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Backpacker Magazine – June 2000

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Witness To Magic

With the click of a shutter, Ansel Adams captured the beauty and soul of wild places and showed us that in nature, there is magic.

by: Jeff Rennicke

Expedition Planner


The Ansel Adams Wilderness Area is surrounded by public lands, including Yosemite National Park and the John Muir Wilderness. Many people--mostly windshield tourists and dayhikers--access the wilderness through the touristy towns of Mammoth Lakes and June Lake or via Tuolumne in Yosemite. Those seeking solitude usually head for the more remote points to the south.

Permits: Required for all overnight trips, and quotas are in effect from the last Friday of June to September 15. Try to make trip reservations in advance. If you plan to stay at Reds Meadow or Devils Postpile, make reservations (800-280-CAMP).

Shuttles: For traffic's sake, during peak (summer) season, a mandatory shuttle bus runs from the Mammoth Mountain Inn (800-228-4947) to Minaret Summit, and down to Agnew Meadows, Reds Meadow, Rainbow Falls, and Devils Postpile. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. You must have a specific campground permit to drive into the area during these hours. The upside is free, stop-to-stop service in the valley (you'll need it for the Agnew Meadows to Devils Postpile point-to-point routes, as well as for others). For additional shuttle services, call Sierra Express Transportation (760-924-TAXI), which specializes in backpacker trailhead services.

Impact restrictions: Camping restrictions--the result of heavy impact--are in effect around Thousand Island, Garnet, Shadow, and Ediza Lakes, among others. Restricted areas are posted, but ask when getting your permit. Pit stop: Before heading into, or after coming out of, the wilderness, the Good Life Caf? (760-934-1734) has the tastiest breakfast and lunch in Mammoth Lakes; Whiskey Creek (760-934-2555) offers good dinners and microbrews; and Java City (760-934-8576) is the Colombian hook, found on Minaret Road inside the Travel Lodge.

Guides: Sierra North: 100 Back-Country Trips, by Thomas Winnett, et al. ($15.95) and High Sierra Hiking Guide: Devils Postpile (includes map), by Ron Felzer ($12.95); both available from Wilderness Press, (800) 443-7227; Hiking the Sierra Nevada, by Barry Parr (Falcon Publishing, 800-582-2665;; $15.95). The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, by R. J. Secor ($29.95) and Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country, by Steve Roper ($16.95); both available from The Mountaineers Books, (800) 553-4453; www.

Maps: USGS quads (888-ASK-USGS;; $4). Yosemite National Park and Vicinity (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227;; $6.95). Ansel Adams Wilderness, Forest Service topo (available at any of the ranger stations mentioned throughout; $4). Trail Map of the Mammoth High Country (Tom Harrison, 415-456-7940; $6.95).

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