Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

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 on the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: What You Need to Know

By Michael Lanza

For many serious backpackers, a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail looms as a sort of holy grail. But every JMT aspirant inevitably faces the question: How do you plan a 221-mile hike of “America’s Most Beautiful Trail?” Besides preparing physically for it, a JMT thru-hike poses myriad logistical and organizational challenges, from obtaining one of the country’s most sought-after wilderness permits to choosing an ideal time of year, the itinerary and number of days to take, gear, food resupplies, transportation, acclimating to elevations commonly between 9,000 and over 13,000 feet, and other details.

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A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

By Michael Lanza

Backpackers planning a trip in popular national parks like Yosemite, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, and others have one experience in common: A high percentage of them see their backcountry permit application rejected—and many probably don’t realize why.

Countless backpacking trips over more than three decades—during which I was the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and have now run this blog for even longer—have taught me many tricks for landing coveted permits in flagship parks, which receive far more requests than they can fill. Follow the strategies outlined below and you can greatly improve your chances when reserving your next national park backcountry permit.

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Backpackers at Evolution Lake in the Evolution Basin, John Muir Trail, Kings Canyon N.P.

10 Great John Muir Trail Section Hikes

By Michael Lanza

Like moths to a flame—or perhaps pikas to talus—at some point, many serious backpackers will decide they must thru-hike the John Muir Trail. But some will wonder whether they’re ready or have the time for a 221-mile hike that may take up to three weeks—and many will fail to get one of the most sought-after wilderness permits in the country. What then?

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A backpacker above Granite Creek on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.

10 Awe-Inspiring Wild Places in America’s West

By Michael Lanza

Over more than three decades of backpacking adventures throughout America’s West, I’ve been fortunate to explore deeply into our most cherished national parks, wilderness areas, and protected backcountry. All of them are special. But some places rise above the rest, inspiring a sense of awe that can motivate us to reorder our priorities and rearrange our lives—and they have that effect on us every time we return to them. This story spotlights those special places in the West and many trips that you can take in them.

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