Lake Hopping in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
- Enjoy grand vistas of the spectacular High Sierra
- Swim and fish in granite-carved lakes
- Explore or relax on planned layover day
- Tasty backpacking meals
- Great company
- Group cooking gear
|Dates||Aug 3–10, 2013|
|Difficulty||3 (out of 5)|
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One of the highlights of the western Ansel Adams Wilderness is the granite crest along its northwestern border. This miles-long crest includes Sing, Gale, Triple Divide, Post, and Isberg Peaks, and several passes -- all with spectacular views north to Yosemite and east to the Minarets, Mt. Banner, and Mt. Ritter. There are approximately two dozen lakes to the south and west all along the length of this crest. This area, called the Granite Creek Lakes Basin, is where our trip takes place.
Day 1: We will meet around 4 p.m. at Clover Meadow Campground. After getting acquainted we will check our equipment and packs, then discuss our adventure through the Ansel Adam’s Wilderness. We will have our first group meal together around 5 to 6 p.m.
Day 2: We will travel about seven miles from our Clover Meadow trailhead, passing Vandeburg Lake into the Staniford Lake area. Climbing approximately 1,800 feet, we will camp at or near timberline, giving us views of nearby peaks to the northwest and distant vistas across the Granite Creek Lakes Basin to the east and south. At our lakeside campsite, you can fish, swim, or just relax in the alpine air.
Days 3-4: We will travel to the Anne and Rutherford Lakes area, where we will have a layover day. At over 10,000 feet, these lakes provide excellent camping in a wonderful alpine environment. In earlier years Anne and Rutherford lakes have yielded 8- to 10-inch rainbow trout. We'll enjoy layover day hikes to Rutherford Lake and Fernandez Pass for spectacular views or down the west side to Breeze Lake for swimming and fishing. Some members of the group may wish to go cross-country to Walton Lake and climb Triple Divide Peak.
Day 5: On the first of our two-day trek to Isberg Lake we will travel five miles, descending 1,100 feet and climbing 1,600 feet, to camp off-trail near a spring below Post Peak Pass.
Day 6: The next day we'll travel another five miles while climbing 1,000 feet to enjoy breathtaking views as we go over Post Peak Pass and Isberg Pass and descend 1,200 feet to camp at Lower Isberg Lake. This lake, in a huge granite basin above timberline, can be seen easily from Isberg Pass. After a rigorous climb over two passes, Isberg Lake provides a welcome swim and the opportunity to catch golden trout.
Day 7: Our last camp will be at the westernmost of the three Cora Lakes, chosen because of its location and the views it offers. This day we will travel about 5.5 miles and descend 1400 feet. We can find good campsites here a half-mile from the trail, which is the major entry and exit for this part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Day 8: We will leave this beautiful wilderness by hiking about five miles while descending another 1,500 feet to Granite Creek campground, where we will shuttle back to Clover Meadow.
Our trailhead is the Clover Meadow campground, located east of Oakhurst and south of Yosemite National Park. Everyone should arrive at the Clover Meadow campground no later than 4 p.m. on the first day of the trip. We'll camp there overnight and leave the next morning. We will shuttle some cars over to the Granite Creek campground allowing us to return to Clover Meadow when we come out of the wilderness. We will send detailed information later on the location of the campground and routes to the trailhead. About one month before the trip, we will send out a trip roster to help facilitate carpooling arrangements.
Accommodations and Food
Based on past food planning experience, we will offer a variety of menus, lots of flavor, calories and nutrition. We can accommodate vegetarian participants.
The trip is rated 3 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being most strenuous. As with any backpack trip in the High Sierra, good conditioning is essential. Without it, travel at high elevation carrying a 40- to 45-pound pack can be a distressing experience. It is important to exercise year-round to maintain good physical condition. Beginning in early May, you should take hikes on weekends with a loaded pack and, if possible, at elevation. Running or carrying a loaded pack up and down stadium stairs is also a good idea. We stress preparation for the trip by carrying a loaded pack.
Equipment and Clothing
A detailed equipment list is available at www.knapsack.org/basic_equipment.html. It is important to have sturdy, lightweight equipment, as your pack plus personal gear should weigh no more than 25 pounds. Each trip member will be given a bear canister with trip food, cooking gear, etc., which will add another 10-15 pounds to your pack. Boots are particularly important; you should have six-inch tops with Vibram lug soles. They must be broken-in. A waterproof jacket, pants, and a tent are strongly recommended.
- The USGS "Timber Knob" 7.5 quadrangle topographic map covers most of our trip. The Post Peak and Isberg Passes and Isberg Lake are on the "Mt. Lyell" 7.5 quadrangle.
- The U.S. Forest Service's "A Guide to the Ansel Adams Wilderness" (1:63,360) map covers all of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, parts of Yosemite and the John Muir Wilderness.
- Tom Harrison’s Ansel Adams Wilderness map is available at
REIor ordered from Tom Harrison Maps.
- Clark, Ginny, Ansel Adams Wilderness. This book provides very helpful descriptions of all the areas we'll travel.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club.
Our backpack takes place in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Inyo National Forest. It is difficult to imagine why this stunning scenery is not part of the adjacent Yosemite National Park. In 1890, when Congress created Yosemite, the boundary lines included the Ritter Range and the headwaters of the North and Middle Forks of the San Joaquin River. However, in 1905 the park lost this spectacular eastern Sierra Nevada area to political pressure from miners, ranchers, and homesteaders. Park boundaries were redrawn to allow business interests to operate in the Inyo National Forest.
Fortunately, Congress designated a portion of this area as wilderness in 1964. It was originally established as the Minarets Wilderness, but with 1984's California Wilderness Act, the area was enlarged and the name was changed to Ansel Adams Wilderness, honoring the famous landscape photographer. Adams spent many summers participating in and leading Sierra Club outings in the Sierra Nevada. His photography communicated the beauty of wild places and helped develop public support for protecting wilderness across the country.
In recent years, local volunteers, working together with conservation organizations, have developed modest proposals to permanently protect the remaining unprotected wild gems of the Eastern Sierra. This includes the Owens River Headwaters, located just east of the area where we will hike, as a proposed addition to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. These areas were included in a bill -- the California Wild Heritage Act.
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Sierra National Forest.