Photos and words by Chhun Tang
THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL (from Tuolumne Meadows to Agnew Meadows, Mammoth)
There's a reason John Muir and Ansel Adams spent a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Actually, there are countless. While there are other areas of the world that offer up a more spectacular single experience, like summiting Everest, the iconic John Muir Trail delivers constant moments of awe and inspiration. The 211 mile long trail runs through Yosemite, John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
The original trip was supposed to begin in Little Yosemite Valley and end in Mammoth but due to the fires that consumed that valley area, we started at Tuolumne Meadows. We got a late start on day one so we only went a few miles and camped in Tuolumne Meadows. It was a nice flat section of the trail to start out the trip with expansive open fields, a river that parallels the trail and great views of the peaks we were approaching.
From the meadows, we ascended up toward Donahue Pass where we camped about half way up our ascent, near a small lake, for our second camp spot. On our second full day, we made it over Donahue pass, which at 11,056 feet was the highest point of our trip and our most challenging as well. After which, we made it down to Thousand Island Lake, where we made camp for night number three. The next day was leisurely as we decided we would only trek a few miles to Garnet Lake and spend the rest of the day hanging around the lake fishing and exploring. While the other guys did some fishing and hung around Garnet Lake, I explored some unnamed lakes beyond Garnet, near the base of Banner Peak. If you get a chance while at Garnet, definitely check out these lakes.
The final day of the trip saw us go from Garnet Lake, by Shadow Lake and out at Agnew Meadows. We got off the trail a day earlier than we originally planned for a few reasons but it was still a great trip.
Pack train as we set off in Tuolumne Meadows
Campfire, night 1
An unnamed lake heading up Donahue Pass. Also camp site for night 2.
Almost to the top of Donahue Pass
Top of Donahue Pass
Thousand Island Lake with Banner Peak in the background
Standing at our campsite at Garnet Lake
Garnet Lake in the afternoon
Terry fishing at Garnet Lake
Campsite at Garnet Lake
Coming down out of Shadow Creek from Shadow Lake with the Mammoth area in the background
HIKE INFO (BASED ON THE SECTION WE HIKED):
DISTANCE: 30.3 Miles
ELEVATION GAIN: XXXXX Total elevation gain
HIKE TIME: 4.5 Days
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate Backpacking
SEASON: May through October
ANIMALS PERMITTED: Horses/mules
FEATURES: Pretty much everything:
HOW TO GET THERE: From Southern California, head up 395 north, take 120 Tioga Pass west, turn left where signs direct you to the permit office, continue down the road where you'll see a parking lot that forks off to the left, the trailhead is right across from the parking lot.
PARKING: There's a parking lot at the trailhead that doesn't require any fees.
PERMIT: Yes. Free at the permit station. The permit situation can be tricky. It's recommended to reserve your permit as far in advance as you can, it fills up quite quickly.
TRAIL CONDITION: Excellent. It's a well maintained trail.
HISTORY: If you're interested in more in depth information on the John Muir Trail, visit the page on Wikipedia.GEAR LIST: In case any of you are interested, here's a list of what I carried.