Only 2% of applicants get permits for the John Muir Trail, one of our top 10 hikes in the world, southbound.
Odds are better in the other (more difficult) direction.
This superb trip report is recommended for your planning.
Brown Gal Trekker:
I completed my solo thru hike of JMT’s entire length of 210 miles plus 11 miles climb up from Whitney Portal starting from Whitney on July 29, 2018 and ending in Yosemite Valley on August 21, 2018, a day ahead of my schedule …
JMT northbound wasn’t the original intention. The start supposedly had to occur in Yosemite heading southbound and ending with the highest passes like most thru hikers do. Many proclaim southbound route trains you best for the harder climbs and higher altitudes. And yet northbound JMT took shape due to the permit limitations. Hence, northbound became the journey.
… Whitney greeted me on the 2nd day. Forrester pass at 13000 feet came in on day 4. Kearsarge at 11750 feet came the next day. I hauled 40 pounds all the while. …
The regular SOBO permits can be obtained solely through a lottery. You can apply 170 days prior to the start date of your choosing. Application form must be completed and faxed. For the SOBO permit, you must fill out your starting and ending dates plus your trailheads of preference. The instructions are straightforward but the chances of getting a permit are rather slim. You can learn more about applying via this website.
Because we weren’t the lucky 2% who scored a SOBO permit, we ended up taking our chances on the unclaimed permits going NOBO via Whitney Portal. If you wish to go for overnight Whitney permits from the start, the application usually starts in February. See details on how to apply for Whitney overnight permit lottery here. We searched for permits on May 1st, when the unclaimed permits were released. These permits can be booked via Recreation.gov. To learn more, go to this site.
In applying for the permits, you will need to guesstimate your itinerary. The most important part is the entry date and entry point. In our case, we were seeking to secure the overnight Whitney permit for our desired date. When you get to Lone Pine, CA, make sure to stop by the Eastern Sierra Park office to pick up your permit. …
If interested in doing the John Muir Trail yourself, check our JMT information page.