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Ansel Adams Wilderness

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A woman in a red shirt sitting on a large rock, looking out across a valley to a jagged peak nearby, laced with summer snow.
Library image #444: Connie Myers, Mt. Ritter in Background.


The United States Congress designated the Ansel Adams Wilderness (map) in 1964 and it now has a total of 231,590 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the Forest Service and the National Park Service. The Ansel Adams Wilderness is bordered by the Yosemite Wilderness to the north and the John Muir Wilderness to the southeast.


This wilderness was originally established as the Minarets Wilderness in 1964. These "minarets", a jagged ridge of peaks, are considered to be the one of the most spectacular massifs in the Sierra. The minarets are the Ritter range, an exposed roof pendant of metavolcanic rock that provides a stupendous skyline from both the east and west side of the Sierra. In 1984, with the California Wilderness Act, the area was enlarged and the name of this wilderness was changed to Ansel Adams, honoring the famous landscape photographer.

Adams, a staunch member of the Sierra Club in the 20th century, is known for his photography of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. He spent many summers on backcountry journey's with the Sierra Club in the High Sierra. His photography communicated the beauty of wild places and helped develop public support for protecting wilderness across the country.

The Ansel Adams is contiguous with Yosemite National Park, which lies to the north. With the addition of 528 acres by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the size of this wilderness is now 230,786 acres, with elevations ranging from 3,500 feet to 13,157 at Mt. Ritter. There are a number of streams and lakes, which form the headwaters of the North and Middle Forks of the San Joaquin river. The wilderness experiences high visitor use, including day hiking, packstock and backpacking use. Overnight use is controlled by a trailhead quota system that limits the amount of use entering each day from May thru October.

There are 349 miles of trail, including both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest trail that traverse the portions of the wilderness . Some trails originating on the National Forest provide access into Yosemite National Park.

Planning to Visit the Ansel Adams Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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