The last section
was finished in 1938 and runs for 212 miles north south from
Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney summit in Sequoia-Kings Canyon
National Park. Most people also add the miles down to the
trailhead at Whitney Portal for a total of 221.
This is one of the more spectacular segments of the Pacific
Crest Trail, and has many access points from the east and west
sides – making for good loop trips of 3 to 15 days. High granite
wilderness with stark blue lakes in glacier carved basins.
There are many potential loop trips and a backpacking shuttle
service can pick you up or drop you if you are doing JMT
John Muir Trail area
Required since the routes are
thru National Parks or wilderness areas. Get the permit at the
point of entry. East side permits are U.S. Forest Service. The
Mt. Whitney end is thru the Forest Service by lottery, but there
are nearby passes where you can get to the JMT and permits are
usually available in advance or at the trailhead. For 2013, Yosemite end reservations opened in late November. Try to get
them asap as there is a daily quota at all trailheads. If you missed the first day, checked their full trailheads list and look for alternate entries. Fax,
mail or phone your request. Faxed and mailed requests have
priority over phone.
Forest Service Permits.
Yosemite National Park Permits.
Starting from Yosemite on your reservation request, entry
trailhead will be Happy Isles-->Sunrise/Merced Lake (pass
through) and exit trailhead
will be Whitney Portal. If online reservations are full for your day and route, do not be discouraged. 40% of permits are reserved for walk ups either for same day or one day before. Go midweek, get in line at the wilderness
permit office early, and have a day or two flexibility. Same day
permits are available when the office opens (7am in 2011), next
day permits at 11am. If the Happy Isles->Sunrise/Merced
Lake (pass through) is still full, ask for alternatives such as one leaving from Tuolumne Meadows or Glacier Point.
If you are a southbound JMT hiker leaving from Tuolumne Meadows,
your entry trailhead will be Lyell Canyon Trailhead. If you are
taking a west side (of the Sierras) trail from Sequoia Kings
Canyon National Park to access the JMT, get your permit from
Sequoia Kings Canyon NP.
Google Map for Tuolumne Permit location and connection to JMT up
Peter from Yahoo John Muir Trail forum posted this useful google
map showing where the permit issuing wilderness office is, and
where you connect with the jmt;
Resupply - Food Drops:
The John Muir Trail
is the longest stretch of the Pacific Crest trail with no towns
or highway crossings, so food drops are a problem, particularly
if you are not doing the 20+ miles per day of a PCT thru-hiker. I went
from Yosemite south, so had a drop at
Reds Meadows' Resort,
one 4 days later at
and then had a friend with llamas do one in LeConte Canyon.
If you don't want to carry a full load of food up from the valley floor,
have a resupply at Tuolumne Meadows, two days away.
is one of the highlights of the trip with meals, and sleeping
facilities for hikers, and a small store. They make a special
effort to welcome both PCTers and JMTers - first beer and first
night are free. Great pie. ATT cell
service works at VVR. They also have internet via satellite.
Muir Trail Ranch does hiker resupply and is located a couple
of days south of Vermilion Valley Resort. Hikers can stay
overnight in either a log cabin or tent cabin by reservation.
Sometimes openings for cabins are available without reservation,
but not too often. One-night and two-night stays include all
three meals, use of laundry, showers, and enclosed hot spring
baths. Meals aren't available without an overnight stay. The
ranch is very close to the trail. Some people start their
half-JMT trek by leaving from Florence Lake, which has five
ferryboat runs per day, seven days a week. The ranch is five
miles east of the lake. Vermilion Valley Resort offers shuttle
service from Fresno’s airport, Amtrak station and Greyhound
station to Florence Lake, Edison Lake and Mono Hot Springs.
Contact them at
www.edisonlake.com at least two weeks in advance. The
current charge is about $200 for two people.
I've heard rumors that a Pack Station at Bishop Pass will pack food in,
and place it in a 50 gallon barrel at LeConte Ranger Station.
A 2005 backpacking forum message said the packer
from Onion Valley resupplied them at Charlotte Lake, over
Kearsarge Pass. One packer and one horse, no extra mule cost
$225.00. They have a sealed, buried 55 gal drum at Charlotte
Lake Ranger Station, so you don't have to meet them. The food in
the drum can only stay there one day.This apparently is not
Berner's drum - see below. I've seen such a drum at Le Conte Ranger Station, but don't know rules for its use.
The pack station out of Onion Valley is run by Berner's Pack
Outfit, Brian & Danica Berner. They also run the Pine Creek
Pack Station. Contact them at 760-387-2797 or 800-962-0775.
Their address is Berner's Pack Outfit, Pine Creek Pack Station,
P.O. Box 968, Bishop, CA 93515. I heard they will hold a
resupply box for $75, but contact them to be sure.
As a resupply strategy, if you have to hike out to Onion Valley
to get a food drop, you might consider doing as Susan and I do
if water on the PCT is several miles off the trail. We setup a
dry camp at the PCT junction to the water source, I will empty
absolutely everything out of my pack except emergency gear and
empty water containers, and then make a fast round trip for the
water. With the lightened pack, I can make very good time.
For horse or mule resupply from the east side of the Sierras
check the pack station list at:
pack station list pdf
or a list of east side packers:
Re Resupply Fuel:
It's best to buy at resupply point. Fuels can't
be flown. US Postal Service will allow butane/propane canisters
and alcohol to be mailed ground only provided they are packed
and labeled properly. See Ken Power's link on this:
http://www.gottawalk.com/shipping_fuel.htm . I mailed an
unopened can of alcohol to Mt. Laguna for our section A PCT
hike, properly packed - wrapped with paper towels inside a
ziplock inside a well padded box. Good thing I followed the
rules because it did leak - not a lot, but all the paper towels
were damp - nothing into outer box.
My Blog entry on planning for long distance hiking
John Muir Trail thru-hiker statistics:
I checked with Yosemite Assn, which issues the southbound
permits. As of 29 July 04 they had issued 244 permits for the
year and estimated a total of 600 for the season. 300 PCT
thru-hikers start northbound, and about 180 of them get to
Canada, so I estimate that at least 200 do the JMT.
To check on snow and high water conditions in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon part of the JMT, look at
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/trailcond.htm . Yosemite has a similar site but the information is not as good or as current:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm . The US Forest Service has information on east side trailheads http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/conditions/index.shtml . If you are hiking when most of the trail is covered with snow, navigation is a problem. Have good map and compass or gps skills.
This can happen irregardless of age or physical conditions, usually during the first two or three days at altitude. Sometimes it can be life threatening, so I recommend that you study altitudemedicine.org's website carefully. altitudemedicine.org/index.php/altitude-medicine/learn-about-altitude-sickness
Early Season Fording Techniques:
If you are a PCTer, you will have a number of fast deep
crossings requiring extreme caution. Evolution Creek is
the deepest, sometimes chest high at the normal crossing point,
but not very fast. Others are not as deep but fast and
dangerous. Usually its best to cross in early morning - may be 12 inches lower than
late afternoon. Tyndall Creek, Bear Creek, south fork of Kings
River, Rush Creek, Kerrick Canyon (northern Yosemite) are some of the others.
Consensus from PCT-L forum is to use hiking poles or sticks to
get 4 points of contact, keep body facing the opposite shore,
angle upstream to keep the force of water from collapsing your
knees, wear synthetic fast drying clothes, take off long pants,
unfasten waist belt. If shoes and boots are already wet leave
them on. Walk between rocks, not on them. If wearing trail
runners leave them on - some people take socks off. During dry
weather if you have to cross in your boots, remove socks and
boot liners, wipe out boots after crossing and reinsert liners.
You will walk dry quickly. You need
something to protect your feet (I have gone barefoot in
midsummer and it is painful. I have carried lightweight kayak shoes
for camp and river crossing - better than bare feet. I don't want the weight penalty of Tevas). With normal sierra weather
you will dry as you walk fairly soon. If chilly, put on
fleece after crossing.
Early season hint: Temperature Change with Elevation:
carry a thermometer, it is sometimes useful to estimate expected
temperatures at higher elevations. There is a normal temperature
drop of 3.6° F for each 1000 feet increase in elevation. i.e. if
you are at 10,000 feet, the temperature is 40° F and it is
raining, expect snow at 13,000 feet.
Transportation and Backpacking Shuttle Service:
www.yarts.com is the regional Yosemite transportation service. It includes service to and from Merced to Yosemite, as well as from Yosemite to Mammoth and points in between.
Summary of Public Transit to Yosemite: There was a post
on Backpacking Light from
John, who lives in Yosemite valley. He uses public transit on a
regular basis. To get to Yosemite from the east coast, fly into
San Francisco or Oakland than take Bay Area Rapid Transit
(BART) to Richmond, there transfer to Amtrak, take it to Merced.
At Merced, take the Yosemite Area Regional Transit bus to
Yosemite valley. Coming back from Whitney Portal, there
is regional transit bus service on highway 395. Take it to
Mammoth Lakes then YARTS back to Yosemite valley.
(ed. note: if you do this be
cautious at Richmond Bart. It is in a dangerous neighborhood.
Don't walk around.) As of 2013 there is a new service from San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
direct to Yosemite Lodge called gotobus.com
For Public Transportation schedules:
To get to the Eastern Sierra
or Yosemite, here is an excellent link, including some bus
Shuttle Services: There are shuttle services that would
drop you at one trailhead and pick you up at another. We usually
leave the vehicle at the trip end point and the shuttle takes us
from there back to the start point.
Bob Ennis offers shuttles along the Eastern Sierra from
Yosemite to Kennedy Meadows (south)
http://www.mtwhitneyshuttle.com/ He just recently shuttled
us from Kennedy Meadows to the Jawbone Canyon area - excellent
Another good source of shuttle info, shower locations, etc that is kept current:
A new shuttle service into Sequoia Kings Canyon from Visalia:
There is a west side shuttle service into Vermillion
Valley Resort from Fresno
The Williamson Motel in Independence has shuttled hikers to
Onion Valley if they stay a night at the motel. Contact them for
John Muir Trail
National Geographic Topo California
software, and I
print out customized maps for each trip.
If you want to buy maps, there is nothing better than the
Tom Harrison JMT Map Pack
Peter Dascalos has put together a nice backpacking site
including a set of JMT maps that Dan Braun created from Topo - viewable online,
and if you have highspeed internet, downloadable. They are sized for print
on 8.5 by 11.
http://www.onthetrail.org/OTT/jmt.html . If you browse his site, you can also find maps and
photos for sections A, B and C of the PCT.
The following elevation profile site does the entire Pacific
Crest Trail, section by section, including an excellent JMT
profile: interactive - you select by section - very
Brian from the Yahoo John Muir Trail forum has posted a good
GPS Coordinates for Reds Meadow to Whitney Portal:
Kevin Aston has put a useful spreadsheet on his site, with elevations, mileages and distances http://www.kevinaston.com/JMTSpreadsheet.html
you download Excel spreadsheets containing all the gps
coordinates from Wenk and Morey's Guide to the John Muir Trail.
The release of the data was authorized by Wilderness Press.
There is a new Mt Whitney website
http://www.whitneyzone.com/ that contains much of the info
that used to be on the
www.whitneyportalstore.com website, so check them both out
for Whitney info.
GPS - How to get your track on a map
This is a little off topic, but if you are
interested in the various ways to see your GPS track on a map,
Two-Heel Drive's blog entry on the subject.
You can encounter them anywhere on the JMT, but are most likely to see them where they have found food before: At the trailhead or a day or two out from it, examples: Kearsarge Pass or Little Yosemite. Anywhere there is a bear box.
for food are required on parts of the JMT. For your sake and the bear's sake, we strongly urge you to use them. See gear page for details. You can rent them in Yosemite when you pick up your permit. Repackage your food so you can store more in the canister. Bear box locations cluster campers with resulting dust, dirt, noise. We try to avoid them. Locations in Sequoia-Kings Canyon:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_box.htm . In Yosemite bear boxes are only at Little Yosemite campground and the High Sierra Camps. Canisters are required in
all areas in Yosemite as of 2008. For details see:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcanisters.htm For Ansel Adams Wilderness and other east side Forest Service managed areas see link in Where to Camp below.
They are required in most of the Sierras. Yes, you
may get away without getting caught, either by a bear or a ranger,
but chances are that a bear is going to get your food, and
eventually get shot due to people not using canisters. More info on
canisters on our gear page.
has the largest and lightest/meal hard sided container. They have
special rental rates for PCT, JMT, etc. Call them for details:
https://id215.chi.us.securedata.net/~wild-ideas/rent.html . We
carry a couple of soft
Ursacks for all areas of the PCT except the
JMT part. The Ursack keeps mice, etc out, as well as less educated
bears. The most food anyone has got in one Garcia is
per Ken and Marcia. Don't expect to match that.
My Blog entry on repackaging food
On the JMT you will find water several times a day. In August it will be dry on the the big passes, particularly on the south side so carry enough water for five or six hot miles. We use roughly three miles per liter per person when going up and get 4 or 5 miles per liter going down. Either pump or treat your water (see our gear page). If you want to get over a pass early, you may want to dry camp high on the ascent. Carry extra water to do this, even if you plan to have a cold breakfast.
Where to Camp:
Stay away from the bear box areas unless you have a craving to be around more people. If your requirements are an eight by ten flat spot, you will find spots frequently. Check out your map for water and start thinking about possibilities mid afternoon if you want to have water 100 feet away. There are a few spots along the JMT where no camping is allowed, so vegetation can recover. In Yosemite you need to be four miles away from a trailhead. This means Tuolumne Meadows as well as where you start in Yosemite Valley. Near Reds Meadows, no camping within 1/4 mile of outlet of Thousand Islands Lake, Garnet Lake, stay 300 feet from Shadow Lake - see
Shadow Lake restrictions for full details including trails where bear canister is required. Just north of Rae Lakes there is a small lake with no camping.
Just Mount Whitney:
If you want climb Mt. Whitney from the east side, and return,
you are talking about a 22 mile round trip, 6000 feet elevation
gain, with about 12 hours one way up. If you are a rock
climber, there is a mountaineers route (not a trail) that is 3.4
miles to the top, still with the 6000 ft elevation gain, part of
it a class 3 climb. Don't try it unless you are an
experienced mountaineer with excellent map reading skills and
have thoroughly researched the route. Guides are available
if you contact the Bishop ranger station or Mt. Whitney store.
If you are thinking about either route, buy the Mount Whitney:
Mountain Lore From The Whitney Store by Thompson and Newbold.
From our link below, or Amazon or from the Whitney store website
The Whitney portal store is much more than just a place to buy a
hamburger. It is at the east side trailhead to Mt.
Whitney. The owner, Doug Thompson is an expert on Mt.
Whitney, and has personally rescued many exhausted hikers. The
store is the first place contacted when anyone is in trouble.
There is a new Mt Whitney website
http://www.whitneyzone.com/ that contains much of the info
that used to be on the
www.whitneyportalstore.com website, so check them both out
for Whitney info.
Current self supported JMT hiking record: (you do the resupply
yourself - no friends deliver to trailhead)
Haven't got any names for this yet.
Most Times Hiked Record:
Yeti - Jim Fulmis - 22 completions, 18 consecutive years - age
67 in 2007
http://www.gailpct2007.info/ - the May 21 entry
2004 - Catra Corbett (dirt diva) in yoyoed -
one way 5 days, 15 hours, and 50 minutes. Her yo yo time was 12
days, 4 hours, and 58 minutes. She did a resupply at the
2008 - John Tibbits yoyoed in 25 days - July 4th to July 28th
Current unsupported JMT hiking record: (noresupply allowed)
Current supported JMT hiking record:
age 41 in
3 days 15 hours 32minutes August
2004 Kevin Sawchuck in 93 hours and 5 minutes
2003 Brian Robinson..........4 days......7hrs...2 minutes
2003 Peter Barkwin ...........3 days...22 hrs...4 minutes
Youngest person to thru-hike JMT in a single trip:
Sierra Burror - Age 6. A note from Heather Burror: " My daughter
Sierra Burror thru hiked the JMT with me last summer. She was 6
when she started at Happy Isles on July 7, 2010, celebrated her
7th birthday at Evolution Lake on July 21, and completed the
trail when she summited Whitney 9 days later on July 30 (exiting
Whitney Portal on July 31). Although she weighed in at only 46
pounds, she still carried most of her own gear in a pack that
weighed between 10-12 pounds."
[Ed note: Another hiker on the JMT shot a picture of Sierra on
that trip and posted it on the
Yahoo JMT forum.]
2009 Camden Watson - age 7. On 8/11/09 Camden Watson 7yrs old
(Born Aug. 2001) arrived at Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite
Valley having completed the JMT carrying a base weight of 17lbs,
resupplying in Muir Trail Ranch & Mammoth Lakes. Camden, his
brother, Andrew (10yrs old) and his father Jason, (34yrs old)
began the hike on the 19th of July from Whitney Portal. Andrew
(carrying a base weight 35lbs) just missed the record himself by
a few months.
1982 Owen Davis - age 10 (April) started from Happy Isles on Aug
1, 1982 and finished at Whitney Portal on Aug 25
1969 - Chuck Durham - age 8 - hiked with family in August,
weighed 62 lbs and started with a 22 lb pack.
Oldest person to thru-hike JMT in a single trip:
2008 Bill Harman - age 71 started with his wife and daughter
from Happy Isles on Aug 21, 2008 and they finished Sept 8.
2009 Dale Easton - age 75 and
Alfred Patrick - age 72 hiked north
to south starting July 19 and reached Mt Whitney summit August
Oldest woman to thru-hike JMT in a single trip:
2012 "Rattling Grandma" age 75 started July 2nd, reached Mt. Whitney July 26th
Peter Bakwin's Fastest Known Times page:
http://pbakwin.home.comcast.net/~pbakwin/FKT.html - A lot of
information on this site on fastest times on many different
trails. Check it out.
Guided Trips in JMT vicinity
Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides offers trips from guided
backpacks, to climbing expeditions, to women's only trips, to
day hikes up Half Dome. We have no personal experience with
them, but their site lists mentions in many major outdoors
publications as well as National Geographic Adventure, Sunset
and Frommers 2008.
Llama Packing Services:
Greg Harford of Potato Ranch Llama Packers rents llamas to JMT
hikers. I haven't rented from them, but did go on a short trip
with Greg, and was impressed with his llamas and methods. You
can read my trip in my July 2007
newsletter. Check out Greg's website at
This is still evolving for us. We have been
using some of the Canon Digital Elph series as they are small,
light and reliable. They do not do as well in low light
situations with no flash as some other brands, but otherwise we
are happy with them.
I upgraded my Canon 870IS to a Canon Powershot S95.
Susan upgraded her Nikon Coolpix P80 for a Canon EOS T3i. A nice camera but heavier and bulkier than her Nikon.
Classic Guide Books to JMT
area: Any PCT guide will include at least a
brief guide to the JMT.
The original guide is
Starr's Guide to the John Muir Trail and the High
Sierra Region, written by Walter Starr Jr. in 1933
and published by the Sierra Club. It is still available
in revised form. Nicknamed Peter, the author vanished
during a trip to the Minarets in 1933, his body was
found after an intense search, and his book was
published posthumously. See Missing in the Minarets
further down this list for a good story.
Blackwoods Press is
came out with John Muir Trail Atlas in spring 2010.
This is a small pocket guide with maps, water sources,
miles, etc. I have used their PCT Atlas and found it an
adequate though bare minimum guidebook. If weight is
important check out
The Wilderness Press
publishes a number of excellent guides to this region
including, Elizabeth Wenk and Kathy Morey's Guide
to the John Muir Trail, photos, maps and route descriptions.
4th edition just out in 2007 now includes GPS waypoints.
Wilderness Press has allowed the waypoint - campsite
list to be downloadable - link in our gps section.
series for shorter trips is based on the USGS map
quadrangles and is pocket size. Each book includes the
map and the descriptions of routes within that map.
They also put out
Sierra South which covers the John Muir Trail area,
by Kathy Morey and Mike White, The 8th edition is an
excellent guide, organized by access highways, and
includes route elevation profiles
as well as Sierra
North by Kathy Morey & Mike White, which covers the Sierra from Yosemite north.
Both of these are a good addition to your hiking
Mount Whitney: Mountain Lore From The
Whitney Store by Thompson and Newbold. This is the
definitive reference for anyone climbing Whitney,
particularly from the east side. If you are going
to climb Whitney, read this book. It could save
The Geology of the
John Muir Trail by James
Wise. I haven't had a chance to read this, but it
definitely fills a void.
A Hike for Mike by Jeff Alt. This journal of a couple's John Muir Trail walk is also a plea for depression awareness. Good armchair reading.
www.hikeformike.com for more about their campaign
The Last Season by Eric Blehm -
This non-fiction mystery on the disappearance of a
back-country ranger in Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP gives an
insight into the daily lives of those with the unique
experience of living and working in a National Park.
Missing in the
Minarets - The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr.
by William Alsup. This is the story of the disappearance
and search for Peter Starr, author of Starr's Guide
above. Good reading and a good mystery, it gives a
glimpse into a different era in the Sierras.
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales.
This should be mandatory reading for anyone doing moderate
risk activities, let alone thru-hikers, backpackers,
mountain climbers, etc. It certainly made me rethink the
things we do when backpacking. It makes fascinating
reading, but to summarize what I got out of it: Be sure
that what you are thinking of as many years of
experience, is not really many years of being very
Ray Jardine's Trail
Life is a must for anyone thinking about doing the PCT
and a good idea for the JMT.
The 3rd version of his classic lightweight backpacking book. The origin of the ultralight
philosophy - updates Beyond Backpacking
Sierra Crest Route by
Leonard Daughenbaugh. You know of the JMT, and probably
Steve Roper's High Route. This book describes a route
closer yet to the Sierra Crest, entirely off trail, no
more than a mile off the crest, and usually within a
half mile of the crest. Almost all text, most in
description of mountaineering opportunities from the
route, so I expect that this will become a mountaineer's
And a DVD
Bob Kenan was a backcountry ranger in
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park for 30 years. He has
put together a DVD of his experiences, including
interviews with other backcountry rangers, and some 50
interviews with backpackers and PCT thru-hikers. I
haven't seen it, but sounds good. Order from his site at
Laws Field Guide to the Sierra
Nevada by John Muir Laws was published this year
by one of my favorite publishers, Heydey Books in
Berkeley, CA, in conjunction with the Cal Academy of
Sierra Birds: A Hikers Guide
also by John Muir Laws, and praised by Amazon
reviewers, though I have not seen it.
Sierra Nevada Wildflowers
by Elizabeth Horn. Descriptions and color photos of many
of the wild flowers you will see on the JMT.
Fixing Your Feet
- Jon Vonhof is the last word on foot care. He treats
feet on ultra marathons and will give you more than you
ever wanted to know on treating blisters and foot
Unseen Hazards That Threaten
Hunters, Campers and Hikers - Jerry Genesio.
i.e. bacteria that can kill you while hiking in US.
Haven't read it, but plan to.
Gifts from the Mountain, Simple
Truths for Life's Complexities by Eileen
McDargh. Watercolors and wisdom drawn from
backpacking inspiration. Not just JMT. Hard to classify, but I highly
Classic Hikes of the World by
Peter Potterfield - . A gorgeous book full of
tempting hikes if the JMT experience has infected you.
One of the featured hikes is the JMT.
Off topic, but if you fish the JMT,
check this out: Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of
California by Samuel McGinnis, illustrated by Doris
Alcorn - my ex. The illustrations are world class - a
Last Child in the Woods: Saving
Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by
Richard Louv. Not on JMT, but a strong case for getting
children out into the wilderness.