The John Muir Trail
You can still walk for 2 or 3 weeks without crossing a road in California.
This is the best hike in the USA and is the best section of the longer Pacific Crest Trail.
Indeed, many experts rank this is the best hike in the world. It’s a pilgrimage in honour of John Muir, the man who founded the Sierra Club and helped create Yosemite National Park.
Start in Muir’s “range of light” with a thrilling scramble of Half Dome. Then hike South 223mi (360km) to Whitney Portal. If you make it, celebrate on the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48.
As you must carry your own food and tent, book 21 days for an optimal experience.
The weather and conditions are usually great — but only Aug through mid-Sept. It is a very short window!
Of course there are shorter section hikes for all abilities and experience levels.
Why we love it:
- crosses Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
- 11 high passes, unbelievable views
- comparatively moderate and safe walking for a long hike (the scramble up Half Dome being the notable exception)
- many marvelous waterfalls cascading the huge granite walls of Yosemite
- the JMT passes through 6 of 7 ecological zones of America
- you can tent (mostly) where you want. No need to camp near bear boxes.
- often great weather though afternoon summer thunderstorms are likely
- Whitney is a beautiful and impressive peak, especially from the summit
- the warm welcome (and a day off) at Vermillion Resort
- the Wilderness Permit is free
- it is easy to solo the JMT but only if you are strong enough to haul your own gear
- signing the summit register on Whitney is a great culmination to the adventure
- trying to beat Reinhold Metzger’s record of 5 days 7 Hours 45 minutes without being resupplied
- almost everyone starts in Yosemite and hikes to Mt. Whitney
- water is not a major problem, but it will be dry on the the high passes in August
- a good water filter is recommended
- dehydration and heat are more often problems than hypothermia
- bring a lightweight stove. Fire limitations are in effect usually based on elevation.
- the smartest bears in the world will be trying to get anything edible or that smells edible
- Marmots will eat anything and may chew through your pack.
- mosquitos are a slight problem early in the season though wasps, late in the season, are more painful
- snakes live there but are usually not a nuisance
- altitude sickness is a big worry, if you opt to start at Whitney
- some river crossings may be a concern early in the season. Hiking poles an advantage.
- Most hikers prefer sturdy footwear on this trek. A second pair of footwear recommended.
- bears are a concern. Do not hike alone at night.
Details on our John Muir Trail information page.