John Muir Trail in California

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John Muir Trail

Follow in the footsteps of America’s most famous naturalist as you travel over 200 miles from California’s Yosemite Valley to Mt Whitney.

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  • 211 miles (approximately 3 weeks)
  • Strenuous with over 46,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Trailhead: Most begin at Happy Isles Trail Head in Yosemite National Park

Overview

The John Muir Trail, at just over 210 miles, should be on every backpacker’s life list. Beginning in California’s Yosemite Valley, the trail generally follows the path of the Pacific Crest Trail, running parallel to the main range of the Sierra Nevada. Hikers travel through Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and finish at Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States.

Trailhead

Happy Isles Trailhead
Assuming you travel north to south (about 85 percent of hikers choose this route to allow time to acclimatize) you will begin at Happy Isles Trail Head in Yosemite National Park. You can’t drive to the trailhead, so leave a car in Curry Village and take the shuttle. Get to the junction of Highways 140 and 120 in Yosemite Valley and drive east, then follow signs to Curry Village.

Whitney Portal Trailhead
From Highway 395, exit Whitney Portal Road in Lone Pine, California and follow to the parking lot.

Details

  • Distance: Approximately 211 miles
  • Average Time of Hike: 3 weeks
  • Elevation Gain: When hiking north to south, approximately 46,000 feet of ascent and 38,000 feet of descent
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Type: One way thru-hike
  • Trailhead: Most start at Happy Isles Trail Head in Yosemite National Park

Plan & Prepare

Hiking Season
The main hiking season begins in July and ends in September. Snowfall varies from year to year, so consult the Pacific Crest Trail Condition Reports for up to date trail information.

Logistics
There are three resupply points along the trail at Tuolumne Meadows, Red’s Meadow and the Muir Trail Ranch. Hikers can pre-mail packages and have them held (though the Muir Trail Ranch charges a hefty fee). Since most will hike the trail during the summer months, the weather is generally mild, but hikers are wise to plan for all contingencies. Bring warmer clothing for use at higher altitudes.

Permits
Wilderness permits are required to spend the night on the trail, and an additional stamp is needed for entry into the Mt. Whitney Zone. Half of all permits can be reserved in advance, while the remaining half are issued on a walk up basis, no earlier than the day before your trip. Permits are free when obtained in person, and cost $3.00 per person for advanced reservations.

Wildlife
The California Black Bear and Marmot are frequent problems along the trail. While not generally dangerous, they will raid backpacks and tents for food. Carry bear proof canisters to avoid incident.

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