Hike to the Summit of Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney Trail

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 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 it's 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 an cold beer at the Whitney Portal Store, which you can't miss.

Contact for permits:

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

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Comfortable hiking shoes
  • Warm jacket
  • Sun Protection
  • Food
  • Water (little to no water after 12,000 feet)
  • Headlamp
  • Celebratory beverage for the top
Show More
RT Distance 22 Miles
Elevation Gain 6100 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

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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