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Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

Late summer always reminds me of my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Known 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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It’s not too early to start dreaming about and planning a JMT thru-hike 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 friends, and other stories offering my tips on how to plan and execute a JMT thru-hike.

I can help you plan a John Muir Trail thru-hike or any other trip you read about at my blog. Click here now to learn more.

 

Read read my feature story “Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days: Amazing Experience, or Certifiably Insane?” 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 as little as five bucks.

And see also my story “Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-Day, Ultralight Plan” at The Big Outside.

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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 story “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking.” If you don’t have a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read part of that story for free, or click here to download that full story without having a paid membership.

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 at right, 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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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

5 Comments

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  1. Avatar

    Thru-hiked the JMT in 2017. Was magical. Was going to section hike Evolution Valley next week but instead will do it first week of October. Know there is a risk of snow storms then but think it would be really nice to be out there that time of year as you say!

    Reply
    • Michael Lanza

      Hey Jason, I’ve also wanted to return to the Evolution Basin area and create a loop hike into it, there are options on the map, as I’m sure you’ve seen. And with flexibility, you can often find a window of a few days or more of good early-fall weather in the High Sierra. Good luck.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

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

    Reply
  3. Avatar

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

    Reply
  4. Avatar

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

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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