This backpacking trip to Garnet Lake is recommended over 3 days / 2 nights. Enjoy secluded camping and spectacular mountain views.

Although this trip specifically describes how to get to Garnet Lake, there are several other pristine alpine lakes (Shadow Lake and Thousand Islands Lake) along this looped trail, only a few short miles away from each other, that are just as worthy if you have the time. A minimum of 3 days/2 nights is reccommended, but you can tackle this trek in a day if you don't have the luxury of time.

To pitch a tent, sip some spirits, and sleep under the stars at Garnet Lake, you want to start by parking at the Mammoth Mountain Village, where you can take the service shuttle to the Agnew Meadows parking lot/trailhead. The Agnew Meadows Trailhead starts at an elevation of about 8,400 ft. and dips into a canyon along the John Muir Trail at about 8,100 ft. Following the river trail along the canyon floor, you will continue tramping northwest past Olaine Lake to a fork in the trail. This fork is the start of a big loop - to the left is Shadow Lake Trail which leads you to...you guessed it, Shadow Lake and onwards to Garnet Lake. It's a fairly steep incline, but provides you with a magnificent backside view of Mammoth Mountain and the river valley you were just hiking through. You can also go right and follow the trail north along the river to Thousand Islands Lake. You can reach Garnet Lake either way.

Once you've tramped up to Shadow Lake (8,770') from the fork, this marks your halfway point to Garnet Lake. 3.5 miles down, 3.5 miles to go. The trail winds around the shore of Shadow Lake and elevates through a series of switchbacks topping out at about 10,000+ ft. This section of the trail provides stunning views of the Minarets and the Ansel Adams Wilderness - there are several lookout points which are perfect spots to relax and have a picnic, or snap photos of the Minarets. The pinnacle of this trail will lead you up to the tree-line and provide you with a breathtaking view of Garnet Lake (9,710') with Mt. Ritter (13,143') and Banner Peak (12,936') standing tall in the background. From here, hike down to the lake and pitch a tent anywhere you'd like out of view from the trail. Happy tramping!

Pack List

ESSENTIAL PACK LIST:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Backpacking essentials
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Jetboil stove

OPTIONAL PACK ADDITIONS:

  • Fishing rod/bait (great fishing)
  • Camera gear
  • Celebratory spirits
  • Hammock
Show More
RT Distance 14 Miles
Elevation Gain 2030 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Make Sure You Have Rain Gear

We left from Agnew Meadows and took the Shadow lake trail to the John Muir to get there. The views along the way were breathtaking and Shadow Lake was beautiful. Our original plan was to spend two nights at Garnet Lake but our first night there we got hit with some pretty crazy thunderstorms, at one point there was lightning every 10 seconds. The weather reports had said about a 15% chance of thunderstorms and it really did come out of nowhere. We knew that we might get caught in some thunder storms so we were prepared but make sure you take rain gear and a tent with a rain fly. We ended up only staying the one night because one of the party members was starting to exhibit signs of altitude sickness and We wanted to get him out before the next thunderstorms hit. The valleys that the lakes are in create a perfect environment for storms (being up there in one was truly awe inspiring). Small note is that in the limited amount of time we had to go fishing we caught 3 good sized (9 inch or so) brook trout and they made for a great meal! I will definitely be back here next year and probably so the entire loop. The whole area is gorgeous and I don't think I will get tired of being up there.

Unbelievable Views

We camped here for one night and we could have easily stayed longer. Seeing Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter are well worth the trip out there. I highly recommend this spot for anyone in the area.

Great Lake to Fish

I spent three days here last summer and this lake is loaded with trout. I limited out every day. Don't forget your pole on this hike. Bring some spices, lemon and a little butter to cook them over the fire.


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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

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