Take in unobstructed panoramic views above treeline. This spot has low light pollution, making it great for astrophotography.

Located in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Cecile Lake can be reached from a variety of trailheads. I chose to start out in Agnew Meadows. From here, the trail criss-crosses through a serene lowland environment with several crystal clear streams. After passing Olaine Lake, veer left and continue past Shadow Lake (a nice lunch break choice).

Further along the trail, you will reach Ediza Lake, rumored to be John Muir's personal favorite in all of the Sierra. The scenery here definitely lives up to its reputation will tall, rocky peaks in the distance and lots of lush vegetation at the lake itself as it is just below treeline. Next, follow some switchbacks on the SE side of the lake as you ascend above treeline to Iceberg Lake. The last stretch to Cecile Lake gets a bit technical as you need to scramble up a fairly steep face at the south end of Iceberg Lake. Just look for the stream flowing out of Cecile Lake to point you in the right direction.

Once at the top, you are standing at nearly 10,500 feet and will have impressive panoramic views of the Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak. Not to mention, you can also look down on Minaret Lake below. The high alpine grass in the meadows around Cecile Lake is very comfortable for afternoon naps. If you plan to spend the night, a sheltered location among the rocks above the lake on the east side is your best bet. Make sure to wake up extra early for sunrise, because the alpenglow on all the peaks is unreal!

Pack List

  • Good hiking boots
  • Plenty of water and filter
  • 10 Essentials
  • Photography gear
  • Tripod for night photography
  • Warm clothes for high altitude winds
  • Appropriate overnight gear (plus permits from recreation.gov)
Show More
RT Distance 16 Miles
Elevation Gain 1904 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Backpack to Waugh Lake

46 Saves

Climb Mount Ritter

78 Saves

Backpack to Ediza Lake

183 Saves