Ansel Adams Wilderness

The Ansel Adams Wilderness is dotted with sparkling lakes, glacially sculpted gorges, and imposing peaks. Originally protected as wilderness by the 1964 Wilderness Act, it was first called the Minarets Wilderness. Renamed to honor Ansel Adams in 1984, it spreads over 230,258 acres, ranging in altitude from about 7,000 feet to 14,000 feet.

For thousands of years this area has been inhabited by people of the Miwok, Monache, Mono, Washo, and Shoshone tribes. Acorns, pinon pine nuts, and obsidian were gathered and traded along routes that crisscrossed this wilderness.


The Ansel Adams is located between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes. The John Muir Trail (and Pacific Crest Trail) passes through this wilderness, and it can be accessed from both sides of the Sierra crest. Most people enter the wilderness from the east, starting in the Mammoth Lakes area (near Devils Post Pile National Monument), or from the south near Lake Thomas Edison.

Shuttle Bus to Reds Meadow/Agnew Meadow

All visitors accessing Reds Meadow Valley must pay a per-person user fee which will allow use of the mandatory shuttle bus.


Permits are required for all overnight trips in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Why?

All trailheads in this wilderness have entry quotas. These apply to all overnight visitors, whether you use the services of a commercial outfitter/guide or not. Some trails have specific commercial quotas, and all visitors using a commercial outfitter or guide must obtain their permit through the commercial operator. Some trails have ‘single quotas’ where all commercial and non-commercial visitors must compete for the same quota space.

Permits for backpacking in the Ansel Adams are available from the Sierra and Inyo National Forests, depending on where you plan to enter the Wilderness.


No more than 15 people and 25 head of stock are allowed per group on overnight trips. Why?


The Inyo and Sierra National Forests each have a forest order regarding “proper food storage”. They prohibit possessing or storing any food or refuse unless stored in a bear-proof container or in another manner designed to keep bears from gaining access to the food or refuse. In addition to this, bear canisters are required in certain areas within Inyo National Forest.

All Inyo visitor centers rent backpacker bear canisters. Limited numbers are available. Visitor centers also have bear canisters available for sale, as do many local sporting goods stores.

More information about traveling in bear country in Inyo National Forest


Campfires are generally allowed within the Ansel Adams Wilderness below “tree line” (around 10,000 feet), though there are many exceptions. Check campfire regulations in the Inyo National Forest and Sierra National Forest. Here’s a useful PDF summary of Sierra National Forest’s Wilderness Regulations.

In places where fires are allowed, make sure to always follow smart campfire guidelines.

Campfires are prohibited:
  • Within ¼ mile of Garnet and Thousand Island Lakes.
  • Within 300 feet of the shore of Shadow Lake, and between Shadow Creek Trail and Shadow Creek from Shadow Lake to Ediza Lake outlet crossing.
  • Within the Lake Ediza watershed
  • Within the Minaret Lake watershed


  • Pack goats are not recommended in Big Horn Sheep habitat areas while their impacts are being evaluated. For more information about Big Horn Sheep recovery, check the following links: Sheep Facts Big Horn Recovery
  • Dogs are allowed in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, but are not allowed in wilderness areas in adjacent national parks.
  • Pet food must be stored to the same standard as people food. In areas where use of a bear resistant food storage container is required, pet food must be stored in your container.
  • Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from wilderness hazards such as porcupines, mountain lions, and sick, injured or rabid animals.
  • Unleashed dogs may intimidate other hikers and their dogs, depriving them of a peaceful wilderness experience.
    Unleashed dogs may harass, injure and sometimes kill wildlife.
  • A leashed dog’s keen senses can enhance your awareness of nearby wildlife or other visitors.


Camping is prohibited in the following areas of the Ansel Adams Wilderness:

  • Within ¼ mile of the outlets of Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes.
  • On the south side of Lake Ediza.
  • Within 300 feet of the shore of Shadow Lake.
  • Between Shadow Creek Trail and Shadow Creek from Shadow Lake to Lake Ediza outlet crossing.
  • Rainbow Lake for a distance of 1/4 mile from the shoreline in all directions.
  • Lillian Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the stream flow dam northward around the shoreline for a distance of approximately 1/4 mile from the outlet.
  • Cora Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the outlet north-ward to a point approximately 1/4 mile from the outlet.
  • Sadler Lake for a distance of 400 feet of the shoreline from the junction of the Isberg and Mclure trails, northward approximately 1/4 mile.

Named after photographer Ansel Adams, this wilderness spans both sides of the sierra crest, encompassing a spectacular high alpine landscape.


Current Conditions
Inyo National Forest
Sierra National Forest
Getting There

Wilderness.Net: Ansel Adams Info

A valued Wilderness

Lush meadows and deep snow packs have for generations made the Ansel Adams important to local and state economies. Its meadows have been grazed by sheep and cattle, and the San Joaquin river flows out of this wilderness through twenty-five hydroelectric powerhouses as it soaks the fertile pastures, fields, and orchards of the world’s most productive agricultural valley – the San Joaquin.

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