John Muir Wilderness

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 hiking to Iceberg Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

How to Get a Yosemite or High Sierra Wilderness Permit

By Michael Lanza

Ah, the High Sierra. Yosemite. Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness, Mount Whitney, and countless other, less famous but equally beautiful spots. Every backpacker who has ever walked for days through any of these wildlands holds them in special reverence—and for good reasons, given this seemingly infinite landscape’s constellations of sharply pointed granite peaks and alpine lakes, too many waterfalls to name, and rivers and creeks so pretty they make your heart glad. Plus, with thousands of miles of trails, you could spend a lifetime wandering here without seeing it all.

Little wonder there’s so much competition for backcountry permits throughout most of the High Sierra. But read on because the time for planning and reserving a permit for trips this summer is coming up fast.

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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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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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