Thousand Island Lakes

Lee Vining, CA
5.0 (6 reviews)

Trip Highlights

  • Dazzling High Country
  • Area's Largest Lakes
  • Stunning Camps
  • Mountain Solitude
  • Serenity & Profound Beauty
  • Wonderful Alpine Day Hiking
  • Top-notch Guides & 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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From USD
$1945 Per Person
Trip Type: Guided Backpacking Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 1-10 Guests
Trip Length: 6 Days
Distance: 27MI / 43KM


Scale of 1-5. 1 is least difficult; 5 is most difficult

This trip follows well maintained trails and has generally moderate hiking distances of 4-6 miles, with one 8 mile day. Some concerns include loose dirt, large stepping stones and tree roots. Day 2 is a strenuous climb up Rush Creek combined with a decent on Day 5 of over 3500 ft, making this a challenging Level 4 hike.

Hiking Distances:

4-8 mi

Backpack Weight:

35-45 lbs


Moderately Rugged

Max Daily Elev. ↑↓:

2680 ft

Heights Exposure:


Please Note: Terrain, Elevation Gain and Heights Exposure ratings reflect the section or day of the trip with the maximum difficulty of each. Much of the trip is at easier levels. See the trip itinerary for more detailed information. Backpack Weight ratings are estimates that account for Wildland-provided gear, guest clothing, personal items and a share of group food. By packing light it’s often possible to stay on the lower end of the weight range. Pack weights also decrease during the trip.


  • Hiking uphill or downhill with a 35-45 lb backpack for 6-8 hours
  • Maintaining balance and footing on moderately rugged terrain
  • Hiking with occasional, light heights exposure
* For an official and complete list of physical requirements, please see our Essential Eligibility Criteria.


1 least solitude, 5 most solitude

We rate this Eastern Sierra backpacking trip a solitude 3. You can expect hours of solitude at a time.

Private Trips

Travel in perfect company by booking a private trip exclusively for your group!

Our sliding scale for private trips is based on the final number of guests in your group. Rates are per person and do not include sales tax, national park fees or guide gratuity. The final rate is based on the actual number of guests on the trip and may adjust based on cancellations or additions.

Please Note: you can also enjoy a private trip at our normal scheduled rates by filling any empty tour to capacity. However, if group members drop from the tour those spots will automatically become available on our website for instant booking. By purchasing a private trip at the rates listed below, your trip will remain exclusive to your group regardless of cancellations. 

Private Rates FOr This Trip

  • 2 People: Rate x 2.5
  • 3 People: Rate x 1.75
  • 4 People: Rate x 1.25
  • 5+ People: Rate x 1.15

*all rates are per person

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Day 1

Day 1 begins with a rendezvous at the iconic Mobil Gas station at the corner of Highway 395 and Highway 120, near 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: 5.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2680 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 750 feet

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, 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: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1160 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 360 feet

Today we will make our way to the stunning lower Davis Lake, a high alpine lake at roughly 10,000 feet at the base of the Ritter Range and Mt. Davis. Our trail steadily climbs along Rush Creek past Waugh Lake where we will briefly catch up with the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). From the junction of the PCT we will climb just under a mile to our camp at Davis 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: 3.75 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 665 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 775 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 Davis 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 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1150 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1150 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, relax for a picnic at the lake and then retrace our steps back to camp.

Day 6

  • Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 3630 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. Normal terms and conditions apply to trips with itinerary changes.

Trip Dates & Booking


Click on a date to register. You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.

Available to Book


This trip is available and bookable online! Click on the date to register now or contact us online to book through our award-winning customer service team!

Going Fast


This trip has 1 or 2 spots remaining and is bookable online! Click on the date to book now or contact us online to book through customer service.

Request a Reservation


This trip is exclusively booked through customer service due to logistics with lodging, permits, staffing, availability, or something else. Please contact us online or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to request a reservation.

Don't see your dates? Call us! We may be able to add new trip dates.

800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Details

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, backcountry sleeping pad and multi-day backpack
  • High quality, synthetic sleeping bag (professionally laundered after every use) – or bring your own.
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from dinner on Day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • Trained hiking guide(s) with years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. See Guide Bios.
  • 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 communication device (InReach Explorer or satellite phone)

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear and footwear (see recommendations)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about what to pack.

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, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware synthetic-fill sleeping bags (or bring your own)
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Bear cannisters
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

Guest Packing List

When you register for this tour you’ll receive access to a printable, downloadable trip information packet with a detailed packing list specific to this trip (click here to see it now.) All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, a recommended clothing system, a headlamp or flashlight, a hydration system (water bottles and/or bladder) and other items specific to each trip.

Additionally, some guests choose to bring their own sleeping bag. We supply high quality, synthetic fill bags that are professionally laundered after every trip. Synthetic fill is non-allergenic, insulates when damp and stands up well to repeated washings, but is heavier and bulkier than down. If you’re able to bring your own down sleeping bag, there are multiple benefits. If not, we’ve got you covered!

Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics

How Do I Register?

Reserve your spot today! In the Trip Dates & Booking section of this page, the green and red 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.

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.

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about flights, shuttles, recommended lodging and more.

Travel to Lee Vining, CA

All Eastern Sierra trips begin and end in Lee Vining at the iconic Mobile Station at 6PM on Day 1 of their trip. Lee Vining is east of Yosemite National Park at the junction of Highways 395 and 120. There are multiple way to reach Lee Vining:

By Car
The primary gateways if driving (or flying in and then driving) are Reno, NV; Fresno, CA; and Sacramento, CA. Lee Vining is a 2 hour and 40 minute drive south of Reno on Highway 395; and it’s 4.5 hours from both Fresno and Sacramento.

By Rail and Bus

From Fresno or Yosemite:
Yosemite Area Rapid Transit (YARTS) is offering 4 bus rides each direction from Fresno to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. From Tuolumne Meadows, you can catch a second YARTS bus that will drop you off directly at the Mobile station in Lee Vining. Please note that busses arrive at the Mobile at 8:42 AM, 4:47PM or after 7:30PM.

From Reno:
Eastern Sierra Transit’s CREST service offers transportation from Reno’s airport and Greyhound Station to Lee Vining, CA.

From Los Angeles:
Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line offers service from Downtown Los Angeles to Lancaster, CA.  Eastern Sierra Transit’s CREST service travels north from Lancaster to Lee Vining.

From the San Francisco Bay Area:
Yosemite Area Rapid Transit (YARTS) offers service from Merced, CA to Yosemite Valley and in the summer, continuing service to the Eastern Sierra, with stops in Lee Vining.  There are many options for travel between the Bay Area and Merced, including Greyhound and Amtrak.

Travel by Air
Fly into Mammoth Yosemite Airport and take Eastern Sierra Transit’s CREST service north to Lee Vining.

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 Precautions

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. Guides adhere to standardized risk management protocols in case of any potential or actual incident, and all tours carry an emergency communication device and comprehensive first-aid kit. Additionally we have a “24/7” system through which guides or guests can reach Wildland support personnel at any time.

If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Essential Eligibility Criteria (“EEC”) have been specifically identified to help you understand the skills and abilities necessary to participate on each Wildland trip, and they apply uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability.

Once you identify a trip in which you may be interested, please carefully review the EEC and itinerary details. If after reviewing the EEC that apply to your desired trip, you determine you need an accommodation in order to meet the EEC, please contact us prior to registering to discuss your requested accommodation.

The EEC exist for your own safety and the safety and enjoyment of all participants. If you are unable to meet the EEC for the trip, with or without an accommodation, you are not eligible for that trip. If you register and arrive for a trip for which you do not meet the EEC, you will be disqualified from participation on the trip and will be dismissed or evacuated from the trip without a refund.

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.

Age Restrictions

Age restrictions on this trip 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)





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 synthetic-fill sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.



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.



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.

Trip Reviews

Trip Reviews

  • Average Customer Ratings:

  • 5.0 (6 reviews)
Nicole P

Dreaming of our next wilderness adventure

10 months ago

Craig was a great leader. Our 15-year-old son came back from the trip feeling like he could meet any challenge. His middle-aged parents returned a little creakier because those bear canisters are heavy, but we too are dreaming of our next wilderness adventure. But wherever we go, it will have a hard time living up to the majesty and magic of the High Sierra. Pro tip: set your alarm for 1 am on a moonless night for a glimpse of the Milky Way! 10,000 feet closer to the stars!!

Renee S

Unforgettable experience

3 years ago

Our expert guide and the well executed teamwork of the Wildland staff helped turn a potentially disappointing trip cancellation into a wonderful week. Thank you for unforgettable experience in breathtaking Yosemite National Park! We will definitely be booking hikes with you in the future.

Sunita G.

Platinum Level Service!

3 years ago

Eric our guide for the Thousand Island backpacking trip was phenomenal in everything he did! He was super personable and very easy to talk to. He made us the best camping foods that one can get in the outdoors and everything he did was super well organized. He made sure that we all drank enough water throughout the trip so we would not get dehydrated. He found us the best spots to camp each night which made the experience even better! We all gave Eric a “platinum” star for his service! This is my 2nd trip with WLT and I look forward to many more backpacking trips in the near future! I also love the fact that the groups are no more than 4-6 which makes the experience even more enjoyable. Thank you Eric for your awesome hospitality as our all around guide:)

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