43 Miles Backpacking Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (Go Over 3 Epic Passes + Summit Mount Whitney)
This is definitely one of those, “I’m looking for a challenge” backpacking trips in the Sierra, but it is so worth it. 43 Miles, 11k+ total elevation gain, 12k+ total descent, hikes along a bunch of the John Muir Trail, and you have the option to summit Mount Whitney if you want! So if you are looking for your next big backpacking trip challenge, I can’t recommend Onion Valley to Whitney Portal more! It is epically beautiful, it will test your limits, and it will push you to the next level!
Day 1 – ~11 miles from Onion Valley Campground to Camp 1 near along Bubbs Creek
4.5 miles uphill to Kearsarge Pass (11,760 feet)
The rest of the day is basically downhill and eventually connects with John Muir Trail
Camp 1 Near Bubbs Creek at 10,400’ elevation
Day 2 – ~11 miles from Camp 1 to Camp 2
Relatively flat until the base of Forrester Pass
Uphill over Forrester Pass at (13,200 feet) and then back down into a valley. Flat(ish) the rest of the way.
3,000 feet elevation gain this day
Day 3 – ~11 miles from Camp 2 to Guitar Lake at the base of Mount Whitney
Relatively flat hike up to Crabtree Wilderness Ranger station. A good place to rest and get some water.
Hike from Crabtree to Guitar Lake (3rd camp at the base of Whitney’s backside) is uphill a “staircase” like trail
Day 4 – ~11 miles from Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal
Uphill to Trail Crest (13,800 feet)
Then 5,000’ of long downhill! Go down the switchbacks to more fun downhill. It’s non-stop brutal fun on your knees.
This backpacking trail is one of the most amazing and challenging trails in the Sierra Nevada. Each day is full on and at high altitudes, but it affords you amazing views along the John Muir Trail plus you get to cross over 3 different mountain passes. If you have enough energy you can grab the summit of Mount Whitney, one of the tallest peaks in the US, while you are there!