problems hiking the John Muir Trail, California

The JMT is our #2 hike in the World, about 220mi of trail without crossing a road.

I’ve been section hiking it over the past 3yrs. This summer I thought I’d try to knock off about 110 miles.

I brashly announced I’d hike 20mi / day from Bishop Pass to Tuolumne in 6 or 7 days.


It was not to be.

My first mistake was underestimating the difficulty of the required elevation loss and gain. This thing is a roller coaster!

larger map –

I started from South Lake near Bishop after hearing great things about Bishop Pass and Dusy Basin. Both are gorgeous!


My favourite section of many favourite sections was Evolution Basin.

vista from John Muir Pass to Evolution Basin

But the BIG story of my hike was Hurricane Dean. More exactly, the remnant circulation of Dean which brought serious thunder storms to California and Nevada.

threatening skies

One day I was pinned down in my tent losing 5hrs of daylight. Here’s the hail outside my tent.


Another morning I awoke early to a cloudy day. A storm climbed up from the valley to pound me. (I hid in low brush to avoid death by lightning.)


When the storm finally cleared, I had been walking for days in wet socks and shoes. My feet, for the first time in many years, were blistered.

I love the JMT — but had to exit over 30mi earlier than planned, limping out at Red’s Meadow Resort.


My only complaint with the John Muir Trail is that it’s a horse track.

hiking pack animals

Historically it was pioneered for animals. The trail drops down to valley and water on regular intervals. Animals need grazing. I don’t.

I’d much rather stay HIGH on — for example — the Sierra High Route. This is a mostly off-trail adventure running in parallel with the JMT which tries not to drop down into the valleys.

Check out all my photos from the JMT on flickr.

If you might want to hike it yourself, check our JMT besthike information page.

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