The Ansel Adams Wilderness is dotted with sparkling lakes, glacially sculpted gorges, and imposing peaks. Originally protected as wilderness by the 1964 Wilderness Act, it was first called the Minarets Wilderness. Renamed to honor Ansel Adams in 1984, it spreads over 230,258 acres, ranging in altitude from about 7,000 feet to 14,000 feet.
For thousands of years this area has been inhabited by people of the Miwok, Monache, Mono, Washo, and Shoshone tribes. Acorns, pinon pine nuts, and obsidian were gathered and traded along routes that crisscrossed this wilderness.
The Ansel Adams is located between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes. The John Muir Trail (and Pacific Crest Trail) passes through this wilderness, and it can be reached from both sides of the Sierra crest. Most people enter the wilderness from the east, starting in the Mammoth Lakes area (near Devils Postpile National Monument), or from the south near Lake Thomas Edison.
Shuttle Bus to Reds Meadow/Agnew Meadow
All visitors entering Reds Meadow Valley must pay a per-person user fee which supports the shuttle bus system.
Permits are required year round for all overnight trips in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Why?
A quota is in effect for all entry points into Ansel Adams Wilderness that applies to all overnight visitors from May 1 through November 1. Some trails have a separate quota for commercial use. Visitors using a commercial outfitter or guide must obtain their permit through the commercial operator.
Permits for backpacking in the Ansel Adams are available from the Sierra and Inyo National Forests, depending on where you plan to enter the Wilderness.
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE
No more than 15 people and 25 head of stock are allowed per group on overnight trips. Why?
BEARS AND FOOD STORAGE
The Inyo and Sierra National Forests each have a forest order regarding food storage. In all wilderness areas of Inyo National Forest use of bear-resistant containers is strongly recommended. In eight specific areas it is mandatory to store food and refuse in a container designed to prevent access by bear. Where food storage containers are not mandatory the counter balance method of hanging food may be used, however where trees are not adequate for hanging food at least 15 feet above ground and 10 feet away from the tree trunk you must use a portable food storage container. No other methods of food storage are allowed.
Food storage containers are available for rent or sale at all the Inyo and Sierra National Forest visitor centers where wilderness permits are issued.
- Inyo National Forest Food Storage Info
- Sierra National Forest Food Storage Info
- Counter-balance method
Campfires are generally allowed within the Ansel Adams Wilderness below “tree line” (around 10,000 feet), though there are many exceptions. Check campfire regulations in the Inyo National Forest and Sierra National Forest.
In places where fires are allowed, make sure to always follow smart campfire guidelines.
Campfires are prohibited:
- Within ¼ mile of Garnet and Thousand Island Lakes.
- Within 300 feet of the shore of Shadow Lake, and between Shadow Creek Trail and Shadow Creek from Shadow Lake to Ediza Lake outlet crossing.
- Within the Lake Ediza watershed
- Within the Minaret Lake watershed
- Pack goats are not recommended in Big Horn Sheep habitat areas while their impacts are being evaluated. For more information about Big Horn Sheep recovery, check the following links: Sheep Facts Big Horn Recovery
- Dogs are allowed in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, but are not allowed in wilderness areas in adjacent national parks.
- Pet food must be stored to the same standard as people food. In areas where use of a bear resistant food storage container is required, pet food must be stored in your container.
- Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from wilderness hazards such as porcupines, mountain lions, and sick, injured or rabid animals.
- Unleashed dogs may intimidate other hikers and their dogs, depriving them of a peaceful wilderness experience.
- Unleashed dogs may harass, injure and sometimes kill wildlife.
- A leashed dog’s keen senses can enhance your awareness of nearby wildlife or other visitors.
Camping is prohibited in the following areas of the Ansel Adams Wilderness:
- Within ¼ mile of the outlets of Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes.
- On the south side of Lake Ediza, between Shadow Creek Trail and Shadow Creek (from Shadow Lake to Lake Ediza outlet crossing), and within 300 feet of the shore of Shadow Lake. See map.
- Rainbow Lake for a distance of 1/4 mile from the shoreline in all directions.
- Lillian Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the stream flow dam northward around the shoreline for a distance of approximately 1/4 mile from the outlet.
- Cora Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the outlet north-ward to a point approximately 1/4 mile from the outlet.
- Sadler Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the junction of the Isberg and Mclure trails, northward approximately 1/4 mile.