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Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

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Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby Splash » Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:43 pm

Hi Ya'll,
I plan on taking the spur trail from the Agnews Meadows trail head River Trail to Garnet Lake. I have read that it is tough but with very little detail. Anyone have first hand experience ? The plan is to maybe hike on thru to 1,000 Island Lake but it's not set in stone.

Thanks,
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby markskor » Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:32 pm

3 trails go Agnew Meadows to Garnet. Bit confused by what you mean by "spur trail". Do you mean the River Trail itself, as the only spur I know of is the Altha - Laura segment which hooks up to the JMT. I do not know of any spur trail off the High Trail.

Certainly the River Trail leads to Garnet, all (~ easy) uphill at first with most of the worst elevation being gained (1200 ft) in the last mile. As there is that pesky PostPile tram thing to contend with pre-hike, most trips out of Agnew TH usually start out noonish and subsequently, hiking all the way to Garnet can be a bit of a first day slog.

If getting a late start, suggest good camping spots ~ 5 miles in, where the River Trail meets the San Joaquin - and do the last uphill part to Garnet (and on to 1000 Island) next morning early?
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby Splash » Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:29 pm

Thanks Markskor.. This would be from the River Trail to Garnet Lake..The reason I say spur is because that is what all the major trail information websites call it. They also say it's easy to miss the junction. As far as I can tell it's about 5 miles from Agnew Meadows and seems to be very steep with footing that is explained as challenging. I want to go this way but I am going with a few other people and want to make sure they know what they are getting into.

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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby hikerdmb » Mon Mar 24, 2014 7:08 am

I came down it last summer on my JMT trip. My wife left the trail at Mammoth (That was her planned exit point) so I used this trail to resupply in town. it is pretty steep in many places and footing could be an issue. We did see 4 people coming up and they were definitely huffing and puffing and sweating. The good thing is it is not that long of a climb.
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby balzaccom » Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:17 am

Hikerdmd has it right. I've posted a few photos of this trail before. It is steep, and the footing on the lower section is rotten. I slipped twice coming down it a few years ago---and I can't think of another trail in the Sierra where I've done that. Of course, I was also favoring a bad knee, so that might have had something to do with it.

Coming up, of course, will be a bit less difficult in terms of slipping...worse in cardio, though.

And here is my wife coming down the steepest section of the upper part, just below Garnet Lake.

Image

And a large scale shot of that section of the trail. From the flat spot here there is a trail up to Altha Lake--a lovely campsite, but only one!

Image

Note: this was NOT the worse section. The worst section is below the turnoff to Altha Lake...where the trail heads down a steep slope of dirt and rock.
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby Splash » Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:39 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone, great photos Balzaccom....Ok sounds like a rough time probebly to hard for the people I am going with... I think we'll forgo Garnet and just go to 1,000 Island Lake on the River Trail....Heading to Marie Lakes then onto Yosemite after that anyway......

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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby papercup » Tue Mar 25, 2014 11:36 am

Another option would be for you to head from Agnew Meadows to Shadow Lake, and then take the JMT north to Garnet Lake. You head down to the River Trail, but quickly leave it on a climb that switchbacks up the canyon wall toward Shadow Lake, which is a gorgeous spot for a rest. From there, you meet the JMT and head north, first along the creek, then through forest, and finally out into tarns. You climb rocky switchbacks to a ridge overlooking Garnet Lake, and then it's just a quick drop to the shoreline.

I don't have my maps in front of me, but I think that this route is a bit longer, and involves a bit more elevation gain, than the River Trail option. However, you'll avoid the steep section leading up to Garnet Lake-- everything on this route is nice trail, well graded. And it's a nice, scenic hike-- Shadow Lake is lovely, the hike up to the ridge over Garnet is nice, and the view looking down on Garnet from the ridge is beautiful. Something to consider.
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby Shawn » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:07 pm

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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby markskor » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:55 pm

Just to clear a few things up...
The River Trail, although a little steep at the last part, is easy, well-marked, well-signed, and considered by many the best/fastest/easiest way to get to Garnet.

Other than at the Altha/River Trail junction, (yes a bit confusing; you go to the right), the route is obvious, and considering you are in the trees most of the way, the coolest/shadiest route going up too.
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby Splash » Tue Mar 25, 2014 8:55 pm

Thanks for clearing things up Markskor...And thanks papercup & Shawn for the feedback..When I saw Balzaccom's photos I thought of the rock hoping to Edna..and didn't want to put people through that kinda stuff with a full pack...I am just going to do it and explain to the folks we're going with that we'll have a couple of hours of hard hiking but in the end dropping into Garnet will be worh it...They can handle it.. We'll camp at Garnet instead of 1000 Island Lake ...It's less total miles the first day anyway...Should we camp on the north-west side of the lake?
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Re: Agnew Meadows River Trail to Garnet Lake via the spur trail

Postby markskor » Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:10 am

Not knowing how many days you have planned for this adventure...
Suggest:
Day 1 - Agnew to River Trail/San Joaquin crossing. (~5 miles)...good starting/shakedown length first day.
Day 2 - Up to Garnet and, as camping is prohibited north end of Garnet (and lots of bear activity here), when you hit the Garnet exit bridge (River Trail terminus), go left and work your way along eastern shoreline use trail of Garnet south, and camp backside Garnet.
Day 3 - On the Southwest end of Garnet, a small stream enters Garnet (see TOPO) and a use trail starts (just behind a large rock at the stream exit) which leads over a small 300' knoll to the backside 1000 Island...easy. Plenty of camping sites backside 1000 Is and (as camping is also prohibited North side 1000 Is, a few sites up in the trees and bears congregate there too), camp backside 1000 Island...no people and no bears!
Day 4 - West side use trail going north - pick up the JMT, High Trail or River Trail again at the North end/ exit of 1000 Is and either go Tuolumne or return Agnew... it is all downhill back to Agnew.

You might also consider a zero day 1000 Is, maybe do Catherine, or just fish that day away - whatever.
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