Sometimes I wonder if these types of posts need any narration at all. Sometimes I feel the pictures tell the full story, and they do a better job than I ever could describing the grandeur and beauty of the Eastern Sierra backcountry. So, I’ll try to let them do most of the talking…
I only go backpacking once or twice a year, and every time I do, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Backpacking takes me deep into the dream worlds I can’t see from the road or experience on a day hike. Backpacking feels like a secret society of sorts; where only you and your fellow Bonesmen know what gems lie beyond the trail and just over the ridge.
Ediza Lake is one such gem. An alpine lake at 9,300 feet elevation, it can be done as an out-and-back hike but you end up missing much of the scenery surrounding it. The jaunt to Ediza is one of the most beautiful trails in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and needs an overnighter to fully appreciate.
We had our sights set on Ediza last September. Summer is a spectacular time of year in the Sierra, and especially the end of summer, when the leaves are just starting to turn color but the air is warm and fragrant.
We arrived in Mammoth Lakes a day before the hike and spent a relaxing afternoon sunning on Lake George and watching kayakers paddle across its turquoise waters. It’s one of the most photogenic lakes in the region with a clear view of Crystal Crag looming above the Mammoth Crest.
To end our very rough day, we drove to the hot springs off a dirt path near Benton Crossing. There we found a geothermal pool in the middle of a meadow all to ourselves. As we soaked in a hot mineral bath, we watched the sky turn all shades of orange and red and purple as the sun slowly dipped below the Sherwin Range in the distance.
Can I just say that a pre-hike hot tub is the way to go for multi-day backpacking trips? I slept so soundly that night that I woke up refreshed and energized for the haul ahead.
We started our hike on the Shadow Lake Trail in Agnew Meadows, descending into the San Joaquin River Valley as we passed creeks and cascades along the trail.
At the halfway point about three and a half miles in, we reached Shadow Lake. Despite the frigid alpine water, it looked so inviting on that hot summer day that we couldn’t help but heave our heavy packs off our backs and jump in!
I almost could’ve stayed at Shadow and been perfectly content with our trip. The Sierra solitude was spectacular. There were smooth granite slabs everywhere, baking in the sun and just beckoning us to take a nap on them.
Picking up the trail again, we connected with the John Muir Trail for a while as we followed Shadow Creek.
While making a random restroom stop, we discovered a small waterfall about 50 feet off the trail that flowed into a deep swimming hole. It was magical!
We continued another three miles up Shadow Creek, rolling through green meadows and climbing up a granite staircase until Ediza Lake came into view.
Most people set up camp at Ediza and call it good. After all, this is where the trail ends, and it’s definitely not a shabby place to put up a tent. The shores of Ediza were dotted with all likes of shelters and though I wanted nothing more than to kick off my boots down by the lake, I also wanted something special. I always want to know — what’s just over that next ridge?
Another mile ahead, we found ourselves in a postcard — standing in the middle of a high mountain meadow at the base of Mount Ritter, with the Minarets to the east and Banner Peak to the north. It was breathtaking. There was not another camper around.
I fell asleep to the sounds of the waterfall outside our tent and woke up to the Ritter Range bathed in the glow of early light.
We spent the afternoon doing a day hike to Iceberg Lake, scrambling up a slope and boulder hopping back and forth across a stream. The more adventurous among us even took a skinny dip in the icy waters!
Instead of coming back down the way we came, Will and I decided to traverse the talus to the other end of the lake. Ascending several hundred feet above Iceberg, we could see Cecil Lake in the distance.
We continued up a cliff that looked like a stack of building blocks. And because no climb is complete without a sequence of classic butt shots, here are the best ones that Will so meticulously captured.
Once up and over the ridge, we down climbed the rocky northern slope below the Minarets. My knees thanked me when I finally made it to the meadow!
Our last day was leisurely. Our friends hiked out after breakfast, whereas we slept in and bathed in the waterfall. It was a lovely lazy day… and a Monday at that.
After lunch I went exploring while Will started packing.
I climbed atop one of the granite domes in the meadow, taking in the views of our little gem of a campsite. Breathing the air. Finding my bliss.
Can you spot him fluffing our orange tent below?
Hiking out, the eight miles to the trailhead didn’t seem nearly as long as the way in. It was familiar yet unfamiliar. Every turn was a new way to look at the landscape.
When we stopped at Shadow Lake for a snack and a swim, taking in the surroundings, I had to wonder — what’s just over that next ridge?
Pam DeckerApril 30, 2015 at 3:18 pm
Love your post. We did Garnet lake about 20 years ago when I was dating my husband and it was my first backpacking trip. Fast forward we want to take out son who is 17 on this trip late August.
When you got to Ediza lake, did you continue on the trail to find your camping spot or just went off the trail somewhere?
Also we really want to find that swimming hole – was it a slide as well? Any help in finding it? RE: While making a random restroom stop, we discovered a small waterfall about 50 feet off the trail that flowed into a deep swimming hole. It was magical!
Mahalo ( Thanks)
Linda LyMay 1, 2015 at 12:25 am
Iceberg Lake is an easy day hike from Ediza (I mention it in my post) and Cecil Lake is just beyond that. I have not hiked to the other lakes, but you can call the ranger station to check for permits in the area.
As for our campsite, we continued on the trail another 2 miles past Ediza. We were almost to the base of Ritter. I don’t remember where that swimming hole was… that’s a little gem waiting to be explored and discovered out there. 😉
James RMay 29, 2017 at 8:27 pm
We camped on the north side of the lake, I didnt notice any ‘campsites’ there as a website says. Has it changed since 06? It was isolated back then, no sign of shelters on the lake.
Linda from Garden BettyJune 6, 2017 at 4:20 am
Since I didn’t camp on Ediza Lake, I don’t know whether there have been campsites left behind. It’s still isolated and leave-no-trace, so there shouldn’t be shelters around the lake.
Krystal WaresMay 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm
Wow these photos makes me want to cry. I am so excited to be there. we are going in a month and I am just itching to get there now!! My husband and I have been living in Hawaii this year which is so fun but we miss the mountains! theres nothing like the sierras. Anyways, I was wondering if you knew the name of those hot spings near Benton Road or if you know the gps location or any way for us to find them?!
Linda LyMay 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm
Those hot springs are pretty popular in the area; I forget the names, but there are 3-4 of them in the same area. If traveling north on Hwy 395, turn right at the green church (Benton Crossing Road, near the town of Crowley Lake). From there, you can turn down any of the dirt roads and they’ll lead you to the springs. I usually drive by a few of them before deciding which one to soak in, as I like to have my own private tub. 🙂 The largest spring is about a 5-minute walk in on a defined path; the others you can drive right up to.
OzzyMay 22, 2014 at 9:08 pm
Fantastic!! Seems like a great weekend lies ahead of me :). Beautiful pictures!
Linda LyMay 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm
Thank you! Enjoy the hike!
Ray SherrodJanuary 10, 2014 at 10:27 am
I really enjoyed your story about you hike to Lake Ediza. Having been there twice I can safely say it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I have traveled extensively and seen many wonders but none compare to the beauty of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Linda LyJanuary 10, 2014 at 6:47 pm
Thank you for reading!
biggestbirdDecember 17, 2013 at 8:22 am
Great pictures; unfortunately for the chemtrailed sky, the only thing good coming outta that is pretty, unnatural sunsets!
James RMay 29, 2017 at 8:29 pm
CONtrails. Its called that because it’s CONdensation, ie water vapor.
Jim BobMay 29, 2017 at 11:58 pm
CHEMtrails as I called them or PERSISTENT CONtrails is the PC way of saying it is not the same as CONtrails. This isn’t the place to particularly distract from her pictures by getting a debate going, but several pictures had persistent CONtrails that last much longer spreading out across the sky instead of disipating like normal contrails do within a reasonable distance and time following the jet. re: geoengineering.
ChristopherOctober 17, 2013 at 8:43 am
When / what time of year did you do this trip?
Linda LyOctober 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm
Late September. The perfect time to be in the Sierra. 🙂
John de GraafAugust 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm
Are you Linda Tran from Long Beach. I interviewed you five summers ago at Upper Cathedral Lake. The documentary will finally be finished this fall. It’s about why Americans need vacation time. John de Graaf. Jodg@comcast.net
Linda LyOctober 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm
When and where will the documentary air? I’d love to see it! Please email me.
iveeAugust 23, 2013 at 11:06 am
thank you soo much for this <3! We are planning to go here during Labor Day weekend. How many days did you guys backpack?
Linda LyAugust 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Three days and two nights. You definitely would not be bored if you camped an extra night though! Plenty to see and do up there.
Mallory L. N. JohnsonMay 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm
We’re backpacking to Ediza Lake this weekend, thanks to your inspiring post. We’re expecting much more snow this time of year though! Thank you for sharing your experience.
Linda LyMay 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm
Ooh I’d be interested to see how it is in the spring! I was just camping at around 10,000 feet last week at Virginia Lakes (near Bridgeport) and there was still plenty of snow on the trails. Have a safe and wonderful weekend out there!
Mallory L. N. JohnsonMay 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm
Ediza was spectacular- almost completely frozen over still this late into spring. We passed through Bridgeport on the way and added Virginia Lakes to our “to hike list” for the future. Again, thanks for the inspiration!
Jon HakimSeptember 18, 2017 at 3:27 pm
So the lake was frozen still in late May, was the ground also covered with snow and the streams frozen, or was it mostly the lake that was holding out?
I’m thinking of doing an early May hike and wondering if that’s really something feasible or not.
mistiaggieMay 7, 2013 at 6:37 am
Stunning, stunning, stunning! I’ve been trying to figure out where we want to go on vacation this year and I definitely need a backpacking trip. If you ever have the time I think one of the long distance trails would be right up your alley!
Linda LyMay 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm
You mean the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail? I’ve hiked portions of both, but I’m not sure I have the discipline to spend that much time on the trail in one shot!
If you end up backpacking Ediza, have an amazing journey! It’s definitely become one of my favorite places in the Eastern Sierra.
Lelia MarieMay 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm
Love this post! Wish I could have been there since it looks so amazing. Though I have no clue how to backpack 🙂
Linda LyMay 2, 2013 at 8:24 pm
If you can hike, you’re halfway to backpacking. 🙂 I hope you get to do it some day!
theGardenBettyApril 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm
The perfect summer backcountry adventure: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/L97qJfG6Zu #california #travel < TY for RT! @backpackx1378
theGardenBettyApril 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm
A backcountry hike that takes you past alpine lakes and waterfalls: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/hmcTazjedv #california #adventure
backpackx1378April 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm
RT @theGardenBetty: Explore the vastness and beauty of the Ansel Adams Wilderness: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/GAGvtcBSNP #califo…
theGardenBettyApril 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm
Explore the vastness and beauty of the Ansel Adams Wilderness: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/GAGvtcBSNP #california #backcountry
Angry_SaguaroApril 29, 2013 at 5:07 am
RT @theGardenBetty: Summer is a beautiful time in the Sierra. Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/qir5TZNLMd #california #backcountry #hi…
theGardenBettyApril 29, 2013 at 5:00 am
Summer is a beautiful time in the Sierra. Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/qir5TZNLMd #california #backcountry #hiking #camping
theGardenBettyApril 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Spend the summer exploring the Ansel Adams Wilderness: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/EOzMYaCNkJ #california #backcountry #adventure
Kay SauerApril 28, 2013 at 9:21 am
I think you have a great balance of gorgeous photos and descriptive narration.
Linda LyApril 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm
michelleApril 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm
You should write for a tourism magazine. What a dream this looks like!
Linda LyApril 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm
Aw, what a great compliment! Thank you!
backpackx1378April 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm
RT @theGardenBetty: The perfect summer backcountry adventure: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/L97qJfG6Zu #easternsierra #california #…
MelissaApril 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Thank you for the virtual hike:) we had a baby last year so haven’t been out as much as we like and I have really enjoyed these posts! We will be getting out soon as we need to turn her into a trail junkie.
Linda LyApril 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm
I love when parents start training their kids to be little rippers. 🙂
jessssterApril 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm
beautiful! I spy my sweet friend SB there, too 🙂
Linda LyApril 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm
theGardenBettyApril 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm
The perfect summer backcountry adventure: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/L97qJfG6Zu #easternsierra #california #travel
ADKinLAApril 27, 2013 at 10:01 am
RT @thegardenbetty: Blogged on Garden Betty: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/29eYjf6WDz
backpackx1378April 27, 2013 at 9:24 am
RT @theGardenBetty: One of the hidden gems of the Eastern Sierra: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/qeYmjBRG6S #california #backcountry…
theGardenBettyApril 27, 2013 at 9:00 am
One of the hidden gems of the Eastern Sierra: Backpacking to Ediza Lake http://t.co/qeYmjBRG6S #california #backcountry #hiking
CaitlinApril 27, 2013 at 6:12 am
Thats amazing! I had no ideas we had scenery like that in our own country 🙂
Linda LyApril 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm
I’m constantly blown away by how much there is to see just in California alone!
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Kitchen Garden MauiApril 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm
WOW!! What a gorgeous place to go backpacking! The lakes looked so pristine.
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RT @BG_garden: Backpacking to Ediza Lake: Sometimes I wonder if these types of posts need any narration at all… http://t.co/UBhN3E7SNy
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Backpacking to Ediza Lake:
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