The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a trail that winds it way through some of the most scenic sections of the Sierra Nevadas, it is 211 miles from the northern end in Yosemite Valley to the southern end on the summit of Mount Whitney (you still have to get down from Whitney so add another unofficial 11 miles for a total of 222 miles). For about 160 miles the trail merges with Pacific Crest Trail. It passes through Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Devil's Postpile National Monument, Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park.
1000 Island Lake
|JMT elevation profile
For a southbound JMT thruhike to the summit of Whitney, start at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley. Overnight parking is available there for free or arrange to be dropped off. Shuttles run from the parking to the TH.
For a northbound JMT thruhike the approach begins at Whitney Portal. Northbounders will need to get from there to the summit of Mt. Whitney where the JMT begins. In practice this means taking the tourist trail although the Mountaineer's Route is a viable alternative.
A full route description can be found in Guide to the John Muir Trail
by Thomas Winnett and Kathy Morey. The Tom Harrison map pack is very useful as well.
Cathedral Peak in winter
In short the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) runs through California's Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, Devil's Postpile National Monument, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness areas, and Inyo National Forest. From Happy Isles in Yosemite in the north to the summit of Mt. Whitney at the southern terminus the JMT showcases what is often called the most spectacular hiking scenery in the US if not the world. Indeed the JMT is internationally famous and attracts hikers from all over the world.
Except in early season (until sometime in June when it is snow covered) the JMT is easy to follow. Camping and water is generally readily available although some restrictions apply. There are no services on the trail, however, Toulumne Meadows, Red's Meadow, Vermilion Valley Resort, and Muir Trail Ranch are nearby resupply options.
Plan on 2 - 4 weeks for the whole hike. The single $5 permit acquired in Yosemite is valid for all jurisdictions that the JMT passes through including the Whitney Zone. TH permits go fast for in-season starts. Reserve yours early.
Simply follow the JMT (sometimes marked as the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail) southbound until the T junction with the Mt. Whitney Trail near Trail Crest. From there follow the Whitney Trail along the ridge to the summit.
Ascending from the "back" allows one a fair amount of solitude for much of the hike.
For the less hardy, joining the JMT at Crabtree Meadows is an option. This is an especially good work around when permits for the front side are not available. Secure a permit for one of the other trailheads and spend a night at Crabtree or around Guitar Lake. There are even a few nice sites above Guitar Lake.
The standard descent route is the Whitney Trail down to Whitney Portal to an arranged shuttle. I had outstanding luck hitching back but YMMV (your mileage may vary).
Backpacking equipment and resupplies sufficient for a 211+ mile hike. There are not many convenient resupply points for food but thruhikers usually use Reds Meadow and Vermillion Valley Resort on Lake Edison.
Probably most interesting are thruhiker journals found on Trail Journals
. This site has the largest collection of journals that I know.
Tom Harrison has an excellent set of maps
that cover the entire JMT, I highly recommend them.
Yosemite Valley to Toulumne Meadows (24.2 miles)
Both ends of the JMT have heavy traffic. On the Yosemite Valley
end, the first part of the trail is also the hiking route to Navada Falls
and to the top of Half Dome
which has LOTS of traffic. At mile 6.4 you will reach the intersection with the trail to the top of Half Dome.
Side trip, Half Dome (+4 miles)
Half Dome is not officially on the JMT, but can you really hike the JMT and walk right by Half Dome? What would John Muir do? You have to make the side trip to the top. The side trip to Half Dome is 4 miles round trip from the JMT. Make sure to time your hike up Half Dome the experience can be vastly different depending on when you hike it.
Sometimes the experience of Half Dome is sublime
Sometimes it should just be avoided
Highligts of this section
Vernal Falls, mile 1.5
, mile 3.7
Half Dome, mile 6.4
, mile 9.4
Cathedral Lakes, Cathedral Peak
, mile 21.9
[img:566525:alignleft:medium:Cathedral Peak in winter]
Tuolumne Meadows to Devils Postpile