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Shadow Lake / River Trail - Trailhead - is located just past the stables on SR203 (see Getting Started for
a more detailed description).  The sign off the paved roadway states Agnew Meadows Trailhead, and it is named
that because of the immediate meadow that carries that name located just west of the parking lot. But this famous
trailhead will give you access to some of the most
famous trails in all the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Things
can be a bit confusing, because the sign above states that
the trailhead is more correctly known as the Shadow Lake
/ River Trail Trailhead. But this is how it works. The trail
sign in the image to the right tells us that by going left, (or
north), you will be able to travel to Thousand Island Lake.
If you take this option, you will be on the Pacific Crest

The Pacific Crest Trail (also known as the Pacific Crest
National Scenic Trail) is a long-distance mountain hiking
and equestrian trail that runs from the United States border
with Mexico to its border with Canada and follows the
highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range

                                                                                  which parallel the Pacific Ocean by 100 to 150 miles    
                                                                                  (161 to 241 km). The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles
                                                                                  (4,240 km) long and ranges in elevation from just
                                                                                  above sea level at the Oregon-Washington border to
                                                                                  13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra
                                                                                  Nevada. It was designated a National Scenic Trail in     
                                                                                  1968, although it was not officially completed until
                                                                                  1993. The Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail,
                                                                                  and the Continental Divide Trail form the Triple Crown
                                                                                  of long distance hiking in the United States. The PCT
                                                                                  was conceived by Clinton C. Clarke in 1932; however it
                                                                                  was not given official status until the National Trails
                                                                                  System Act of 1968. (Info on P.C.T. from

Now if you take the Right Hand option, you will be
heading to Shadow Lake. But you are actually on the
River Trail. The River Trail will also take you to
Thousand Island Lake. I believe this option is the best
way to get to Thousand Island Lake if that is your
destination. The Shadow Lake Trail is not encountered
until a couple of miles up the River Trail and there you
will see a trail sign identifying this fork in the path. If you
continue on the River Trail, you will follow the river
canyon and end up at Thousand Island Lake. If you take
the Shadow Lake Fork, you will of course end up passing
by Shadow Lake on your way to Ediza Lake. This trail
option will also give you access to the John Muir Trail.
The Northern option of the John Muir Trail will lead you to Gannet Lake, Ruby Lake, Emerald Lake, and finally
Thousand Island Lake. This is a longer and more arduous path to Thousand Island Lake (in comparison to the
River Trail), but it is a much more beautiful route to the lake districts in my opinion.

                                                                                    If your destination is climbing Mt Ritter, Banner Peak,
                                                                                    or one of the Minarets, then take the River Trail /       
                                                                                    Shadow Lake option. Then take the fork latter on that
                                                                                    leads to Ediza Lake. This is the best way to access the
                                                                                    aforementioned climbing objectives. You can also (of  
                                                                                    course) climb Ritter and Banner from Garnet Lake or
                                                                                    Thousand Island Lake, or many other surrounding      
                                                                                    points, but the Ediza Lake route gives you a more       
                                                                                    direct approach to the peaks.

As far as trailhead amenities, there is ample parking
in a large flat dirt area near the trailhead. There is also a
good size restroom along with bear proof lockers for your
food storage. This way you do not have to leave scented
items in your vehicle and take the risk of a bear breaking
and entering. It is also your legal responsibility to properly
store you food and scented items so that bears cannot get
to them. Storage lockers make this easy. There are also
bear proof trash cans for your convenience.

                                                                                     We usually arrive late at night on most of our Sierra
                                                                                     climbing and backpacking outings, and the above
                                                                                     trailhead makes it easy to bed down for the night.
                                                                                     By setting up our permit for a Saturday entry and
                                                                                     leaving Friday night after work we are able to get the
                                                                                     most out of our weekends without having to waste
                                                                                     time driving on Saturday. In the photo to the left you
                                                                                     can see how we are able to make use of the truck
                                                                                     bed and a ground cloth (off to the left) for sleeping
                                                                                     accommodations on Friday night at the trailhead.

Also try and take some time out to explore the trailhead
area. The Forest Service has gone to the effort to post
interpretive signs and billboards in order to educate us folks
about the rules. They give good information on
things we need to know about wildlife, camping, trail
regulations, and other important issues concerning
wilderness travel. I find that the more you understand
about your surroundings, the more you will be able to
safely enjoy your experience in the great outdoors.

                                                                                     Just to the west of the trailhead parking area is
                                                                                     beautiful Agnew Meadows. The photograph to the
                                                                                     left shows this popular area turning a golden brown
                                                                                     during the latter part of August 2007.
                                                                                     In July 2006 (when we climbed Mt Ritter) this scene
                                                                                     was quite different, and the meadows were green and
                                                                                     soggy. We also arrived in the night, but our permit    
                                                                                     entry was for that day, so we had to put on our         
                                                                                     headlamps and travel down the trail a couple of miles
                                                                                     to make our permit legal. We were glad to get out of
                                                                                     the trailhead parking lot, because the number of        
                                                                                     mosquito's was unbelievable. July is usually mosquito
                                                                                     season in the Sierra so come prepared with plenty of
                                                                                     bug repellent. But in late August the meadow is dry,  
                                                                                     and we did not encounter a single mosquito on the    
                                                                                     entire trip.
Along with gaining a day by driving at night on Friday
and waking up at the trailhead at first light, we were able
to enjoy a continental breakfast. Though I do not endorse
pop tarts and donuts for breakfast on a regular basis
they can be a real treat in the mountains. The nights are
plenty cool at 8,300 feet and the milk was in fine shape
for breakfast that morning. I lined up the goodies on the
top rail of the truck bed and my son Ben shows his
delight in the scene after waking up after a good nights
sleep in the back of the truck.
For more about backpacking food,
Click Here.

                                                                                   All in all the Shadow Lake  /  River  /  (Agnew
                                                                                   Meadows) Trailhead is your gateway to the endless
                                                                                   variety of beauty in the spectacular Ansel Adams
                                                                                   Wilderness region. So whether you are climbing an
                                                                                   alpine peak, backpacking into beautiful Ediaz Lake,
                                                                                   hiking along spectacular waterfalls and rivers, fishing at
                                                                                   incredibly popular Thousand Islands Lake district, or
                                                                                   participating in any other outdoor / alpine activity,
                                                                                   Agnew Meadows Trailhead is your ticket to adventure!
Mount Ritter - Trailhead                                                                
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