backpacking John Muir Trail

A backpacker hiking to Burro Pass above Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in Yosemite

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of exploring all over Yosemite on numerous backpacking trips, I’ve learned two big lessons about it: First of all, few places inspire the same powerful combination of both awe and adventure. And Yosemite’s backcountry harbors such an abundance of soaring granite peaks, waterfalls, lovely rivers and creeks, and shimmering alpine lakes—plus, over 700,000 acres of designated wilderness and 750 miles of trails—that you can explore America’s third national park literally for decades and not run out of five-star scenery.

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A backpacker at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

The Best Backpacking Gear for the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best ultralight and lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

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A backpacker at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail—A Photo Gallery

By Michael Lanza

It’s known as “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” for good reason: There may be no long backpacking trip that’s more spectacular, step for step, than a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail through California’s High Sierra. From Yosemite Valley to the 14,505-foot summit of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, you walk 211 miles past jagged peaks of 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.

Haven’t hiked the JMT yet? Check out the photos below. They just might convince you that it’s time to move it to the top of your list.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail above Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-day, Ultralight Plan

By Michael Lanza

Are you planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” should be on every serious backpacker’s tick list. After hiking it in a blazing (and slightly crazy) seven days, I became convinced that—while that was quite hard—the traditional itinerary of spreading the roughly 221 miles (plus more than 10 miles descending Mount Whitney) over about three weeks has a serious flaw: With limited food-resupply options, you’ll carry a monster pack that may not only make you sore and uncomfortable, it could cause injuries that cut short your trip.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

How to Get a John Muir Trail Wilderness Permit in 2024

By Michael Lanza

Sometimes it can seem like everyone who’s ever carried a backpack through mountains somewhere wants to thru-hike the John Muir Trail—especially when it comes time to apply for a JMT wilderness permit. And why not? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” earns its nickname and ranks indisputably among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.” Consequently, few permits are harder to get; most people who enter one of the permit lotteries get rejected. This story explains the various ways to reserve a John Muir Trail wilderness permit—which you must do months ahead of your trip dates.

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