This 2 day backpacking trip takes you to two amazing alpine lakes in one trail (many more possible with a longer trip). Enjoy spectacular views of granite peaks all the way to Banner Lake. The nights have very low light pollution for astro-photography.

Banner Lake is one of the premier stops along the Pacific Crest Trail. However, even if you don't have time for an entire thru-hike (like most of us), this beautiful lake is still easily accessible as an overnight trip! While there are many possible routes for reaching Banner Lake, the Agnew Meadows trailhead is a popular choice.

From the quiet, lowland environment the trail climbs and reaches Shadow Lake at roughly the halfway point. Very picturesque in its own right, Shadow Lake is a great place to stop for lunch and possibly cool your feet off on a really hot summer afternoon. The second portion of the hike takes you up a ridge just to the west of Clarice Lake. From here, you can look down on Banner Lake with Mount Ritter and Banner Peak towering at the far end of the lake.

At the far NE corner of the lake, there is a nice area to dip in the water for a quick swim (if you're brave enough to handle the cold). Once you're done exploring and ready to setup camp, there are plenty of established campsites right off the trail along the NE shore of the lake. The lake gets mirror-smooth on calm nights and mornings, so definitely consider peeking out of your tent to catch some stars reflecting in the alpine waters or the alpenglow on the peaks in the distance at sunrise.

If you have more time in the area, consider checking out my adventure to Cecile Lake and adding it to your itinerary. More adventurous backpackers might also look into scrambling up to Nydiver Lakes which puts you directly below several 13,000 foot mountains.

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Good hiking boots
  • Plenty of water and filter
  • Camera plus tripod for night photography
  • Appropriate overnight gear (plus permits from recreation.gov)
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RT Distance 15.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 1307 Feet
Activities Photography, Backpacking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great Hike, but look for Garnet Lake not Banner Lake on most maps

This is a spectacular hike considering how close it is to trailheads and the fact it can be done in an overnight trip. Just be prepared for crowds because of how close it is. This also serves as a great first night's stop to acclimate when doing a through hike to Tuolumne Meadows. ***One thing to note, I don't believe there is a Banner Lake. I believe the author is referring to Garnet Lake which sits at the base of Banner Peak. I went to look at a map thinking there was a lake in the area I didn't know about but judging by the pics and my research the destination of this hike is actually Garnet Lake.


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