too afraid of running into big horn sheep so I kept making myself dizzy looking everywhere at once. I felt like a bobble head! Mile 3 also consisted of just about all the switchbacks you'll encounter on this trail; the switchbacks were short, rocky and many! As you approach the pass, get ready to see a stunning sight. I personally thought it looked sexy! The different shades of blue in the water, a few white caps, the backdrop of grey and meadows. Dear God it was heaven a very sexy heaven!!!! At that moment I couldn't wait to get down to the water, but was quickly grounded by the change in terrain again, the trail becomes thin, too thin. I needed to use a chopping motion with my poles to move the shrubs, and branches out of the way! The trail literally had me cat walking it was so thin. At approximately mile marker 4.4 don't miss the mine shaft, (i think that's what it is) it's boarded, chained and locked, but I'd love the hear the story on that one! Duck lake is incredibly large, and Pika lake was just too pretty to not take off a few layers and sun bath out there. I dipped in the water and immediately regretted my decisions in life- I thought my heart stopped! I never experienced a nuisance with insects of any kind, if you fish, keep in mind there are fish in those waters! I regret not taking my fishing rod. I truly hope you give this moderate hike a chance to prove to you that even the easier ones are worth your time. This one bumped up to my favorite so far.

fabulous hike, as good as it gets. spectacular peaks, pretty flowers, burbling Brook, serene ponds/lakes and well maintained trail. we achieved the pass, but not the peak. Mt Starr is formidable due to loose rock, scree and v steep.

hiking
1 month ago

I did this hike out and back in under 4 hours. My Garmin registered 8 miles. Warning... if you are looking for peace and solitude don’t go on this hike. 8/20/18 Monday was too crowded and noisy. People please keep your voices down...
The first 1.5-2 miles are very dusty. The best part about this hike- getting to the Duck pass. It’s challenging and fun.

hiking
1 month ago

So pretty. Loved all the lakes and creeks you pass along the way. The beginning is a bit strenuous and when you hit the rocks it’s also tough. The views are worth it tho! A little smoke was coming in so we didn’t stay at Duck Lake for long. But it was nice to put our feet in the water and cool down. On the way back, stopped by the smaller lakes and took our time heading back. Started at 830am and got to the car by 3pm (includes stops for resting) Such a beautiful day and did run into people quite often on the way up and back down. It’s tiring tho. I tracked in my phone over 11miles total. Bring lots of water (or filtration) and snacks. Bugs weren’t too bad. Although something stung me on the back of my arm but was just a small welt and went away. The shaded parts were nice too.

I’m a Yosemite junkie. This hike tops many. Banger meadows, views, lakes, rivers, cabins, wild flowers..the list keeps going. Go past the mono pass post and go check sardine lake. So dope! Get some! Cheers from Reno\tahoe

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike! Easy+/Moderate. Views are stunning both ways. Hit a thunder and lightening storm, rain and sleet at Duck Lake. Saw horses and dogs on the trail, everyone friendly. Several lakes along the way to have a snack or cool your feet. Many places along the route to filter water. Mosquitos not too bad.

One of the best day trail hikes in eastern Sierra

Very nice hike! This is our 2nd time and it was just as pretty as the first. There is a lot of smoke in the area due to the Lions fire but there was none on this hike, which was a real plus. The first mile is some work and the switchbacks leading to the top of the pass are challenging but doable. Go on this one, you won’t be disappointed!

Amazing hike, not much people and gorgeous scenery. One of the bests I made!!

hiking
1 month ago

Went on this hike this past weekend with a few friends and my dog, and the views were just breath taking. I must say this hike was a bit challenging at the beginning and the end, but it is totally worth it. You pass by quite a few lakes and creeks, which could be great for some fishing. We even got to see some deer on our hike up there as well as some beautiful trees and flowers. In total with all the turn-offs we did to see the lakes we hiked 10.6 miles. Make sure if you do go on this hike to start as early as possible and pack lots of water and food!

hiking
1 month ago

Great day hike. We walked to the trailhead while camping in Coldwater Creek Campground. Partially shaded for the first half of the hike. The switchbacks over the pass to get to Duck Lake is hard, but definitely worth it for the views of Pika and Duck lakes. Although those switchbacks are tough, I would highly recommend this day hike. Bring some snacks/food and be sure to have enough water.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike in mid July. Quite heavily trafficked but did not detract from the beautiful nature. Worth hiking down to water level of Duck Lake and taking a dip if you don’t mind the cold mountain water! A great moderate hike. Will do it again.

hiking
1 month ago

Gorgeous trail, saw other hikers but not to busy. No mosquitoes when we were out on 7/27.

trail running
1 month ago

great trail! gets a little rocky closer to the end, but in all is a trail that can be worked. Finished in about 3.5 hours there and back.

Don’t let the difficult rating scare you away. A challenging but do able day hike, this trail rewards you with a beautiful view of the Eastern Sierras and a pristine alpine/ glacial lake (Duck lake). This trail follows many lakes that are connected by a running stream so if you want to go light on water and sterilize your own as you go you can. I went towards the end of July when temps were 77 deg around noon but with the high elevation and lack of clouds it gets warm, I started to delayer half way through. Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray

2 months ago

It’s not easy, but its also not too strenuous. Gorgeous views are worth it. I did it in about 5 hours, with brief stops for rests or photos. There was ample parking at the trailhead and bathrooms (with flushing toilets and TP!) The first part was nicely shaded and woodsy, but the back half you are pretty exposed as you climb up rocky switchbacks. On a Saturday you won’t be the only one on the trail, but it’s not very crowded — there were spans of time when I didn’t pass by or see anyone for 30 or 40 mins. If you’re into a shorter hike, Skelton Lake is gorgeous and a worthy destination, without as much climbing as you need to do to get to Duck Lake.

hiking
2 months ago

This was our first hike in the Mammoth Lakes area and we couldn’t be happier we started here. Beautiful trail leading to multiple stunning lakes. Other reviews give a great description of the trail - here’s what we found:
- Mosquitos were not bad at all (we were expecting much worse given the recent reviews) but somewhat active at beginning of trail.
- Barney Lake is worth the trail if that’s all you get to (and it’s a fairly easy hike to get there). If you go, hike past Barney and up the switchbacks a bit to get a view back onto the lake and the mountains.
- We took a right at Duck Lake and walked out about .25 miles - it was enough for us to get a sense of the lake. Round trip about 8 miles which was a perfect first day in the mountains.
- The trail is popular and includes runners - some were a bit rude and passed us without saying a word. Yes, it’s their trail too but we still found this way of sharing the mountains rude.
- We returned via the Emerald Trail Lake and highly recommend it. Emerald Lake was beautiful and the trail was a smooth downhill back to the parking lot.

Fabulous hike and highly recommended!

Great hike ,was a bit challenging but worth it when we got to Duck Lake. Beautiful wildflowers and Thankfully no mosquitos !

hiking
2 months ago

This was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever hiked. So beautiful everything in one hike, water, streams, lakes , meadows, peaks , and wild flowers! I would do this again in a heart beat. Go past the mono pass sign a bit not very far and you come around the corner and can see mono lake as well is lower sardine. Take your time because of the elevation but this is a solid moderate hike. The incline is so gradual most of the way it’s the elevation that gets you . But over all hands down best hike I’ve done in the park.

fishing
2 months ago

Great trail if you want to fish away from the crowds. Incredible views from the ridge above duck lake. A long day hike but gradual inclines make it doable. Bugs weren’t that bad but wear the juice for sure. Not much shade so dress accordingly and bring 3 liters of water or a way to sterilize the creek water.

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