High Sierra backpacking trips

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.

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Backpackers hiking the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

Heavy Lifting: Backpacking Sequoia National Park

By Michael Lanza

I stare at the backpack on the ground in front of me. At 85 liters, with every milliliter of it stuffed with about 60 pounds of gear and food, it looks like something that should be lowered by a crane into a container ship rather than attached to a person’s back. If it had legs, teeth, and an appetite for meat, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

In fact, standing at the Sawtooth Pass Trailhead at 7,820 feet in Sequoia National Park, looking up at our imminent ascent to 9,511-foot Timber Gap, I’m thinking the chances that I’ll have an easy time of it are very, very slim. Probably like most parents, before I became a dad I had absolutely no idea how much heavy lifting was involved.

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A hiker at Trail Crest on the John Muir Trail on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.

Video: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

Will 2019 be the year that you hike the John Muir Trail? While next summer may seem very far off, an ambitious undertaking like a thru-hike of “America’s most beautiful trail”—more than 220 miles and anywhere from under two weeks to over three weeks—requires significant advance planning, and the time period for applying for a permit for it is coming up soon. Take your first step on that adventure right now by watching this video from my thru-hike of the JMT, and then click the link below to my story about that great trip, with my tips on how to do it right. Plus, read on to see how I can give you the best expert advice you’ll find to planning a JMT thru-hike.

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Granite Park, John Muir Wilderness, California.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking the John Muir Wilderness

By Michael Lanza

Want to know where I shot the mountains photo in the banner across the top of The Big Outside? It was in Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, on a 32-mile traverse of one of the highest and most achingly gorgeous sections of California’s High Sierra, from North Lake, outside Bishop, to Mosquito Flat, between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes. My route linked up trails with long stretches of rugged cross-country hiking over lake-studded alpine basins and six passes between 11,150 and 13,040 feet, exploring corners of the Sierra rarely seen by people.

John Muir himself would have been pleased, as I think you’ll agree after seeing this photo gallery from that trip.

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