Wilderness Homepage

Wilderness Areas 5

“A Wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain… an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence… protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”,  Wilderness Act of 1964 – Section 2(c)

Unnamed Lake Below Slab Lake

Unnamed lake below Anne Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness: Photo: Joshua Courter

In 1964, the U.S. Congress approved the permanent protection of our most pristine lands for public enjoyment and preservation with the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Over fifty years later, over 109,500,000 acres of public land in the United States has received this highest level of protection in 762 individual wildernesses, including wilderness areas in the Sierra National Forest.

Ansel Adams Wilderness - The Eastern section of the Wilderness has large lakes in high open country with trails over glaciated granite, exposed passes as Island, Gem, Agnew and Parker offering panoramic vistas. The deep trough of the North Fork of the San Joaquin River cuts through the center of the forest beyond the Ritter Range and further west below the Merced-San Joaquin Divide. There are more beautiful lakes in this region than anyone can fish in a season. The country south of the Middle Fork is a great vast forested Wilderness with some lakes, many lovely meadows inhabited by numerous types of animals and birds. Here there are no dramatic crests to scale. The duff trails pass alternately from dense forest to flowered meadows in an elevation averaging from 6500’ to 8000’. The California Wilderness Act nearly doubled the acreage of the former Minarets Wilderness and changed the name to Ansel Adams. The Wilderness is located in both the Sierra and Inyo National Forests and covers approximately 228,500 acres (138,660 acres are in Sierra National Forest). Ansel Adams is characterized by spectacular alpine scenery with barren granite peaks, steep-walled gorges and rock outcroppings. Elevations range from 3,500 feet to 13,157 feet and there are several small glaciers on the north and northeast facing slopes of the highest peaks. There are also a number of fairly large lakes on the eastern slope of the precipitous Ritter Range. The Ansel Adams Wilderness contains the headwaters of the North and Middle Forks of the San Joaquin River.

**JOHN MUIR TRAIL** Minimun Impact Wilderness Regulation

John Muir Wilderness - The wilderness is filled with scenic views that lay in the southern east part of the Sierra National Forest. The wilderness holds plenty of beautiful places where beginners, and experienced hikers like to travel to and spend time. The good majority of the public travels to Lake Thomas Edison or Florence Lake for a wilderness hiking experience. The John Muir Wilderness covers 584,000 acres in the Sierra and Inyo National Forests. It was increased by 81,000 acres in the California Wilderness Act. The John Muir extends along the crest of the Sierra Nevada from Mammoth Lakes southeastward for a distance of about 30 miles then forks around the boundary of Kings Canyon National Park to the Crown Valley and Mt. Whitney regions. This is a land of snow-capped mountains with hundreds of lakes and streams and beautiful meadows. Elevations range from 4,000 feet to 14,496 at Mount Whitney and many peaks are above 13,000 feet. Lower elevations slopes are covered with stands of Jeffrey Pine, Incense Cedar, White and Red Fir and Lodgepole Pine. The higher elevations are barren granite with many glacially carved lakes. 

**JOHN MUIR TRAIL** Minimun Impact Wilderness Regulation

Dinkey Wilderness - The California Wilderness Act of 1984 created the 30,000 acre Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Dinkey Lakes lies immediately west of the John Muir Wilderness (the portion added in 1984) and is separated from the John Muir by the Dusy-Ershim off-highway vehicle route. Most of the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness consists of timbered rolling terrain. Sixteen lakes are clustered in the west central region. Most of the wilderness is above 8,000 feet at the highest point Three Sisters Peak is 10, 619 feet in elevation. Large meadows can be found in the north central region of the wilderness and along Helms Creek. Vegetation is primarily lodgepole pine and there are many meadows and granite outcroppings. 


Kaiser Wilderness - The Kaiser Wilderness was established in 1976 and covers a total of 22,700 acres. It is located immediately north of Huntington Lake, approximately 70 miles northeast of Fresno. The wilderness was named after Kaiser Ridge, which divides the area into two distinctly different regions. A hike to Kaiser Ridge or Kaiser Peak provides a commanding view of much of the central Sierra Nevada mountain range. The southern half of the Wilderness is characterized by dense Red Fir and Jeffrey pine forests which extend up the gradual south slope of Kaiser Ridge. The top of the ridge is in the alpine zone. The descent from Kaiser Ridge into the northern part of the Wilderness is quite abrupt. This northern region is much more open than the south side and contains eighteen small lakes. 

Monarch Wilderness  - The Monarch Wilderness was created by the California Wilderness Act of 1984. It extends across 45,000 acres in the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. The Sierra National Forest portion of the Wilderness (approximately 21,000 acres) is extremely rugged and difficult to traverse. Steep slopes extend up from the Middle and South Forks of the Kings River. Elevations range from 2,400 feet to over 10,000 feet. The lower elevations are predominantly chaparral-covered with pine stands near the tops of the higher peaks. Rock outcroppings are found throughout the Wilderness.

The goal of the Sierra National Forest is to preserve and maintain the beauty and nature of all the wilderness areas within the forest. To do this we ask all the people that plan to spend various nights in the wilderness to obtain a wilderness permit.

Important Links 

How to Obtain a Wilderness Permit

John Muir Trail Minimum Impact Wilderness Regulation

Pets in the Wilderness 


Things to Remember

Trails & Trailhead Quota

Wilderness Campfires Information

Drone use in the Wilderness


How to Leave No Trace

For More Information