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Ansel Adams Wilderness Area

Ansel Adams Wilderness Area

"Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space."—Ansel Adams

devils postpile The giant columnar basalt tower, Devil's Postpile National Monument, is one of Yosemite's biggest attractions.

Though they weren't contemporaries in life, in the Sierra Nevadas, Ansel Adams and John Muir are eternal neighbors, forever playing cards together under the stars, sharing lunch on the banks of a stream, exchanging stories and toasting sunset after sunset.  

Fittingly, two large expanses of protected land sit side-by-side, each named for one of the duo: The Ansel Adams Wilderness and the John Muir Wilderness.  

And wilderness is exactly what you'll find there.

Part of the Sierra and Inyo National Forests, the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area spans both sides of the Sierra crest and was originally named the Minarets Wilderness but was renamed in 1984 for the late, legendary photographer. It lies between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes, traversed by the John Muir Trail, spanning 230,258 acres. Ranging in altitudes from 7,000 feet to 14,000 feet, most of the area sits above treeline, dotted with lodgepole pine, red fir, Jeffrey pine and riddled with crystal, glacier-made lakes, gorges and characterized by its immense peaks.

The Ansel Adams Wilderness Area also holds in its embrace Devils Postpile, a geological wonder proclaimed a national monument back in 1911. The formation's columnar basalt towers at 60 feet high. To set eyes on the site, one is hard pressed to believe that nature could produce such a symmetrical spectacle, but the 700,000-year-old cliff that was once, for a fraction of its young life, hot flowing lava stands testament to the most innovative architect of them all: Earth.

Years ago, The Miwok, Monache, Mono, Washo and Shoshone cultures traveled crisscrossing routes here, gathering and trading acorns, pine nuts and obsidian.  Now, aside from those who simply want to enjoy Ansel Adams' 349 miles of hiking trails, technical rock climbers come to tackle the Minarets and skiers and snowboarders flock to Mammoth and June mountains.

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