4 Most Scenic Backpacking Trips in the American West

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3. Thousand Island Lake, California

PHOTO: Will Rochfort

To many, the most beautiful part of the Pacific Crest Trail is Thousand Island Lake. Maybe you can guess why?

For those that don’t want to hike the entire PCT, it’s still possible to spend an enjoyable night or two at Thousand Island Lake. Located in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Sierra National Forest, Thousand Island is as picturesque as a postcard. Small islands speckle the surface of the water and the 13,000 foot Banner Peak towers in the background. Sunrise can be a treat as the mountains are perfectly reflected in the glassy water. In a word, it’s gorgeous.

Trip Details: Backpackers heading to the lake can take the High Trail or the River Trail. The High Trail begins after Agnew Meadows and is a 7-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail. The River Trail also begins after Agnew Meadows, but is only 6 miles and is not part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Permits are required.

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