Backpack Ansel Adams' Banner Lake

Rate this Adventure Yosemite Agnew Meadows Trailhead

Added by Addison Klinke

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
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



15.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1307 Feet



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