Ansel Adams Wilderness

232,000 acres

The Ansel Adams Wilderness spans over 230,500 acres along the crest of the northern Sierra Nevada. It is named to honor an environmentalist and one of the most well-known American photographers, Ansel Adams - dedicated to art just as much as to wilderness preservation. Once a part of Yosemite, the area features some of the most spectacular vistas in the Sierra with sweeping granite ridges, turquoise lakes, and alpine meadows with a few small glaciers on the northern and northeastern peaks. The wilderness lies primarily within the Sierra National Forest, sharing management with Inyo National Forest and Devil's Postpile National Monument. Besides profuse hiking and backpacking trails, visitors can immerse themselves in such recreational opportunities as horseback riding, hunting, fishing, nature viewing, and mountaineering. 

Trails in the Area
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Camping, Permits & Fees

Dispersed camping

Primitive camping is allowed in most of the wilderness, so long as the camp is at least 100 feet from lakes, streams, and trails - unless there is clearly already a site. Never camp within 25 feet of any trail nor 50 feet of any water source. Camping is forbidden in the following locations: 

  • within ¼ mile of the outlets of Thousand Island and Garnet Lakes;
  • between Shadow Creek and the trail and the south and east side of Ediza Lake.
  • within 300 feet of the shore of Shadow Lake;
  • within ¼ mile of Rainbow Lake;
  • within 400 feet of the shore of Lillian, Cora, and Sadler Lakes;
  • Reds Meadow Valley;
  • June Lakes Loop;
  • Lee Vining and Lundy Canyons;
  • within the Devil's Postpile National Monument.


If you’d like to spend a night in the area before heading into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, there are many designated campgrounds situated in Inyo and Sierra Forests; click on the respective links to learn more.

John Muir Trail Information

For JMT regulations, please visit this page. You may also check JMT itinerary locations and trail entry points for trails lying within the Inyo National Forest. 

Don’t forget about Leave No Trace principles, and please follow Inyo NF and Sierra NF's rules and regulations.

Rules & Regulations

Campfires are generally allowed provided that you have a California Campfire Permit. It may be obtained free of charge at any Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection offices or online

Campfires are prohibited in the following areas:

  • above 10,000 feet in elevation;
  • within ¼ mile of Garnet and Thousand Island Lakes;
  • between Shadow Creek Trail and Shadow Creek from Shadow Lake to Ediza Lake outlet crossing;
  • Ruby Lake, Rush Forks, Waugh Lake, Lower Davis Lake, Clark Lakes, Badger Lakes, Emerald Lake, Ediza Lake, Iceberg Lake, Minaret Lakes;
  • north side of Gem Lake;
  • within ¼ mile of Fernandez Lakes, Lower Staniford Lake, Vanderburgh Lake, Lady Lake, Upper and Lower Jackass Lakes, Chittenden, Sadler, and Rutherford Lake;
  • within the Devil's Postpile National Monument.

Before going on a trip, please check the California wildfires map and fire regulations. Also, the Sierra NF recommends calling a local ranger station to check up-to-date fire regulations.

Ecology, Geology & History

Vast areas above the treeline are covered by alpine meadows and fell fields dotted with glacial lakes and wildflowers.  Lodgepole pine, red fir, and Jeffrey pine can be found at lower elevations. 

As for wildlife, black bear, mule deer, marmot, Bighorn sheep, coyote, and stoat (ermine), among others, consider this place their home. Birdwatching is excellent here, too. Keep your eyes open for Red-tailed hawk, Dark-eyed junco, Dusky grouse, Buff-bellied Pipit, and others. 

Safety, Seasons & Water
  • If you see a black bear, stop, stay calm, and back away. Do not turn your back or run away. You need to look large and scary - stand tall, raise your arms, and make noise! Avoid sudden movements and screaming. If the bear attacks you - fight back. If needed, use your bear spray. 
  • Rattlesnakes may be sighted in the wilderness as well, so extra caution should be exercised, especially in warmer months. It is best to wear high-top hiking shoes and use a hiking stick, walk carefully through thick underbrush, and always keep a safe distance, and give snakes ample time and space to back away.  
  • The weather conditions can change rapidly in this area - check on the conditions right before heading out and carry rain gear and extra layers. 
  • Be prepared for high elevations and snow; altitude sickness and hypothermia are no joke. Stay warm and dry, bring extra clothes, and don’t forget to drink water. 
  • Check the Winter Travel Safety page if you’re planning to visit the wilderness in winter.
  • The area is avalanche-prone, so be sure to check current avalanche conditions before your visit. 

For more information, check this Safety page. 

Contacts, Resources & Closures

Sierra National Forest

1600 Tollhouse Road

Clovis, CA, 93611

(559) 297-0706

Inyo National Forest

351 Pacu Lane

Suite 200

Bishop, CA, 93514

(760) 873-2400

Devils Postpile National Monument

P.O. Box 3999

Mammoth Lakes, CA, 93546

Phone: (760) 934-2289

Email: depo_visitor_information@nps.gov

Note: The visitor information line is available only in the summertime, while from October through May, you may call the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center at (760)924-5500.

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