WILDERNESS PERMITS: As with nearly all Sierra Adventures, a wilderness pass is required. I would recommend securing a permit well in advance. The Ritter/Banner peaks and especially the surrounding Ansel Adams Wilderness area is very popular with fisherman, backpackers, and climbers alike. The reason for this is due to the unsurpassed beauty in this region. For permit information Click Here, and choose the Shadow Creek Option ID AA07. Or for other Sierra Nevada Inyo Forest Wilderness Permits Click Here
Getting a permit in advance costs $5.00 per person plus a transaction fee of $6.00/group. Permits are free if you can apply and get one at the Ranger Station the day or the day before your entry into the wilderness. I would not recommend this option, because if there are no permits available, you will find yourself out of luck with a long drive home.
If you are there before 7am or after 7:30pm, (from November through June 20th you can get in before 8am or after 5pm) then you can drive your vehicle all the way to the trailhead. During the daylight hours as stated above, all visitors must pay a $7 per person fee, and use the mandatory Reds Meadow Shuttle Bus. Hikers and cyclists can enter on their own, but must still pay the fee.
Vehicles arriving before or after shuttle bus operation must pay a $10/vehicle standard amenity fee at the Minaret Vista Station. Inter-agency Passes will cover the fee for after hour entries or at the time of exit. We usually enter the area before 7AM (when the fee station is closed) and end up paying the fee on our way out during normal daylight hours. In the photo to the left, you can see an image of the Minaret Vista Fee Station (elevation 9,176 feet).
If you end up using the Reds Meadow Shuttle Bus, on the return, make sure you get on the bus that is returning back to the Mammoth Ski Resort. If you get on the bus going toward Devils Postpile and other stops, you are in for a long ride. We made that mistake once, and ended up standing on the bus for about 45 minutes with our packs on, because the bus was so full there was no place to sit. After having just hiked out of the area for several miles, it wasn't so fun standing all that time with a loaded pack. Once past the entry station (shown above), you will begin your descent on a narrow roadway that consists of only one lane for the most part. Be sure to take it slow, and use the turnouts when confronted with any on coming traffic. Near the bottom of the canyon road, you will come to a sharp hairpin turn where a sign will point the way to the Agnew Meadows Trailhead.
At the sign, turn right, and continue a short distance on a dirt road. If you are making use of the pack train, the stables are located on the right hand side of the road just a short distance away from the turnoff. Further on, the road dead ends at a parking area that you can make use of for the day or for overnight parking.
Agnew Meadows as well as the entire Ansel Adam's Wilderness area is prime bear habitat. Make sure to leave no scented items in your vehicle. Bears have a very keen since of smell and breaking into your car or truck is no problem for these powerful critters. Bear canisters or other approved methods for storing your food while climbing or backpacking is required by law.
I think bear canisters work best, and they are well worth the extra weight when it comes to keeping your food and the bears safe. We were visited by a bear in the night just about every time we have been in the Ansel Adams Wilderness area, and it was certainly a good thing that we had all our scented items secure in the bear canister. If you do not own a bear canister you can rent them for a nominal fee when you pick up your permit. Besides making things safer for both you and the bears, canisters make for great chairs while sitting around in camp. Proper planning is essential for all back country outings, and the Ansel Adams Wilderness region is no exception. Securing permits, having the proper equipment along including a bear proof canister and things like bug repellent, can make the difference between a great adventure or an exercise in misery.
In the image to the right above you can see a view of Ansel Adams Wilderness from the summit of Mt Ritter. It is only one of the many fantastically beautiful scenes that you may encounter while exploring the above region.
Well, that's about it for getting started in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. For more on Mt Ritter and the surrounding area, please click on the menu above to select another adventure on Mt Ritter!
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