Good level of physical condition and prior backpacking experience. Ability to carry a multi-day pack on trail.
Inclusions Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not. Local accommodation is not included.
The John Muir Trail is one of the finest hikes to be found anywhere in the world. The route starts in Yosemite National Park and continues south ending some two hundred miles later at the high point of the lower forty eight states, Mount Whitney. Along the way it climbs over 13,000' passes, wanders beneath high alpine peaks, and traverses beautiful meadows and forested river valleys. The spectacular scenery is combined with the generally clement weather of California and warm summer temperatures. For all participants this will be a trip of a lifetime, one to be remembered for years to come.
Not everyone has the ability to get an entire three weeks off work so this year we have divided the trip into two segments. You can sign up for all, or part of the hike, although of course we recommend doing all of it if you can. We are allowing twenty days for the complete trip and differing lengths of time for the segments. We will have four food drops so that the packs are not too heavy for each segment and if doing only part of the trip you will go in, or out, with the food drop.
You can expect to cover eight to twelve miles a day. The tentative schedule is as follows, but remember that weather, conditions and issues such as minor injury or desire for a rest day may well vary this outline.
So be flexible and adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur during a trip of this duration. It's just as possible the trip will finish before the allotted number of days. Numbered days refer to significant logistical events during the trip. Due to the difficulties of trying to map out every day of a long journey such as this other days have been omitted from this itinerary.
Section One: Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow: Thirty Three Miles
If you want a shorter hike you can also join us for the Tuolumne to Red's Meadow segment, which is five days in length.
We start off slowly to ease into the hiking. Packs will be light for this section and although there is plenty of distance the hiking is easy and the days not too long.
We start up gentle Lyell Canyon and cross the first pass of the trip, Donohue Pass. From here the route passes below the jagged Minarets and skirts wonderful Thousand Island Lake before dropping to Reds Meadow and the volcanic flows of Devils Postpile National Monument. Day One: The night before the first hiking day will be spent at the campground in Tuolumne Meadows. We prefer to start the trip from here rather than from the lower Yosemite Valley to avoid the summer heat of the Valley and also to comply with Federal laws regarding guiding in Yosemite National Park. Day Five: Arrive at Reds Meadow north of Mammoth.
Section Two: Reds Meadow to Big Pete Meadow: Seventy Seven Miles
This section takes you into the heart of the mountains and at eight days is the longest unsupported segment. The route stays well to the west of the main Sierra Crest before climbing up onto the Silver Divide and then descending towards Lake Edison in the western foothills. From here we climb up into the Evolution Valley and the high surrounding peaks. We cross Muir Pass and drop down into deeply incised Le Conte Canyon and meet our re-supply below Little Pete Meadow brought in by porters. Those hiking just the two segments will hike out via Bishop Pass on Day 13. Day Five: Arrive at Reds Meadow north of Mammoth. Here we pick up our first food re-supply. Day Six: Leave Reds Meadow and head south. Day Nine: A short side trip to Muir Ranch to pick up a resupply. Day Thirteen: Arrive at the junction of the JMT with the Bishop Pass Trail below Little Pete Meadow.
Section Three: Little Pete Meadows to Whitney: Eighty Seven Miles
If you’re doing this second segment you hike in via Bishop Pass on Day 12, spend the first night below Bishop Pass to aid in your acclimatization and then join the rest of the group on Day 13.
This segment includes several high passes and stays close to the Sierra Crest passing below the fourteen thousand foot peaks of the Palisade region, dropping into the wide open alpine valley of Upper Basin. The passes here are high and steep, but the effort is more than compensated by the incredible scenery.
The final section of the hike is the highest and the most spectacular of them all as it traverses high glacial bowls far above the main river drainages. Forester Pass, 13,120 feet, is the highest on the route, but by now you will be in such good shape that it will be barely noticeable. Turning east from Crabtree Meadows the route climbs towards Mount Whitney and the couple of mile detour we make to stand on the 14,495 foot summit is for many the culmination of the trip. From here we continue on to the roadhead followed by pizza and celebrations back in Bishop. Day Thirteen: Leave the junction with the Bishop Pass trail with more food and any new hikers. Day Eighteen: Arrive at Bullfrog Lake with a food drop here. Day Twenty One: Arrive late in the afternoon at roadhead after descending the Mountaineers route from the top of Whitney. Our shuttle will meet us here and take us to Bishop, hot showers, fresh salads and the end of the trip.
Here is a video diary from our 2011 JMT trip courtesy of Paul Ebdon.
Logistics This is a long trip and for many people may be the longest backcountry trip they have ever done. Because of the length there is always the potential for things to go wrong and the unexpected to occur. Your guide will be trained in wilderness first aid and will carry a radio or cell phone for emergency communications. (No, not for personal use and calling home!). Family and friends can contact you through our office, but because of the problems of communication in the backcountry the delay can be substantial. It will be possible to receive (small) mail and messages with the re-supplies.
You need to be in good shape for the trip. This does not mean being a super fit marathoner though. The days will be long and steady. The most important thing is endurance and the ability to deal with whatever happens. Please contact us for details if you have specific questions.
Backcountry Conditions We do this trip from late August to early September to get what we consider to be the best conditions. Most biting insects and bugs should be gone. Days, while getting shorter should be warm with day temperatures in the 60-degree region and nights dipping to about 32 degrees rarely and only at the higher elevation. There may be small snow patches on the highest passes, but not enough to warrant ice axe and crampon use. Stream flows will be well below peak flow and most should be easy to cross. There is the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms that may be heavy for a short time. You will be in the high mountains so there is always the chance of snow, but prolonged storms are not common at this time of year.