Regarding COVID-19: Please recreate responsibly and practice social distancing. Closures and travel restrictions are changing rapidly, always check and respect local regulations.

Madera County, California

JMT and PCT Fishing Loop from Shadow Lake to Thousand Island Lake

20 Miles Total - 3000 ft gain - Loop Trail

Originally added by Alex E

This 3 day Backpacking Trip on the JMT and PCT to Ansel Adams Wilderness is filled with gorgeous lakes: Thousand island, Garnet, Shadow, Ruby, etc.

We were able to get the last two permits into the Shadow Creek Trail starting at Agnew Meadows.

We parked at the over night parking along the road near the Mammoth Lakes Lodge. We took the shuttle to the trail head. The trail head at Agnew Meadows is on Minaret Road (SR 203). Minaret Road leads to famous spots such as Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls, but is only open in the summer months. The road is closed daily between 7 am and 7:30 pm for the shuttle. So if you don't want to ride the shuttle, you have to get an early start. In order to leave from Agnew Meadows on any trail, you need to either get there before 7 am in your own vehicle, have a campsite at Agnew Meadows or take the shuttle from the Mammoth Lakes Lodge. The shuttle is 7 dollars per person round trip.

We took the Shadow Creek Trail to shadow lake. (4.2 miles) The hike was a very moderate hike. It took about 3 hours with about a 1000 foot elevation gain. If you hike straight through it will probably only take 2 hours and 30 minutes. We stopped twice on the way to Shadow Lake. The first was to scout for trout at the river and the second was to take photos of the beautiful waterfall cascading down from Shadow Lake.

We arrived at Shadow Lake at 1 pm and hiked to the western edge of the lake to drop our packs. My buddy and I fished almost every angle of shadow lake and caught 7 trout. (4 rainbows and 3 brooks) We threw a couple small ones back and kept four good sized ones for dinner. Basic cast master/shine baits were like candy to the trout all weekend. After each catch we gutted the fish and put them in a Ziploc bag with half a lemon and spices to allow them to marinate before dinner.
We got on the Northern running John Muir Trail and found a quiet, isolated, beautiful campsite near the creek. We had plenty of time to set up camp and cook our trout. The sunsets are amazing for photography with all the pinks and purples.

We headed off for Garnet Lake on day 2. Garnet Lake, was the first of 4 lakes on our trek to Thousand Island Lake, one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. We arrived at Garnet Lake around 11am, about a two hour hike from Shadow Lake. It was a glorious sight as we broke over a small pass and saw this massive blue lake below. We hiked down and began fishing as fast as we could! It felt as if the lake had never been fished by man before, with almost every cast a fish was hitting our bait. We landed 3 brook trout a piece within the first 30 minutes. After about two hours of fishing, we decided to go for a swim/bathe in the crystal clear mountain lake. Although the water was very cold, it was quite refreshing. It was by far one of the prettiest places I've ever fished. We caught a couple more trout, cleaned them up , threw them in the Ziploc bag and made our way towards Ruby and Emerald Lakes.

We stopped at Ruby Lake, a gorgeous blue hole with 100 foot cliff walls towering over the waters edge. As I studied the cliffs for a place to jump into the water, my buddy caught a nice sized rainbow trout. With the sun starting to set, we made our way past Emerald Lake and on towards Thousand Island Lake. We jumped off the JMT and onto the 1000 Island Lake trail. We found a great campsite behind a couple boulders for wind protection that featured a 360 degree view of the Lake. This is where we got the best shots of the trip. We were out of the trees from the previous night, and that clear pink and purple sky cast against the mountain backdrop was breath taking. We refilled our bottles with the clean lake water and cooked our fresh caught trout. We washed it all down with the rest of the Jack Daniels.

On day three we had a 9 mile trek back to the truck. We left Thousand Island lake around 9:15. From here we left the beautiful John Muir Trail for the famous Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT southbound from 1000 Island is simply amazing. It follows the winding Middle Fork San Joaquin River though dense lush forest. We came within 50 feet of two beautiful bucks with velvet still on their antlers. We stopped once at a small pool to fish one last time, and then pushed on towards Agnew Meadows. We were able to make in back in just over 3 hours since the PCT from 1000 Island is nearly all downhill and shaded. We got back to the truck just before 1 pm and started our drive to the nearest In-N-Out.

This trip turned out to be one of the best weekend hikes I've ever been on, and highly recommend. We were able to see nearly everything an outdoor enthusiast can ask for in such a short period of time. From cool mountain creeks, waterfalls, epic views, fishing, and wildlife. We were able to hike North on the famous JMT trail and South on the PCT. If you are looking for a quick weekend fix from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this short loop is definitely for you. World class views, fishing and hiking are all wrapped into one. The hike was easy enough for the novice hiker and fulfilling enough for the seasoned vet.

Read More


Swimming Hole


Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Stay Nearby

June Lake, California

Silver Lake Campground June Lake (Ca

Crowley Lake, California

Agnew Meadows Group Camp

June Lake, California

Reversed Creek Campground

June Lake, California

June Lake

Nearby Adventures