Hike to the Summit of Mt. Whitney

Details

Distance

20.9 miles

Elevation Gain

6100 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Gregg Boydston

Summit the highest peak in the contiguous Unites States. This hike can be done as either an overnight, or with an early start, done in one day. At the peak, enjoy fantastic views of the Sierras with plenty of photo opportunities.

Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. It stands over 14,500ft high at its peak (elevation gain of 6100') and it sure feels like it when you are up there.

Located just West of Lone Pine, CA you take Whitney Portal Road West for 13 miles all the way to its end. You will enter a small, what seems like a village, that will have last minute supplies and plenty of parking.

I chose to take the single day route and make it a turn around trip. By stepping onto the trail at 1:00am, I was able to watch the sunrise over a quick break at the "Trail Crest" location a couple hours before the peak. As the sun started to light the path, I was able to take in the gorgeous scenery. From lakes, rivers, waterfalls and massive rock cliffs, it was quite the sight to see. By 7:00am I was standing at the top looking East into what felt like the midwest. The wind did pick up for the last 20 minutes of hiking or so, but don't worry, there is a warming hut at the top to make a warm cup of coffee and rest the legs before the long walk back down. Don't forget to sign your name in the log!

The walk down was just as enjoyable as this time it was daylight for the entire walk. Plenty of lakes to take a dip in if you are warm, and plenty of places to stop for a quick break and take some photos.

By 1:00pm I was back to the trailhead and eager to sit down for that delightful hamburger a cold beer at the Whitney Portal Store, which you can't miss.

For more information on preparing and training for Mt. Whitney, you can read more in the story So you want to hike Mt. Whitney

Contact for Mt. Whitney permits and updated weather reports:

Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center
Junction of Highway 395 and State Route 136
2 miles south of Lone Pine, CA 93545
760-873-2483

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Photography
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Forest
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Scenic

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Highest peak in the contiguous U.S.

Mt. Whitney is an incredible hike if you're up for it and can get the permits. My group spent a day up in Mammoth to acclimate then drove to the trailhead and camped out before hitting the trail just after midnight. (it seemed like the switchbacks went by faster in the dark!) We made it to the 99 switchbacks right at sunrise. I'd argue the top of the switchbacks offered a pretty amazing viewpoint (the summit was as expected, very exposed and windy). The summit was a great chance to rest our legs for a minute before heading back down and getting to see the ground we covered in the dark. I'd recommend trekking poles to give your knees a little support as well as plenty of snacks (I likely didn't eat enough as I was getting light headed on the way down). All in all, Mt. Whitney was an amazing adventure with memories that'll last a lifetime!

Mt Whitney Summit 2018

I just summited Whitney with my Boyfriend on 6/19/18 we had prepared for snow with ice axes and crampons (which you can rent in lone pine or bishop) but we didn’t need the extra snow gear and ended up stashing them amongst some rocks to lighten our load. There was some snow along the cables and a bit further up around the crest but honestly it was manageable with sturdy boots and some hiking poles. As we descended Whitney, all the snow we passed was turning to slush and melting away. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the snow was gone in a few days. We took extra strength Tylenol to help with the altitude sickness at about 12,000 ft which helped me a lot. Definitely stay hydrated, bring electrolytes, and tons of food. We took small breaks every hour to hydrate and eat even though we weren’t hungry once we got passed 12,000ft. After slaying the 99 switchbacks, the air felt heavy and it was very difficult to breathe. We had to take a lot of breaks for the last two miles. Pace yourselves if you need to, there’s no point in over exerting yourself. Overall incredible hike with amazing views. We started at 12am in the morning and didn’t get back until 11pm. My boyfriend is not an experienced hiker at all nor experienced with higher altitudes and he did great, just needed lots of rest stops. This isn’t your walk in the park, but your efforts will be rewarded not only with bragging rights but also incredible views while ascending and descending.

A Beautiful Slog of a Hike

I summited Mount Whitney on 6/9/17. After the drought-breaking winter we knew we were going to be in for a tough hike but it was 100%, without-a-doubt, worth it! We started the hike from Whitney Portal at 1am and route-finding below treeline was a bit tricky but we had a GPS (downloaded the Gaia Maps app) so we were able to get back on track pretty quickly whenever we lost our way. The trail was intermittently snowy (which is what made route-finding difficult) until just past Mirror Lake when it became entirely snow covered and we put on crampons. We made it to Trail Camp at 6am and took a half an hour break. It took us another 2 hours to climb up the chute and make it to Trail Crest. Because of elevation and fatigue it took us yet another 2 hours to reach the summit, but we did it!! We didn't stay long because we knew we still had a long hike back down ahead of us. Sliding down the chute was one of the most fun aspects of doing this trail in the snow but please make sure you bring an ice axe and know how to use it so you can self-arrest if necessary. It was nice to hike back down in the daylight but the sun made the snow an absolute nightmare to walk through! We finally made it back to the trailhead at 6pm, completely worked but so elated!

Super popular (& crowded) trail

Even with the lottery system, this hike draws in people from around the country (and even internationally). A great way to avoid the crowds is to climb in the off season using ice climbing gear, or taking the Mountaineer's Route. This second route branches off from the main trail just 0.8 miles in, after crossing Lone Pine Creek, and involves some cross-country navigation and class 3 scrambling towards the top. Totally worth the extra effort!

Kickass Highpoint

A gorgeous and breathtaking hike (literally). Coming from sea level and hiking the 22 miles in a day, the last 200 feet of hiking got to me. Still though, the amazing views and sense of accomplishment was magical. Highly recommend!

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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