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7 Stunning Backcountry Lakes To Explore

In: John Muir Trail, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

7 Stunning Backcountry Lakes To Explore

John Muir Scenic Trail offers some of the amazing views of wilderness in the Sierra Nevada.  Experiencing and hiking through the wilderness in person is without a doubt an extraordinary experience.  There are many amazing lakes to explore in the wild, here are just some of the few I have been fortunate and grateful to explore in the High Sierra wilderness.

1. Wagh Lake

Waugh Lake. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Waugh Lake. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Wagh Lake is gorgeous! It is one of the first lakes on my JMT trek I was absolutely impressed with. It is located inside the Ansel Adam Wilderness. It has an elevation of 9,426 ft. The lake can be accessed via John Muir Trail or Rush Creek Trail in June Lake, Ca.  The Rush Creek Trail (7.25 miles) starts from the northern end of Sliver Lake, off SR 158 and the June Lake Loop. The scenic trail goes up and across the cliff above Silver Lake for 2.25 miles to the junction with the Agnew Pass Trail. It then continues past Agnew Lake and Gem Lake for another 2.50 miles to the junction with the Parker Pass Trail. Spectacular views and scenery! A wilderness permit is required for overnight travel.

2. Thousand Island Lake

Thousand Lakes. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Thousand Island Lake. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Thousand Island Lake is a one stunning beauty! Thousand Island Lake is regarded as one of the most spectacular lakes in the Eastern Sierra. Banner Peak, a towering 12,936-foot mountain above the lake’s west shore, is reflected in its clear blue water. The lake has numerous (if not a thousand) small islands. Both John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail pass Thousand Island Lake, giving hikers significant and scenic routes to consider. If you are not able to hike JMT or PCT, the lakes can be accessed via Creek Trail.

3. Garnet Lake

Garnet Lake. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Garnet Lake. Ansel Adam Wilderness

Garnet Lake is gorgeous, and it is the place where I actually suggest camping if you are doing an overnight trip. Garnet Lake is located on John Muir Trail between Shadow Lake and Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of Inyo National Forest. The lake is stunning, set below the 12,936-foot mass of Banner Peak and framed by ridges of bedrock and pines. Hiking directly there, Garnet Lake is 8.55 miles from the trailhead at Agnew Meadows, so most of the lake’s visitors are backpackers (a minimum of 17.1 miles is pretty long for a day hike). Is it worth visiting Garnet Lake on a backpacking trip? Absolutely – and especially if you make it a loop. A 10,150-foot pass and two smaller lakes, Ruby Lake and Emerald Lake, separate Garnet Lake and Thousand Island Lake. There is another high pass south of Garnet Lake, so expect big views all along John Muir Trail. To see Garnet Lake on a loop that passes Shadow Lake and Thousand Island Lake, you’ll put in a minimum of about 19 2/3 miles of hiking.

4. Silver Pass Lake

Silver Pass Lake. John Muir Wilderness

Silver Pass Lake. John Muir Wilderness

Silver Pass Lake is about eighty trail miles away from Happy Isles. As you descend off Silver Pass and walk alongside Silver Pass Lake you’ll know that you have more than a third of the trail behind you.  It is definitely a very pretty area to stop and camp.  The trail can be accessed via John Muir Trail or via Mcgee Pass Trail in Mammoth Lakes.

5. Marie Lake

Marie Lake. John Muir Wilderness

My JMT Trail friend Peter Aan is resting by Marie Lake. John Muir Wilderness

Marie Lake is one of the beautiful spots on the trail to enjoy and relax before ascending to the top of Selden Pass. There are several peninsulas jut their way into the pristine water, and there is an arrowhead-shaped island in the middle. Stunted pines (the elevation here is over 10,500 feet) and polished granite complete the picture.

6.Wanda Lake

Wanda Lake - Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness

Wanda Lake – Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness

Wanda Lake is another stunning lake located along Evolution Basin in Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness. It is 1.5 miles away from the Muir Pass summit. The lake can be accessed via John Muir Trail or Bishop Pass Trail which is roughly 8 miles away from the Bishop Pass Trail Junction. There are some good camping sites around the lake, and it is a good place to stop for the night before heading to the top of Muir Pass early in the morning.

7. Rae Lakes

Rae Lakes - SEquoia Kings Canyon Wilderness

Rae Lakes – Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness.  This picture was taking early in the morning at 5:22 a.m.

Rae Lakes is located in Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness. It is by far one of the beautiful places to stop and camp before heading to the top of Glen Pass early in the morning.  The views are breathtaking! The trail can be accessed via John Muir Trail, Kearsarge Pass Trail in Onion Valley and Bubs Creek Trail.



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