Page 1 of 2

TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:57 am
by dreamer1
Thanks to everyone for the helpful suggestions regarding my planned 5-7 day backpacking trip in mid-September (originally looking at TM towards the Valley) but now considering one of the suggested options, namely, TM towards Agnew Meadows with possible side trips to places like Lyell Glacier, Marie Lakes, Davis Lake, the lake basin above and to the west of Garnet Lake, and Ediza Lake off the JMT. Side trips are nice as we (2 of us) like being able to spend 2 days at the same spot along the way and just explore, day hiking about. No fishing on this trip. Lakes are fantastic. No more than 8-10 miles per day. Some quiet stretches would be nice.

A few questions: is there a preferred direction in the hike (Agnes to TM vs TM to Agnes)? If we leave our car at TM, is getting transportation from Mammoth back to TM easy in mid-September?

Any suggested spots to set up our tent along the way (again, I doubt we will be going more than 8-10 miles or so per day).

Finally, looking at my maps, I see loads of intricate trails running through the Ansel Adams Wilderness from the Agnew Meadows (I know the Campgroup will be closed in 2013) Devil's Postpile area. Would we be better off doing a 5-7 day loop around there instead of starting off from TM? If so, any suggestions? Many many thanks again. Our past 3 trips out there have all been fantastic and final route planning immensely helped by your input.

Anthony (pushing on 50).

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:36 am
by Scouter9
You have an awesome, and very "classic", route there: Tuolumne to Agnew. I know that a lot of folks on here have experience with that route, and I anticipate you'll get some great input. Here's mine:

--I suggest the simple route: up Lyell creek from Tuolumne, over Donohue Pass, down and then over Island Pass to Thousand Island Lake, over to Garnet Lake and then down past Shadow Lake to Agnew Meadows. I also suggest you take the full seven and use a "zero day" in the middle of the trek for side trips to the lakes.

--I have two mindsets regarding Days One and Two, both of which are aimed at avoiding a campsite up at the head of the canyon below Donohue Pass --since it's notoriously active with Yogi and Boo Boo bear. Option One is the "acclimation day" where you hike short and make your first camp only halfway up Lyell canyon, at or around the "Ansel Adams Camp" (easy to google), which is spectacular. This is a beautiful, gorgeous area in Yosemite. With this option, you camp Night two real high, after you pass over Donohue Pass and your Day 2 hike has the beast-climb of the whole trek in it. Ahhh, the switchbacks up the end of Lyell canyon are a joy.

Anyway, Option Two is that you punch out serious miles on Day 1 and camp above the end of the canyon at the tarn you'll see on the map just south of Donohue Pass. This is a monster first day, in my view, and I wouldn't do it anymore. However, there's water and you're above Yogi's general prowl once you're at the tarn, because the bears are down below, pillaging whoever goes for the excellent, beautiful, luring sites at the head of the canyon... With this one, your Day 2 includes plenty of time to side-track over to the glacier or even to summit Mt. Lyell. Depending what you do, you descend toward Island Pass but don't ascend over it for the next camp.

(If you want to spend real time on the glacier or summiting Lyell is a priority, then you can make the tarn your Day 2 camp, do Lyell on Day 3 and camp high above treeline that night. Then, you make Day 4 what's below as 3, and eliminate your zero day at TI.)

--Day 3, you hike to Thousand Island Lake. You probably already know how and why Thousand Island Lake is such a popular place. I suggest siting your camp well west on the north shore and would point you toward a cove you'll see that's shaped like the top of a fluer-de-lis... nice sites around that area and very few campers, with less bear activity.

--Day 4, Zero Mile, for dayhikes out to Davis Lakes or just around TI. You've earned this.

--Day 5, back along the north shore of Thousand Island, to the JMT heading up over past Emerald and Ruby Lakes, to Garnet Lake. Camp along north shore, at least halfway west on the lake. Take your time on this one, enjoying the lakes.

--Day 6, either Zero Mile from Garnet, used for dayhiking cross-country to Nydyver Lakes, or hike cross-country up over and down to Nydiver Lakes. Use afternoon to dayhike to Ediza Lake (generally a lot of campers here, so camp at Nydiver).

--Day 7, hike past Shadow Lake, down to the San Joaquin River crossing and then up to Agnew Meadows. Hop the bus (bring cash for the ride) back to the Mammoth Lodge.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:02 am
by markskor
Good trip - many great possibilities on a 5 - 7 day adventure here -
Having done a similar trip just last year, suggest:
First night stay Tuolumne BP camp ($5 pp, no reservation needed), get acclimated and sample the local flavor. Since you have a car, perhaps TPR for dinner works well, or even down the hill to the Deli. Grill closes at 6:00 PM closes at 7:00.
Day 2 - The first 7 miles are flat and scenic. Lunch along the Lyell and then start the 3000 foot climb at the end. Stay at twin bridges -(about 1/2 way up the switchbacks) - cannot miss it - big double bridge. Be aware there is no water once you leave the Lyell flats until this bridge - or if still energetic, push 2 more miles to the green tarn.
Day 3 - Before you crest Donahue, just below the final push, go off trail South - TOPO? (stash the packs) and go see the glacier before it is gone. All the way to summit Lyell might be pushing it, but plenty to see in a 3-hour out and back tour. Pick up the packs and stay Rush Creek, or Marie, or Davis. (BTW, even though Waugh looks good from afar - not a good camping spot.)
Day 4 - Look at your TOPO again when at Island Pass. Instead of following the trail to the north side of TI, (crowded area and bear country at the mouth), follow the small stream down, south-east X-country and camp far side,(South end) Thousand Island Lake - just below Banner - (BTW, why no fishing gear?)...good places to camp here.
Day 5 - Catherine beckons as a day trip, just over the SW ridge, or just chill/zero day, or...
Day 6 - Head over the small crest east, backside TI (Topo again) and you are at backside of Garnet - You have avoided all the crowds that everyone b-itches about at Thousand Island and seen it's best - Follow East shoreline north and you pick up the trail/trails again in a mile or so. Camp wherever pleases you - any number of lakes on the way down to choose from.
Day 7 - Head for Agnew not Reds/Postpile. There is a shuttle bus at Agnew which takes you to Reds/Postpile, (from where the $7 "UP" bus departs) - and that 5-mile section hiking Agnew to Reds sucks - dry and dirty.

Not sure when the connection Mammoth - Tuolumne bus fits into your schedule time-wise...check. It will take you back to your car left it in the TM Wilderness Permit lot.
Might be even better to leave the car in the Mammoth Ski lot initially and take the Tuolumne bus at the very start of the trip. Drops you off TM store - TM BP first night - and then you are hiking directly back to the car in Mammoth.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:06 pm
by OzSwaggie
Hi Anthony
We hiked from Agnew to Tuolumne last year in August. We took five days, as we were dealing with jet lag and coming from sea level. It was very beautiful and certainly challenging enough for us! (We are late 40's and this was our first serious multiday hike). My trail journal is at" onclick=";return false; if you are interested.
We didn't have a car but the only public transport between Tuolumne Meadows and Mammoth is the YARTS bus (see their website) which runs in the early morning (around 8am) from Mammoth Lakes township to Yosemite Valley via Tuolumne Meadows. I think it took around 1.5 hours to get to T.M. Then the only way back to Mammoth coming from Tuolumne Meadows is the return trip that the same YARTS bus makes in the evening, when it leaves Yosemite Valley around 5pm. It leaves T.M. store around 6 - 7pm (you'll need to check this! - the buses are very punctual I just don't recall the exact times.) and gets into Mammoth Lakes late evening (8.30 - 9pm); it terminates at the mountain lodge ski area (Mammoth Mountain Lodge) where you could leave your car. Getting to the trailhead at Agnew Meadows, if you park your car at Mammoth Mountain Lodge, is easy. There are buses regularly through the day but they don't run late into the evening. This makes for a relaxed departure.
For a bunch of reasons we found it easiest to hike from Agnew to Tuolumne, rather than the other way. We went via Shadow Lake, Garnet Lake, Thousand Island and on over Donahue. Very scenic! We both loved Garnet Lake, so were glad we didn't go straight to Thousand Island lake on the river trail. The climb in altitude was gentler, the ascent of both Island pass and Donahue Pass were less steep from the southern side.
It is a wonderful trip, whichever way you do it, but I think most people do it N-S - we met lots of really nice people coming the other way - probably met more people than if we had been travelling in the same direction as they were.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:51 am
by tim
Your challenge is going to be that the Devils Postpile bus stops running after Labor Day, so getting out from Agnew Meadows will require hitching. Likely Yarts will only be running at weekends by then also, which probably means parking at Mammoth Mountain Inn and getting that bus first to minimize risk of being stuck if you miss the bus. That way you can also have one person hitch out if need be to fetch the car while the other(s) stay with the packs.

I think Yarts timing is now late afternoon, so best may be to get to TM with the car, pick up permits there and get a site at the BP campground for the first night then one person goes to drop the car and gets the bus back (with no pack) while the others make dinner.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:06 pm
by OzSwaggie
Hi Again Anthony
Just had another thought - another reason why we started from Agnew rather than TM was that it's easier to reserve a permit via the Inyo national forest's online reservation system. If you start in TM you have to negotiate the Yosemite National Park's system, but maybe that won't be so bad in September anyway.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:30 pm
by kpeter
I had a delightful 7 day trip from Agnew to TM in 2010.
Day 1 camped near Shadow Creek above Shadow Lake
Day 2 dayhiking to Ediza, Iceberg and environs
Day 3 camped at Thousand Island
Day 4 dayhiked around Thousand Island, Catherine
Day 5 over Island and Donahue to upper reaches of Lyell
Day 6 dayhiked to Lyell Glacier
Day 7 out

I like the fact that we had every other day "off" from the heavy packs, and we saw a lot more than we would have from the trail alone. A classic trip.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:11 pm
by oleander
I think you are good going in either direction. You can have an easy first day with minimal elevation gain, from either trailhead. Starting elevations are similar. The first ~8 miles of Lyell Canyon is an easy walk-up; so is the ~6-mile walk to the legal camping area just west of Shadow Lake.

Therefore, perhaps look at the YARTS schedule and pick the trailhead/itinerary for which the YARTS schedule/direction is convenient.

One detail here: If you arrive at Mammoth Lakes in the early morning prior to the start of the Mammoth-Reds shuttle, or after the shuttle is done for the day, you are allowed to drive in to Agnew and the corridor beyond. (If it's evening: You'd be expected to pay for tent camping somewhere in the Agnew-Reds corridor. In September, you'll land a campsite just fine without reservations.) Once at Agnew Meadows, you can park your car at the trailhead (though as mentioned, that campground is closed).

If the driving/shuttling logistics are about equal, I'd choose the Agnew start over Tuolumne, for a reason someone else gave: Tuolumne permits are by fax, are a little arbitrary and you don't instantly know the result; whereas with Inyo NF you just get online and reserve. However, Agnew start dates for Sept have already been opened up for a few weeks. Check (which doles out all Inyo NF permits) to see what is even left. The trailhead you are applying for is called (I believe) Agnew/Shadow Lake.

Of all those side trips you mentioned, Ediza Lake (plus the various lakes and meadows above it) is the one I would hate to miss. If your first day is to west of Shadow Lake, consider camping there 2 nights and doing a layover where you explore Ediza and any number of other areas above it (Iceberg, Nydiver, or whatever) depending on your energy level. Well worth it.

What is your level of comfort with cross-country travel? Of the x-country routes mentioned, the easiest one (and WELL worth it!) is the very gentle saddle between TI Lake and the basin above and to the west of Garnet Lake. There is some good camping in various spots between Garnet Lake and that upper basin. In fact, it is much better than anything right at Garnet Lake - a difficult place to camp. If you are walking this section northbound (Agnew-Tuolumne): The spot to leave the JMT is not at the bridge over Garnet's outlet, but a good quarter mile (and considerably uphill) up (northbound on) the JMT. Look very carefully for a use trail that leaves the JMT and goes downhill/west. The going along this use trail is a little rough and roundabout till you get more towards the west end of Garnet. Don't underestimate how long this will take - it's a really long lake!

The x-country routes up to Nydiver Lakes (from Garnet) or to Lake Catherine (from TI) are definitely another order of difficulty, though nothing more than Class 2.

- Elizabeth

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:45 pm
by dreamer1
Thank you all for your most helpful suggestions. I think we will make this a 7 night northbound trip starting at Agnew and, as suggested, make several 2 night layovers for fun daytrips - so much to see and take in! Concerning the parking , from what I read it seems it is ok for us to leave our car there provided we get at the trailhead before 7am (when the gates are manned). Given that we will be doing this in mid-September starting on either a Sunday (Sept 15) or the Monday, what are the odds of the parking spots being all taken when we get there?

Oleander: our comfort level with x-country is relatively limited in the sense that we have rarely backpacked off trail on our past trips, but think Class 2 would be fine. How easy/hard would it be to make our way to see Lyell Glacier on our way -- or, preferably, as a daytrip from one of the suggested camping spots?

Many thanks again.

Re: TM to Agnew Meadows

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:57 pm
by tim
dreamer1 wrote:Concerning the parking , from what I read it seems it is ok for us to leave our car there provided we get at the trailhead before 7am (when the gates are manned). Given that we will be doing this in mid-September starting on either a Sunday (Sept 15) or the Monday, what are the odds of the parking spots being all taken when we get there?
Its not a parking issue - you have to take the car down to Agnew Meadows at that time of year and there should be plenty of parking at the trailhead (unless the treefall has messed things up), especially on a weekday. The problem is that unless you have another car in Tuolumne Meadows, you have no way to get back to your car because the shuttle buses down to Devils Postpile don't run after Labor Day.

YARTS will drop you at Mammoth Mountain Inn and its a long walk back down the hill. One of you could hitch, but it will depend what time you get there whether anyone is headed down to Agnew Meadows.