The first entry in this series covered Happy Isles to the intersection with the Marie Lakes Trail. This installment takes us all the way to Silver Pass.
Thousand Island Lake (~ 43 miles from Happy Isles) Map. If you’ve done any research at all about the John Muir Trail, you’ve probably seen Thousand Island Lake. It is one of the most photographed terrain features on the entire trail, and for good reason. The lake is one of the largest you’ll encounter on your entire trip, and it is dotted with many small granite islands. (With all due respect to Theodore Solomons, who allegedly named the body of water, there are significantly fewer than 1,000 islands.) Camping near the outlet stream is strictly prohibited, but there are some fine sites south of the trail at least 100 feet from the northern shoreline.
Garnet Lake (~ 45 miles from Happy Isles) Map. Garnet Lake is like the more sophisticated sister who gets less attention than her more flamboyant sibling, but she rewards the hiker with the more discriminating taste. You also have to work a little harder to find a good (and legal) campsite. They are there, though, and the views of both Banner Peak and Mount Ritter, particularly in the morning, are memorable.
Rosalie Lake (~ 48 miles from Happy Isles) Map. This is a great spot for a break as the trail passes with a few feet of the lake. But pass up the lake view this time and try this: walk just a couple hundred feet east for some terrific views of the same valley where Agnew Meadow is located. There are even a few small camping spots to be found.
The Mulehouse Cafe, Red’s Meadow (~ 57 miles from Happy Isles) Map. The finest patty-melts known to man, great pies, terrific breakfasts, plumbing, washers, dryers, and a mattress if you are so inclined. No french fries, though.
Purple Lake (~ 71 miles from Happy Isles) Map. If you started the day at Red’s Meadow, and you are averaging 10 – 15 miles per day, this is a great place to spend the night. The alpenglow at Purple Lake, assuming a sunny afternoon, is the best during the first half of the hike. Resist the temptation to camp near the outlet stream as that is prohibited. The better sites are south of the lake and up the hill a bit, anyway.
Lake Virginia (~ 73 miles from Happy Isles) Map. If you are carrying a light load and are walking a bit faster, this is a better camping area than Purple Lake. The next morning, get up early and cross the inlet creek for some great views across the lake. Lake Virginia is widely considered one of the real gems of the northern half of the John Muir Trail.
From Tully Hole to the Tully Hole Bridge (~ 73 miles from Happy Isles) Map. Tully Hole is known for its swarms of mosquitos, but I must smell so bad by the time I get there that they refuse to have anything to do with me, because I’ve not had a problem. Although the stretch from Tully Hole to the bridge isn’t a great place for camping, it is quite scenic. Plan a break there.
Next week, we’ll press on to the middle fifth of the trail.
Good hiking, Ray
The maps you’ve provided are great! I’ve read your previous post about camping at Purple Lake, the lack of sites and tripping over a tent line pitched across the trail! We’ve hiked past it to Lake Virginia in previous years. We’re coming over Duck Pass this year so wonder if the sites you mention here at Purple Lake will keep us more secluded? If not, Lake Virginia will be our spot for the night. Thanks.
Thanks for the kind words, Betsy. There are definitely spots to be found on the southeastern shoreline (100 feet from water, of course). You will have to walk off-trail a bit, and do some searching for a relatively level spot, but I’m sure you’ll find one that is quite secluded.