The Minarets, Ansel Adams Wilderness

Notes by piero scaruffi | Other California trails
Pictures of the hikes

A relatively easy loop can allow you to see the most impressive minarets and, more importantly, the prettiest lakes, and, even more importantly, the rapids. The trailhead is at Agnew Meadows. You can drive your own vehicle to the trailhead when the shuttle is not operating (before 7am and after 7pm in 2016). This loop requires taking the shuttle on the way back. The shuttle is free but be aware that it is a major hassle on weekends. You may have to wait 1 or even 2 hours before you get on the shuttle back to Agnew Meadow.

See the directions for Ediza Lake. From the lake you can see the northern Minarets (Clyde to Waller) to the southwest. Follow the trail that coasts the eastern shore of Ediza Lake and turn left into the Iceberg Lake trail (a very old sign in 2016). Iceberg Lake has probably the most impressive line-up of minarets. The trail continues up towards Cecile Lake (with three more minarets) but at this lake the trail becomes a faint abstraction. Stay on the left of Cecile Lake and take the firstmajor chute to the left. This one takes you over the ridge and to the other side you will see the Minaret Lakes, one of the best views of the day. (You can also continue bouldering along the left side of the lake until you find a way to circle around the ridge and descend to the lakes). It is a very short distance from Cecile Lake to the Minaret Lakes, but an extremely steep descent. It is not diffucult to find a safe descent route, though. As you come down from the ridge you can easily spot where the trail is. This trail comes up from the John Muir trail. Take the trail (ignore a trail on the left that seems to head up the southern ridge) that coasts the Minaret Lakes to the left (east). This is where the minarets end. The trail heads south downhill for 7 kms via a series of spectacular rapids (the highlight of the day, as far as i am concerned) and Johnston Meadow to the John Muir Trail. If you have an old map in miles and feet (that unscrupulous publishers keep reprinting), it shows a "mine trail" going north, but that doesn't exist (it might be the mysterious trail at the minaret lakes). Turn right into the JMT to Devils Postpile. This is where you'll start meeting crowds. You soon enter the boundary of Devils Postpile. (Since you are now inside an expensive national monument, you might as well take a detour to explore Devils Postpile). Follow the signs for the ranger station. That's where the shuttle stop is. Good luck finding a seat on the shuttle bus to go back to Agnew Meadow. The shuttle is free within the range of the park. If you see people with a ticket, they are going outside the park to Mammoth town.

  • Agnew Meadow: start (2530m)
  • Half mile sign 15'
  • Reds Meadow junction 30'
  • First pond 45'
  • Bridge 1h
  • Shadow Lake: 6kms (2826m) 1h30'
  • Don't turn left at the bridge 1h45'
  • Junction with Garnett Lake (there's a confusing "Shadow Lake" sign - go left to Ediza) 2h10'
  • Ediza Lake: 12 kms (2826m) 2h45'
  • Iceberg Lake 3h40'
  • Cecile Lake: 17 kms (3121m) 4h40'
  • Minaret Lakes: 18 kms (2985m) 5h40'
  • Southern Minaret lake to John Muir trail: 26 kms - 8h
  • The most spectacular rapids are about 1.5h south of the Minaret Lake before Johnston meadow
  • John Muir trail to junction for Johnston Lake: 27 kms - 8h15'
  • Boundary of Devils Postpile: 28 kms - 8h40'
  • Devils Postpile's ranger station: 29 kms - 8h55'
Pictures of these hikes
Ansel Adams Wilderness' Weather