It was a great moonless weekend for a camping trip, so I made some plans to camp near Mammoth Lakes and visit Yosemite during the day. With the combination of the Detwiler Fire covering Yosemite Valley in smoke and ash, and the planned opening of Minaret Road near Mammoth, the plan pivoted for what would hopefully be a weekend with clearer skies in the Eastern Sierra.
Date Range – July 21-23
Campground – Red’s Meadow
Distance – 331 miles
Closest Town – Mammoth Lakes, CA
After our drive through Minaret Falls Campground, we continued on to see if Red’s Meadow had any better options. We stumbled on our site from nearly two years ago – site 13 – with a great view of the meadow and moderate seclusion from nearby sites. We set up camp as the sun went down, and were immediately welcomed to the mountains by amazing views of the night sky.
View of the Milky Way from Red’s Meadow
While eating a hearty breakfast of hashbrowns and mini-sausages, we watched a few deer walk through the meadow and eat their morning meal. The plan for the day was to hike to Shadow Lake and then Ediza Lake, walking for a little while on both the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. Our trailhead began in Agnew Meadow, which was much larger and more open than Red’s.
Along with the awesome view at Agnew Meadow came the beginning of the day-long mosquito onslaught. Parts of the trail were much worse than others, but no matter where you were you would be eaten up like mad if you stopped walking. After about a mile and a half we came up on the beautiful reflections of Olanie Lake.
Olaine lake or Ansel Adams Sign
Another mile and a half of hiking would take us to Shadow Lake, but not before a cool bridge crossing of the San Joaquin River and a mile long exposed section of trail. The waterfall from Shadow Creek was explosive, and provided great views looking back into the valley.
Canyon looking back from Shadow Creek
We stopped for a while at Shadow Lake to eat and rest before heading back up the trail towards Ediza Lake. The trails are well marked, which can be very reassuring at times with the sheer volume to trails near Mammoth Lakes.
Mosquitoes were intense just past Shadow Lake, making it pretty easy to press on. The trail junction splitting Ediza Lake and Thousand Island Lake came quicker than I thought, but we still had a ways to go before reaching our destination.
Shadow Creek between Shadow and Ediza Lakes
Just before we reached Ediza Lake, we had one last obstacle in our way: a knee deep crossing of Shadow Creek. There were a few backpackers contemplating the traverse, so I went ahead and attempted the crossing while they looked at their maps. After about 30 seconds of wading and losing most of the feeling in my feet, I decided to take the cautious route and turned back. From here, the backpackers trudged on and we searched for another trail to Ediza.
All of the trails leading over the creek looked pretty dangerous, so we decided to just climb up the nearest ridge for a view of Ediza Lake. We’d never been here before, so we weren’t sure if the creeks actually had footbridges that had been wiped out from the record water levels. We finally made it to a point where we could see the lake, making all of the previous escapades worthwhile.
The next day we packed up and headed towards Rainbow Falls before driving home. A few videos I had seen prior to the trip were showing the water coming off the falls at a level exponentially higher than when I had visited before, so I was pretty excited. The falls did not disappoint.
We were able to avoid the crowds for most of the weekend, which really makes a difference in the overall experience. There were a decent amount of people hiking in that portion of the Sierra, which was to be expected as it was a beautiful weekend in the middle of hiking season.