Backpack the Full John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Distance: 221 milesDuration: about 3+ weeks, depending on how hard you hikeOne of the most iconic trails in the worldThis is a pretty advanced trail, make sure you prepare ahead of time

The John Muir Trail technically starts at the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley, although there are a couple of alternative starting points, including Lyell Canyon and Tuolumne Meadows. If you start at Happy Isles and hike out at Whitney Portal, the hike is 221 miles, and there are many potential side trips that you could do to make it even longer.

This trail winds through Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Kinds Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park. There are endless opportunities to leave the trail to scramble up surrounding peaks or wander around alpine lakes, which dot a massive granite wonderland. Do this at your own risk!

This hike takes considerable preparation. Reserving permits may be the biggest challenge. Plan to apply for permits 24 weeks prior to when you would like to start hiking. (We faxed 2 applications daily for 17 straight days before we finally got our permits.) 60% of permits are reservable, so if you have some flexibility, you could show up to Yosemite Valley in person and try for one of the “first come, first serve” permits. You will also need to make plans to resupply your food. We mailed ourselves supplies to Reds Meadow Resort and Muir Trail Ranch. Much could (and has) been written about this, but it is important to do further research before setting out. Having said that, we found so much excess food, especially at MTR, that one could easily resupply there without mailing themselves any additional food.

One note regarding food: it is mandatory to keep your food in “bear bins,” which are available for rent in the Valley for $5/week.

Pack List

  • Backpacking gear (ultralight whenever possible)
  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Cookstove
  • Fuel
  • Water purifying system
  • Snacks
  • Food
  • Maps
  • Layers
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 221 Miles
Activities Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Easy Parking


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Overall rating: 

John Muir Trail In 12 Days

I went with Boy Scouts and did the entire trail in 12 days. It was great especially hiking and the great views i would definitely recommend the trail for anyone to do it. The guys I did it with are creating a documentary for YouTube it will be great.

Gorgeous Sierra Trip!

My husband and I took 30 days to do this trip so we could enjoy every second...that was the best decision we made! It is gorgeous and life changing and I can't recommend it enough!

There's a documentary on Netflix called (Mile... Mile & a Half) that's about 5 photographers who hike the trail to captures its beauty. Definitely one for the bucket list!

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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