The John Muir Trail is one of the finest hikes to be found anywhere in the world. The hike from Yosemite National Park to the high point of the lower forty-eight states, Mount Whitney, is about 200 miles and is a twenty day trip. But not everyone can take the time to do this. This trip extends our popular Mammoth to Tuolumne hike by two days and take you all the way into the fabled Yosemite Valley.
June 27-July 2
…or custom programs at any time
This trip can be made in either direction but we like to start from Mammoth Lakes since it avoids the problems of obtaining a wilderness permit in Yosemite, which can be very difficult. This also enables you to spend the night before in Mammoth and gain some acclimatization to the elevation in a comfortable setting. While this trip can be done in less than four days, our goal is to enjoy the hike and not beat ourselves up. That way we can split the days into easy segments that allow you to forget the city, work and all those things that come with modern life. You’ll have time to sit by a lake in the sun and read a book, go fishing or take an afternoon hike without the overnight pack.
We head up the rushing San Joaquin River from Agnew Meadows along the River Trail. Shortly after Olaine Lake, we head up and pass the beautiful Shadow Lake with fantastic views of the jagged Minarets and the blocky summits of Mounts Ritter and Banner. We plan to camp above Shadow Lake, close to Shadow Creek and to make this not too long a day.
Starting elevation: 8,314 feet
Ending elevation: 9,000 feet
Distance: 4.5 miles with 1,100 feet of gain and 420 feet of loss
We head north paralleling the San Joaquin river and pass by some of the Sierra’s most beautiful lakes all aptly named from precious gems: Ruby, Garnet, Emerald and finally to the incomparable Thousand Island Lake. We wander around the lake stopping to enjoy the scenery as we climb up and over the low and easy Island Pass. From here we descend into Rush Creek and stop near the forks of the creek to set up camp.
Starting elevation: 9,000 feet
Ending elevation: 9,650 feet
Distance: 8.o miles with 2,000 feet of gain and 1,500 feet of loss
Today is our biggest pass but the distance to the top is not too far. So we shoulder our ever lightening packs, head over Donahue Pass and drop into Lyell Canyon. Above us rises Mt Lyell, the high point of Yosemite National Park, and we start a steady drop into the wide glacially carved valley of Lyell Canyon. We plan to camp near the Tuolumne River in the base of Lyell Canyon.
Starting elevation: 9,650 feet
Ending elevation: 8,950 feet
Distance: 8.0 miles with 1,500 feet of gain and 2,200 feet of loss
All downhill now to the roadhead at Tuolumne Meadows through Lyell canyon. As we walk, we pass the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as it is lazily meandering its way to the Meadows. We take time to pick up a food resupply in Tuolumne Meadows (and maybe an ice cream at the store) before heading back out and along the JMT, climbing to camp near lovely Cathedral Lakes.
Starting elevation: 8,950 feet
Ending elevation: 9,600 feet
Distance: 13.75 miles with 1,600 feet of gain and 1,000 feet of loss
From Cathedral Lakes we head out along the JMT and past the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. From here we drop down to our last camp in the trees of Sunrise Creek.
Starting elevation: 9,600 feet
Ending elevation: 7,175 feet
Distance: 10.5 miles with 850 feet of gain and 3,300 feet of loss
The final day we get an early start to beat the heat and start the long descent into Yosemite Valley, taking the mist trail down past the Emerald Pool, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and finally to the bustle of Happy Isles and our pickup at Curry Village. After a stop at the market and store, we take the 3-hour shuttle back to Mammoth where you can stay and delay the return to the big city. Or if time is short then head home refreshed and rejuvenated by the High Sierra.
Starting elevation: 7,175 feet
Ending elevation: 4,000 feet
Distance: 6.8 miles with 220 feet of gain and 3,400 feet of loss
Total Trip Mileage: 51.5 miles
Prior day hiking experience required. No prior overnight experience is required but you need to be in good physical condition, able to walk 10 miles and gain up to 2000 feet daily while carrying a multiday backpack.
Price includes guiding, permits, tents, kitchen gear, shuttle back, 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.
★ Please Read before you go ★
We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)
- Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List
- Our Covid-19 plan. Questions how it pertains to this program? Get in touch.
- Our Cancellation Policy
- Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
- Tips on physical training for your trip
- LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environments.
Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.