Backpacking I: Long Weekend Introduction to Backpacking

This is our Introductory 3 day backpacking trip near the San Joaquin River out of Mammoth Lakes. We love this spectacular area of the Sierra with the multi-hued rock and beautiful deep lakes. For a lot of people it is hard to get time off work to get to the mountains but driving to the Eastern Sierra and back in a weekend just makes everything too rushed and ruins the goal of getting away and relaxing in the mountains. So take an extra day off work, have time to simply enjoy the peace of the mountains and their beauty and recharge. The boss might actually thank you.

Hiking experience is not necessary – the desire to simply experience the Sierra Nevada is enough. During the trip we will work with you to give you the skills and knowledge to get to head out confidently by your self the next time.

One reason we like this route is that it gives us some options. If the main desire is to hike longer days then we can do the full loop. If you would rather slow down, relax and just absorb the natural world around you then we can take a shorter loop by camping on the rock slabs of Garnet Lake and then dropping back to the river Trail and Agnew Meadows

If a shorter, more relaxing trip sounds appealing, we can shorten it by camping on the rock slabs bordering Garnet Lake and then returning via the River Trail to Agnew Meadows.

Return to Sierra Backpacking & Hiking

Day 1
We will meet in Mammoth Lakes, do an equipment review, pick up any last minute items and head to the trailhead at Agnew Meadows by driving or by taking the shuttle bus. From here we take the River Trail along the San Joaquin River past Sierra Junipers with their papery bark and spreading branches. A short steep climb takes us to the glacier bowl holding beautiful Shadow Lake. Here we find a great swimming rock for the brave. We follow Shadow Creek upstream and climb to our camp near the junction with the JMT.

Day 2
The sun greets us early here and after breakfast we head into of the most lovely places in the Mammoth area. A short pass crossing takes us to Garnet Lake and the other gems here, Ruby and Emerald, before dropping to the big expanse of Thousand Island Lake. We take lunch here and enjoy the views of Mounts Ritter and Banner before heading to camp at Badger Lakes.

Day 3
We leave camp early with lighter packs and contour below the crest of the San Joaquin Ridge looking back to where our route took us. We hope to be back at the trailhead by early afternoon in time to get you on the road back to the big city.

Distances and elevations
Day 1: Trailhead to Shadow Creek, 4.9 miles, 1250 feet of gain, 550 feet of down
Day 2: Shadow Creek to Badger Lakes, 6.5 miles, 1850 feet of gain, 1320 feet of down
Day 3: Badger Lakes to Trailhead , 6.3 miles, 642 feet of gain, 1850 feet of down
If we choose the shorter loop this reduces the Day 2 distance to 3 miles and the Day 3 distance back to the trailhead to 5 miles. Elevation gains and losses are also reduced on both days.


Program Prerequisites:

No prior experience is required though you should be in good physical condition and able to carry a pack with three days of equipment.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Backpacking I Long Weekend Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.