Thru-Hike the John Muir Trail

211 miles 45000 ft gain  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by Austin Trigg

The John Muir Trail is an unbelievable thru hike that travels 211 miles through some of California's most scenic landscapes. It is a journey that travels up and down over mountain passes with a collected elevation gain and loss of over 45,000 feet. It starts in Yosemite Valley traveling through National Forests, the Ansel Adams Wilderness, through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park ending on the summit of the highest point in the contiguous U.S., Mt. Whitney.

To thru hike the JMT is probably one of the sickest trips to do! It's not a heavy commitment like the PCT or AT but it's also no week long vacation from work, backpacking the woods of your local forests either. There's a sweet spot in thru hiking and I believe this trail gives the full taste. You will be tested in many ways, some easier than others but everyone gets dealt their own cards on the trail. It does provide so as long as you can hold fast through the bad and smile through the great you will have an unforgettable journey through some of California's most isolated wilderness.  

Permits - Some people get their permits on the first try, other people have had to wait 1-2 years before they got their permit so make sure to get your reservation forms the second the lottery opens - 24 weeks in advance in September to November. Here is the link for the lottery information from the northern terminus. 

Once you get your permit start training. The JMT's elevation gain is slightly over 45,000 feet for the entire trail…Mt. Everest comes in at 29,000 feet. It's a lot of up and down so get your legs conditioned. 

While you're training start thinking about your food consumption and resupplying, because your going to need a lot of food and the time for it to get wherever you are. 

Resupplies - There are several resupply points along the trail. Cacheing food along the trail is considered illegal, so shipping food in is the only right way. Here are the list of the resupply points. Follow their directions and you should have no problem getting your food out there!

Vehicles and Transportation - This can be a bit tricky since flying into Mammoth airport is not in everyones' budget. If you have awesome friends and significant others that live in or close to CA you do not need to worry about car situations, as they can drop you off in Yosemite and pick you up at Whitney Portal/ Lone Pine. But for people who are out of town, there are many ways to get to Yosemite and Whitney. For more information on parking, buses to get you back to your vehicle if you're rolling solo, and flights to CA if your coming from out of state, check out this write up. 

Planning your hike. This falls totally on how you chalk yourself up as a hiker and when you're planning this type of trip. There are people on this trail that have been backpacking their entire life and for others, it's their first time ever sleeping in a tent. Anyone can do this trip, it's just about stamina and staying in the game with a clear head. You have two ways of hiking the trail, north to south - the way the majority of people hike the trail or south to north, which starts out with a lot of elevation gain off the bat. 

These next sentences are from my personal experience and what my partner and I planned out to fit the trip we were trying to have. So take this with a grain of salt when planning out your hike. Leave a lot of up it to interpretation when your on the trail, that's when the fun happens. 

We planned to do about 10 miles a day. 10 being the average of all the collected days being out there. Some days were 0-4 miles and others where 14-20 miles so we tried to gauge it within those guidelines. 

We started out of Yosemite learning that sleeping at higher elevations was a lot better than sleeping low. After leaving Yosemite we entered into the Ansel Adams Wilderness passing many lakes and sleeping/ swimming in some beautiful locations. From the Ansel Adams Wilderness you move into the National Forests which will blow your mind at how amazing it is there. It is something that a lot of people haven't seen but it is worth the experience. From there you move south, back into Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. Kings Canyon was hands down some of the best views along the entire trial. Evolution Valley is considered to be the most remote and isolated area in the whole state of California, being the farthest away you can get from civilization. I highly suggest spending a couple nights through the valley if you can swing it. Once coming into Sequoia you are almost at the end of the trail but its not over yet. Approaching Whitney from the backside is the best way to hike this hill. Its a great approach with way less people which gives you some great last views of thew trail before you finally summit reaching the end of the trail on top of Whitney!

For more detailed insights on the John Muir Trail check out my Outbound Story, "How to Plan Your Thru Hike on the John Muir Trail" as that will help you dial your trip in that much more! 

The John Muir Trail is simply amazing and I hope this information from my experiences helps you plan your trip and leaves you with an unforgettable adventure!

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over 2 years ago

Life changing experience

You become a different person on this magical trail. When you reach the end you cry a little inside. The trail is long enough to immerse you in the experience and all your worries and responsibilities fade into oblivion. You realize happiness is not something you have to strive for its something you can relax into. Addition by subtractions. It is a stroll through heaven.

🥈 Contributor

almost 3 years ago

Can’t wait to do it again

I did the trail this past summer NOBO out of Horeshoe Meadows and it rocked my world. Def agree it gives you the thru hike experience without having to take 6 months off from work. Plan on taking both of my kids on it for their 16th birthdays - especially since I saw so many families doing it together out there. Truly a bucket list item!

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