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Thousand Island Lake from June Lake - California, United States

by steverod  
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A wonderful weekend excursion to the High Sierra. (I didn't own a GPS then, so the track line is approximated.)

I had always wanted to re-visit Thousand Island Lake after a stopover on the Muir Trail but the most obvious route there always seemed to be via Agnew Meadows, which is really a 3-day trip, and 3 days together was hard to find. Then one day I looked at the map and went "Doh!" You can reach Thousand Island Lake from the June Lake Highway, quite easily. So we packed up our bags and went.

The trail follows the June Lake Loop Highway for about a mile or so before heading up towards the lakes. Agnew, Gem and Waugh Lakes are all hydroelectric power stations, so you see a lot of dams on this trip. The hike up to Agnew Lake, in particular, passes by an old railway, used, I presume for building and maintaining the dam. Seeing the old equipment is kind of cool.

After Agnew Lake, you head up towards Gem Lake and then towards Waugh Lake. Waugh Lake is framed by a view of where the Cathedral and Ritter Ranges merge, with Mount Davis rising up high.  After meeting the PCT, we headed south towards Island Pass, going past some lovely tarns framing Banner Peak, and continuing down towards Thousand Island Lake.

Thousand Island Lake, while not containing 1000 chunks of land, is nonetheless gorgeous, with Banner Peak rising at its head and the lake stretching seemingly forever. Unfortunately, all that water means lots of mosquitoes, so it was not an evening to linger and watch the sunset.

Thousand Island Lake is also a bear hotbed, so we were particularly glad to have our bear canister at 2am, when my wife woke up and yelled "Bad bear! Bad bear!" in her best "Bad dog" voice. Apparently (I didn't have my glasses on), said bear looked appropriately sheepish and moved on. The next morning we had a large muddy noseprint on our bear canister -- and all of our food.

After leaving Thousand Island Lake behind, we descended the San Joaquin River following the PCT (not the JMT) and then headed up towards Clark Lakes. The Clark Lakes look like a wonderful place to stop over, and indeed some horse packers had. As it was late July, the bugs were bad and the flowers were gorgeous.

From Clark Lakes we climbed up and then descended the Spooky Meadow Trail. When I think of "meadow" I think of a flat expanse of green but Spooky Meadow is only flat for people who live on terraces: the trail descends steeply through many patches of green before traversing a steep hillside that's seemingly all talus. I'm still not sure how the trail managed to stay together after anyone walked on it, seeing as how it was nothing but loose rocks.

Eventually the trail dropped down to the far side of Agnew Lake and after crossing beneath the dam, we headed down to our car, June Lake, and some well-deserved ice cream.
  • Don't go up the route via Spooky Meadow; the trail is loose and very very steep. Going down isn't fun either but at least you're not losing half of every step.
  • The area by Thousand Island Lake is bear heaven. Canisters are an absolute must (I don't recall if they're actually legally required or not, but not taking one is basically begging the bear to get your food).

Sierra Nevada, california, Ansel Adams Wilderness
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Comments (9)
I hiked this over two days in early October, which was a great time to go. It was warm and dry but cool at night. I camped by Waugh lake because I started late. The Thousand Island Lakes and Clark lakes are beautiful and picturesque and well worth the trip. The worst part was the loose gravel on the way back to Agnew Lake. Side note: the length of the loop is more like 20 miles, not 15.
by Ben1Z on Oct 17, 2015
One other suggestion too. We passed by Thousand Island Lake and camped at the Clark Lakes. Thousand Island can be crowded for camping due to its popularity. There was only one other couple at the Clark Lakes. Many beautiful campsites in the trees to choose from, and gets you closer to the trailhead/parking area for your hike out.
by Waagman on Jul 14, 2015
I took my wife on her first backpack trip here last year, and was a fantastic 3 day trip. Perfect weather (no T-storms), very few mosquitos, and everything went off as planned. Agree with the "Tips" above regarding not hiking up to Spooky Meadow. It is indeed very steep and should be done on the return back to the trailhead.
by Waagman on Jul 14, 2015
Bear canisters required yes http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5419379.jpg Gonna do this in August hopefully the bugs die down!
by jimhike on Jul 13, 2015
Bear canisters required yes http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5419379.jpg Gonna do this in August hopefully the bugs die down!
by jimhike on Jul 13, 2015
by toddzilla8 on Nov 25, 2013
Exited to check this out
by annaprov22 on Jul 07, 2012
by Zbassz21 on Aug 11, 2010
Nice hike to Thousand Island lake. I need to check this one out.
by rezlab on Aug 06, 2010
Trip Info
July 25, 2010
Trip Location: June Lake, California, United States
Length: 15.6 miles
Activity: Backpacking
Trip viewed 12,313 times
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