backpacking John Muir Trail

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 2023

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 apply get rejected. This story explains the various ways to reserve a John Muir Trail wilderness permit. And the time for reserving a permit for this summer is coming up very quickly.

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A backpacker hiking past Minaret Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

Backpacking the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses

By Michael Lanza

Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon national parks loom large on the radar screens of most backpackers. But savvy Sierra aficionados know that the two major wilderness areas that sprawl over nearly 900,000 acres along more than 100 miles of the High Sierra between those parks, the John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses, harbor just as rich a cache of soaring, jagged peaks and shimmering alpine lakes—not to mention sections of the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail that enable almost endless possibilities for multi-day hikes, short and long. And while competition is stiff for permits to backpack in the John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses, those permits are not nearly as hard to draw as permits for the most popular trips in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon or to thru-hike the John Muir Trail.

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

The 8 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 hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

What makes for a great backpacking trip? Certainly top-shelf scenery is mandatory. An element of adventurousness enhances a hike, in my eyes. While there’s definitely something inspirational about a big walk in the wild, some of the finest trips in the country can be done in a few days and half of the hikes on this list are under 50 miles. Another factor that truly matters is a wilderness experience: All 10 are in national parks or wilderness areas.

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