Wanda Lake, John Muir Trail, Kings Canyon National Park.

Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   3 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Late summer always reminds me of my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Frequently referred to as “America’s Most Beautiful Trail,” there may be no long backpacking trip that’s more spectacular, step for step, than a thru-hike of the JMT through California’s High Sierra. From Yosemite Valley to the summit of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, you walk 211 miles past jagged peaks of clean, golden granite, through a constellation of sparkling mountain lakes and more waterfalls than anyone could name, and over numerous passes from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet.

If you haven’t done it, check out the photos below. They just might convince you that it’s time to move it to the top of your list.

The John Muir Trail has become one of the most sought-after long-distance hikes among serious backpackers. Late summer is the best time for a JMT thru-hike (as well as backpacking anywhere in the High Sierra, or many other Western mountain ranges, for that matter), for many reasons: The bugs, heat, thunderstorms, and crowds of July and August have largely dissipated, and the high passes are snow-free, while dry weather often lingers well into September, with mild daytime temperatures and pleasantly cool nights.


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While it would be difficult to pull together a JMT thru-hike this year, for a trip of this magnitude, it’s not too early to start thinking and planning for next year.

Get a sampler of this classic, incomparable backpacking trip in the photo gallery below. Then scroll past the gallery to find links to stories at this blog about the JMT, including my feature story about thru-hiking it in a week with a few friends, and other stories offering my tips on how to plan and execute a JMT thru-hike.


Read read my feature story about my (admittedly somewhat insane) seven-day JMT thru-hike, which includes more photos, a video, and lots of tips on pulling off your own trek on “America’s Most Beautiful Trail.” (Please note that reading that story, as with most stories at The Big Outside, requires a paid subscription. Click here now to learn how you can read any and all stories at my blog for pennies over $4 a month for a year, or as little as five bucks for a month.)

And see these other stories about the JMT at The Big Outside:

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-Day, Ultralight Plan
Ask Me: The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail
Ask Me: 55-Year-Old Woman First Time Hiking the John Muir Trail


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One key to finishing and enjoying the 211-mile JMT (221 miles including the descent off Mount Whitney, which is not part of the JMT) is keeping your pack weight as light as possible. See my tips on ultralight backpacking.

Obtaining a permit for a JMT thru-hike can be as challenging as doing the hike itself, which normally takes two to three weeks, and the time to apply for that permit is now. See my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”


Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.


See also all of my stories about adventures in California and in Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, and all of my stories about national park adventures.

You may also enjoy my story about climbing Mount Whitney’s Mountaineers Route with my 15-year-old son.


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3 Responses to Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

  1. Aron   |  March 23, 2016 at 1:08 am

    Yeah, not what you can do, walk long, and have to endure the pain. However it is still worth it!

  2. Corey Beavers   |  March 22, 2016 at 11:36 am

    That is some really beautiful scenery there! Having never been out to CA, it looks like such a fantastic place for outdoor opportunity.

  3. Tricia @roadtriptheworld.com   |  April 6, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Thanks for your inspiration! Your pictures are absolutely amazing. It is definitely a dream of mine to hike the John Muir Trail.

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