Backpack the Shadows of the Minarets Loop

Agnew Meadows

My favorites: alpine lakes and mountains! Fishing spots at the lakes. 16-mile RT loop. Great weekend backpacking trip.

Ansel Adams Wilderness is located in Mammoth Lakes, California. The trail to Lake Ediza is frequently traveled and is usually completed as an out-and-back day hike. In the summer, from 7am-7pm the road to the trail head is inaccessible to cars. To reach the trailhead you must take the shuttle from Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort to Agnew Meadow.

The first big lake you'll come across is Shadow Lake, don't dwell too long. There are plenty more lakes to see on the way. At about 6 miles you come across Lake Ediza with Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak in the background. It is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierras.

Beyond Ediza and Iceberg Lake, the area is more remote. If backpacking, Iceberg Lake is a great place to make camp. It’s more remote and private than the lower lakes and it’s about halfway in the loop. Continuing past Iceberg Lake, there is no real trail and requires you to travel cross country. This is where the fun begins! Scramble along the sides of Iceberg Lake to Cecil Lake. Continue traversing from the north to the northeast side of Cecil and climb beyond the ridge. Once over the ridge you'll continue down to Minaret Lakes where you can rejoin the trail that will lead you Devils Postpile Trailhead to catch the shuttle. Make a side trip to see Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls if you have the time.

Depending on the time of the year, bring mosquito repellent! June and July is mosquito season. All the lakes are great spots for fishing so bring a pole and try catching your dinner!

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent
  • Water filter
  • Fishing rod and reel
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sun protection
  • Cash for shuttle
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RT Distance 16 Miles
Activities Fishing, Photography, Backpacking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Arguably California's Best Scenery.

Most people prefer this route but we flipped it around and approached Minaret Lake first - which I highly recommend. While the initial approach is steeper, gaining the final saddle to Minaret Lake is like stepping into a Lord of the Rings movie. The Minarets (peaks) loom over you like granite sentries. The fly fishing is great too - we caught (and released) some healthy brook trout. I grew up exploring the wildest stretches of the Colorado and Montana Rockies, and this place rivals those in every way - save for Mountain Goats and Grizzlies - but that makes sleep all the more restful! I plan on coming back here once per summer for the rest of my life, no matter where I call home. Oh, and be mindful of the recommendation to do this hike in Spring... you will NEED ice axe and crampons to get between Cecile and Iceberg Lakes at a minimum (this can even be the case into early summer). Adventure beckons!


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