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