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Thousand Island Lakes


  •   Dazzling high country of the Sierras
  •   Region's largest lakes
  •   Camp below Mounts Ritter & Banner
  •   Escape the crowds of Yosemite
  •   Serenity and profound beauty
  •   Wonderful alpine day hiking
  •   Top-notch guides and cuisine


Explore the high country of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range along The John Muir Trail and the famous Pacific Crest Trail on this 5 day alpine adventure! Escape the crowds of Yosemite National Park and venture deep into the solitary reaches of the lesser known, but equally beautiful, Inyo National Forest. Camp along the banks of Thousand Island Lake and admire Mount Banner and Mount Ritter from camp as they dominate the skyline and reflect boldly in the vast island-speckled lake. Camp on the shores of pristine lakes, day hike into the alpine zone, soak up breathtaking scenery, and enjoy some of the best hiking in California!

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Backpacking Trip
Lee Vining
6 days
31mi / 50km
$1385 Per Person

Travel to Lee Vining

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Trip Dates & Booking

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Day 1 begins with a rendezvous at the iconic Mobil Gas station at the corner of Highway 395 and Highway 120, just before the small village of Lee Vining. We will meet at 6pm, conduct an orientation meeting and have dinner together at the famous “Whoa Nelli Deli” located within the Mobil. After a surprisingly delicious meal at what may very well be the most gourmet gas station cuisine on earth, we hop into the company vehicle and cruise up the hill to our ready-made campsite. Finally settled, we enjoy our first alpine sunset amidst the excited chatter of a group embarking on an amazing adventure in the High Sierra.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1880 feet
  • Elevation Loss: minimal

We rise with the sun and breakdown camp for an early start on the road to our trailhead. The hike begins in earnest with us switchbacking alongside the rails of an old push-car track on its way up the slope toward the dams at Agnew Lake. From here we will head west, and the trail starts to level out a bit as we pass beautiful Gem Lake. Not far from the outlet of the lake we will climb up an easy 50 feet to our campsite along the banks of emerald-colored Rush Creek and set up camp among the pines. We'll enjoy our first dinner in the backcountry, which although wonderful in any context, tastes 3 times better up here!

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
  • Elevation Loss: minimal

Today we will make our way to stunning Marie Lake, a high alpine lake at over 10,000 feet at the base of the Ritter Range. Our trail steadily climbs along Rush Creek past Waugh Lake where we will catch up with the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for about a mile. From the junction of the PCT we will climb up another 2 miles to our camp at Marie lake. We will set up camp and then stroll around the lake to soak up the amazing views, framed and enhanced by alpenglow, before settling in for dinner and much deserved rest.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 605 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1625 feet

Today we are off to the namesake of the trip, Thousand Island Lakes where we will spend 2 nights! We will descend from our camp at Marie Lake back to the Pacific Crest Trail and hike south. A mild climb takes us up over Island Pass where we will get a first glimpse of the aptly named Thousand Island Lakes. We will make our way along the southern flank of the largest of the lakes and set up camp with a view of the lake and massive Banner Peak and Mount Ritter in the background.

Day 5
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 160 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 160 feet

We will enjoy a leisurely morning and feast of a breakfast today as we have a lighter day ahead. After breakfast we will put leave our heavy packs behind and take off on a short day hike along the PCT to stunning Garnet Lake, a spectacularly scenic alpine lake that rivals Thousand Island Lake. We'll spend the day exploring, relaxe for a picnic at the lake and then retrace our steps back to camp.

Day 6
  • Hiking Mileage: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 250 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 2810 feet

Our trek today takes us back to our starting trailhead and is mostly downhill. We will wake up, eat breakfast, break camp and hike toward the Clark Lakes. From Clark Lakes we can see back toward Gem lake and the route we used to get here. At this point we will start a significant descent through Spooky Meadow back toward Agnew Lake. We will rejoin the trail along the railway from Day 2 and head back to our waiting vehicle. What a week it's been!

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Yosemite hiking guide
  • Transportation originating and ending in Lee Vining, CA
  • National park backcountry camping permits
  • Bear cannisters for food storage
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.

Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Bear cannisters
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person, leather gloves, and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($100).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

This trip meets at the iconic Mobile Station in Lee Vining at 6PM on Day 1. The Mobile (also known as the Tioga Gas Mart or the Whoa Nellie Deli; 22 Vista Point Drive, Lee Vining, CA 93541) is on the corner of highway 395 and 120 just past the eastern entrance of Yosemite. Upon arrival, you will easily spot your guide waiting for you in a Wildland Trekking hat and shirt at the picnic tables by the main entrance. This trip includes dinner at the Deli and camping at a campground just minutes away. Personal vehicles can remain parked at the upper level parking lot at the Mobile during trips.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's rendezvous time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will be out of the backcountry normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time) on the final day.

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Shifts

Eastern Sierra guides work daily shifts from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. During off hours (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) the guides' time is their own, and they are free to sleep, rest, take personal time, postpone guest requests until the next morning, and any other legal, reasonable activity people engage in when not working. We ask all guests to respect the guides' off-duty hours by not waking or asking anything of them unless there is a true emergency. Also, state law requires that employees receive an uninterrupted 10 minute break every four working hours, so guides are required to take four 10 minute breaks between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Sierras

Being a high mountain environment, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. This is an exciting aspect of being in the mountains. On trips in June, snow is a possibility, and the rest of the summer rain is always a possibility on your trip. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures:
Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)

Camping on Backpacking Trips

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

Fresh & Delicious

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

In the Action

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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