Thousand Island Lakes

Trip Description

Technically just outside of Yosemite National Park, the Thousand Island Lake Loop traverses through Inyo National Forest’s Ansel Adams Wilderness, home to some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This loop encompasses numerous gorgeous lakes, turbulent mountain streams, epic mountainous views, and sections of both the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. Covering approximately 25 miles, with roughly 2100 feet in elevation change, this backpacking trip offers an unbeatable adventure into the mountains. And with far fewer visitors than neighboring Yosemite, you’re sure to revel in the wildness, solitude, and beauty that Ansel Adams himself found so profound and inspiring.


Trip Details

Type: Backpacking

Days: 4 Days

Distance: 25 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate +

Origin: Mammoth Lakes, CA

Cost: $1500


Trip Itinerary

Day 1:

Meet your guide at a predetermined location in Mammoth Lakes at 8am for a brief orientation, backpack fitting and final packing. Once we’re all ready, we’ll caravan to Mammoth Mountain Lodge to catch the shuttle bus to our starting trailhead at Agnew Meadows and begin the hike. Our first day starts by following the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River up to the Shadow Creek Trail, where we’ll start a concerted climb up to Shadow Lake at nearly 8800 feet. From here, it’s a final 2 miles to our first night’s camp at Ediza Lake. Relax while your guide sets up camp and prepares a tasty dinner.

Distance/Elevation: 7.5 miles/ 1200-foot ascent

Lunch, Dinner

Day 2:

We will start our morning with some fresh coffee and a yummy breakfast. Shortly after that, we will head out for a nice morning stroll to nearby Iceberg Lake. Situated directly below the stunning peaks of the Minarets, Iceberg Lake offers some incredible photo opportunities. Then it’s back to camp to pack up and continue our journey over to Garnet Lake. Our route takes us along the John Muir Trail, up and over a 10,000 foot pass, and down to the shores of this most picturesque lake. We’ll set up camp and spend the rest of the day exploring the area or relaxing in our beautiful alpine surroundings.

Distance/Elevation: 5 miles + side hikes/ 1100-foot ascent

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3:

Today we head for the namesake of our adventure: Thousand Island Lake. It’s only a few miles away and we’ll cross another 10,000-foot pass, skirt the shores of Ruby and Emerald Lakes, and descend to Thousand Island Lake. We’ll spend some time exploring the area, taking photos, and soaking up the outstanding views. Eventually, we’ll get our packs back on and head off to find a final night’s camp along the Pacific Crest Trail. Your guide will whip up another delicious dinner before settling in for your final night in the wilderness!

Distance/Elevation: ~5 miles + side hikes/~500-foot ascent/descent

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:

After a night under the star-studded sky, we pack up camp and start our trek back to Agnew Meadows via the High Trail. The path is decidedly downhill and the constant views are thoroughly rewarding. You’ll join back up with the John Muir Trail shortly before arriving back at the trailhead. Celebrate with a tasty lunch before parting ways. The memories will last a lifetime!

Distance/Elevation: 7.5 miles/ 1500-foot descent

Breakfast, Lunch

*Final itineraries are occasionally subject to change due to permit/campsite availability, park restrictions/closures, weather conditions and/or road closures.


What's Included

  • A professional, licensed and medically trained guide
  • All necessary gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles
  • All cooking/eating gear: bowls, cups, utensils (your guide will prepare all meals)
  • All meals from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on the last day + trail snacks
  • Backcountry permits and fees

What's Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Yosemite National Park
  • Lodging the night before/after the trip
  • Clothing, raingear, and footwear
  • Personal toiletries, sunscreen
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (suggested 10-20% of trip cost)

*Upon booking you will receive a detailed trip information packet

How many people are in the group?

Most trips in Yosemite will accommodate 5 people plus one guide. On occasion, a group may be as large as 12 people plus 2 guides.

Are there age restrictions?

Children under the age of 13 are generally not permitted on regularly scheduled trips. This restriction may be negotiable on private tours. Please contact us with any questions regarding this policy.

How do I sign up?

In order to confirm a reservation, we require an initial non-refundable deposit of $250 per person, with the final balance due 90 days prior to the trip’s departure. If you book a trip within 90 days of the trip’s scheduled departure, then full payment is due at the time of booking.

Your deposit is payable over the phone by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover. You can also pay by personal check or PayPal (PayPal incurs a 1.5% surcharge). Call our office Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Arizona time. 1-877-272-5032

Travel Logistics

Where does the trip begin/end?

This trip will begin/end in Mammoth Lakes, California. United Airlines offers connecting flights into Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop (BIH), just 45 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes, via Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver. Or you can fly into Reno, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento and rent a car. Reno is the closest major airport and is still a 3-hour drive from Mammoth Lakes.

Where do meet our guides?

You will meet your guide at a pre-determined location in Mammoth Lakes at 8am the morning your hike begins. We will distribute all gear and pack up before heading off on the trail.

What do we do with our car and extra stuff?

The Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center (where we’ll catch the shuttle bus to the trailhead) has a long-term parking area where you can leave your car and personal belongings for the duration of the hike. You can also check with your hotel to see if they are willing to store your luggage for you while you hike.

What time will we get back on the last day?

Most trips end at lunchtime on the last day of the trip. If you are considering flying home on the last day of the trip, you should be finished up around 3pm. But in general, we tend to discourage trying to book flights on the same day your trip ends.

Since each trip has slightly different logistics, feel free to contact us with specific questions related to the expected return time for your trip.

Trip Dates

2024 Dates

August: 14-17


Don’t see your dates? Custom dates may be available!

Call 1-877-272-5032 or email us for details.

Guest Testimonials

Guest Testimonials

When booking your Yosemite Backpacking Tour, it is best that you contact us at least 6 months in advance due to Yosemite National Park’s permit system. Backpacking permits are issued via a lottery system 168 days in advance of the hike’s start date. However, it is still quite possible that we can find space for you on permits that we have already secured, in case you happen to be planning a trip less than 6 months in advance.