Thousand Island Lake via PCT

HARD 8 reviews
#2 of 7 trails in

Thousand Island Lake via PCT is a 17.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Riverkern, California that features a lake. The trail is rated as difficult and primarily used for hiking, trail running, camping, and backpacking.

17.5 miles 3257 feet Out & Back




trail running




This is a 3-4 night backpacking trip through the Ansel Adams Wilderness along the Pacific Crest Trail to Thousand Island Lake with nearby day-hikes focused around Banner Peak. Day hikes include a secluded pond with a panoramic view of Thousand Island Lake, Lake Catherine with a perfect view of the glacier between Banner Peak and Mount Ritter, and nearby Garnet Lake.

3 months ago


4 months ago

Best part on JMT and PCT...!

5 months ago

Lakes after lakes after lakes!

Amazing views!

Beautiful trail!

5 months ago

5 months ago

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.

6 months ago

Great. Would recommend going down the River Trail instead of the PCT... alot better I thought. Anyway we did the PCT to 1000 Islands then took the River Trail back to the Agnew Meadows campgrounds...

7 months ago

6 years ago

This is a great guide! I did a very similar backpacking trip about 7 or 8 years ago. I remember the entire day was spent going from one peak to a lake to another peak, but it was well worth it.

I'll have to follow this guide the next time I want to go to Mammoth. I've always wanted to do the trip from Mammoth to Yosemite Valley.