John Muir Trail is the Best Hiking & Backpacking Trail in the United States!

The John Muir Trail, passes through the finest mountain scenery in the United States, according to what many backpackers say. With lakes in the thousands, and granite cliffs and canyons, this is a land of 13,000 foot and 14,000 foot summits. Also, the sunniest, mildest climate of any major mountain range in the world is found here.

John Muir Trail and Nevada Falls
John Muir Trail and Nevada Falls

Beginning in Yosemite National Park, and continuing 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King's Canyon National Park, and ending at Mt. Whitney at 14,496 feet.

This is the best section of the longer Pacific Crest Trail and is the best hike in the United States of America. Many, including experts, rank this as the best hike in the world! Named after the man who helped create Yosemite National Park and founded the Sierra Club, it's in honor of John Muir.

Start with a thrilling hike to the top of Half Dome, then hike South 223 miles (360km) to celebrate on the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Get a good sturdy backpacking boot, and take around 21 days for the best experience for this trip, as you must carry your own tent and food.

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, John Muir Trail

Only from August through mid September, are the weather conditions usually great. For all experience and abilities levels, of course there are shorter section hikes.

What you will Find on the John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail:

  • Crosses Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park, John Muir Trail

  • Eleven high passes with breathtaking views.
  • Half Dome being the exception, safe walking for a long hike and comparatively moderate.
  • Cascading the huge granite walls of Yosemite, many wonderful waterfalls.

Nevada Falls
Nevada Falls, John Muir Trail

  • You can tent almost anywhere along the way.
  • Especially from the summit, Mount Whitney is an impressive and beautiful peak.

Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney, John Muir Trail

Only if you are strong enough to haul your own gear by yourself, it is easy to hike the John Muir Trail. Be sure to have a good pair of sturdy backpacking, hiking boots. Signing the register on the summit of Mt. Whitney is a great accomplishment!

View from Summit of Mt. Whitney
View from Summit of Mt. Whitney, John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail Information

Usually everyone starts in Yosemite National Park and hikes to Mt. Whitney. A good water filter is recommended, it will be dry on the high passes in August. Other than hypothermia, heat and dehydration are more often problems. To cook your meals, carry a lightweight stove.

The bears will be looking to find anything edible. Marmots may chew through your backpack and will eat anything. Early in the season, mosquitoes are a slight problem. Usually not a problem, are snakes that live there. If you choose to start at Mt. Whitney, altitude sickness is a big worry.

Bear by Half Dome and John Muir Trails
Bear by Half Dome and John Muir Trails, John Muir Trail

Early in the season river crossings may be a concern. Trekking poles are an advantage. On this backpack, most hikers prefer sturdy footwear. Don't hike alone at night, bears are a concern.

John Muir Trail Season

Depending on the previous winter's snowfall, in general July to September, but it varies from year to year.

You will only hike on snow near the tops of the passes, and most years one can plan a trip beginning the first week in July. Later, the days are getting cold and short, but the first snow usually doesn't hit until the end of October.

To check on the snow depth along the trail, do a search on Google so you can use the California Snow Survey Page. It relays the data via satellite hourly, and these reports are provided by large pillows that weigh the snow in several places in the California mountains. The reports also provide temperature data. Gem Lake, Bishop Pass, Charlotte Lake and Upper Tyndall Creek, are where some of the pillows are located near the trail.

Gem Lake
Gem Lake, John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail Permit at Yosemite

In Yosemite National Park, the Yosemite Association has taken over issuing permits. Half will be issued on a walk up basis, and half of all permits can be reserved ahead of time via phone or mail. No earlier than the day before your trip, will permits be issued to you. In Yosemite Valley, the hours of operation of the permit office are 9am to 5pm.

Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley, John Muir Trail

Before the date of your departure, permits may be reserved by phone or mail up to twenty four weeks, to the day, or as late as two days, if permits are still available. Credit cards and checks are accepted, the fee for reserving a permit is $3 US for each person listed on the permit. For hiking on the trail, the maximum size of your group is fifteen.

Assuming you're doing a north to south hike, because the John Muir Trail ends at the top of the highest point in the lower forty eight, even after completing the hike you still have to hike another eleven miles and six thousand feet down to the southern trail head, Whitney Portal. What a trip! Do you think you're still up for it? Lets go!

Whitney Portal
Whitney Portal, John Muir Trail

One last thing, when I was hiking the JMT, I did not have trekking poles so my knees on the way down to the bottom of the mountain were just killing me. I learned real fast to have a good set of hiking poles! They take a lot of the strain off your joints and legs.

Hiking the John Muir Trail

You may have hiked this trail. If you haven't, watch this video to see much of the beauty that is there. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

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