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Mt Whitney, is the highest mountain of the contiguous United States, located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada of California! This is one of the most memorable hikes in California, whichever way you hike it. The best time to hike Mount Whitney, July and August, is between the time the snow melts and just before thunderstorm season starts.
To the top of Mount Whitney, there are two trails from the Whitney Portal. Very scenic and relatively easy for a 14,496 ft. mountain, the vast majority of hikers use the regular trail. It is a six to seven hour hike and is very long.
The North Fork (mountaineering) trail is definitely not recommended if you're afraid of heights and it requires some climbing skills (people have died on the mountaineering trail). Not easy to obtain in the summer, both the mountaineering route and the regular trail require a permit.
Check also the Western trail, if you are willing to hike 60+ kms, or have two days.
From the parking area at Whitney Portal to Lone Pine Lake, you take long switchbacks at a moderate grade. Once at the top, you reach a fork and sign. Go right to go to Mt Whitney. You may come across a ranger checking for permits so make sure you got one! The trail here to Mirror Lake is very easy.
From Mirror Lake, the trail becomes more steep and runs along a creek. This part of the trail will take you to the trail camp and you may start feeling the altitude here. Just before reaching the trail camp, you will see across the creek Consultation Lake below you.
Trail camp is at a small lake with minimum facilities. You continue on from here and take the 96 switchbacks (I believe there are actually more than this) to the trail crest. The switchbacks are not too bad here. I'm from Florida so I know I will be breathing hard from the altitude!
At the trail crest, you can now get great views of the Sequoia National Park wilderness as you cross over to the other side. You will come to another fork that takes you to Sequoia National Park to the left and Mt Whitney to the right. Stay right.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park Sign
The trail ascends moderately here. You will see three peaks with the third one being the summit. When you get to the base of the third peak, you now have to hike some switchbacks another 500m.
View From Mt Whitney Trail
To do this hike, you need to be in decent physical condition. Don't attempt it if you are not! It may take you eight hours to get to the summit so get up early and start early. It can take another five hours to get down so plan accordingly.
View From Mount Whitney
The Western trail is another way to get to the summit of Mount Whitney. It is via the Cottonwood Lakes. You need a car shuttle because the distance between Cottonwood Lakes trailhead and the finish at Whitney Portal are more than 50 kms apart. This is not a day hike either! Be careful and enjoy your hike, whichever way you decide to go!
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