The John Muir Trail is one of the finest wilderness hikes to be found anywhere in the world and the trip of a lifetime. Our route starts near, and then climbs, Mount Whitney – the high point of the lower forty-eight states – and continues north some two hundred miles ending in Yosemite National Park. 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. We have lived in the area for over 35 years and in this time we have seen enormous changes, with the last few years in particular showing a tremendous explosion in use. Hiker numbers have skyrocketed and this has made it ever more difficult to obtain permits. Our trips now start in the south at the Cottonwood trailhead. This adds a day but aids in acclimatization to the elevation. We are now allowing twenty three days for the complete trip.
We will have four or five food drops so that packs are not too heavy, with you carrying a maximum of 8 days food at any one time. You can expect to cover ten to twelve miles a day. The tentative schedule is as follows, but remember that weather, conditions and perhaps issues such as sore feet or a desire for a rest day may well vary this outline. Be flexible and adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur during a trip of this duration. Numbered days refer to significant logistical events during the trip. Due to the difficulties in trying to map out every day of a long journey such as this, other days have been omitted from this itinerary. Expect changes to this itinerary!
Not everyone has the ability to get an entire 23 days off work so we offer the option of shorter sections. These sections follow our entire JMT schedule but have additional days added for access in and out at different trailheads. These segments are their own separate trip and while following the same overall itinerary as the entire trip are on different dates. We do not have people join or leave the entire trip. Ask about our sectional itineraries.
This is a long wilderness trip and for many people may be the longest backcountry trip they have ever done. You will get tired, dirty and there will be no showers along the way. 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!). Remember that in these remote locations we cannot guarantee that cell phones will work reliably and in the event of an emergency it is likely to take a considerable effort to find a location where the phone will work. 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 resupplies.
We do this trip from July to early September to get what we consider to be the best conditions. There might be biting insects and bugs in July but by August they should be gone. In August and September the 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 elevations. There may be small snow patches on the highest passes, but not normally enough to warrant ice axe and crampon use. This might well change should we have a big snow winter and we will let you know should this be the case. 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 likely at this time of year.
JOHN MUIR TRAIL BOOK
Our good friend John Dittli published a book on the John Muir Trail. It’s a collection of John’s photos, history and recollections from many hikes. Click here to see John’s slideshow.