Best John Muir Trail Planning Tools, Books & Resources

Discover the best John Muir Trail planning tools. In this blog post, we share our favorite and most helpful John Muir Trail guidebooks, maps, apps, and blog posts for planning a successful thru-hike of the JMT.


Back in 2014, I hiked for 22 days on the John Muir Trail, and to this day, it stands out as one of my best life experiences. Starting in Yosemite National Park and ending atop the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, the John Muir Trail offers everything you could ask for on a long-distance backpacking trip. INCREDIBLE scenery, a good challenge, secluded camping, mountain lakes and rivers, and more. It’s no “walk in the park” though. A hike this long takes research and planning – particularly when it comes to resupply and gear.

The process of planning a JMT thru-hike can seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of John Muir Trail planning tools, books, and resources  to support your goal of thru-hiking the JMT.

And as it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules. 

In this post, we’ve put together a list of the best John Muir Trail planning tools for getting you prepared for conquering every mile of the JMT.

Best John Muir Trail Books

When planning my JMT thru-hike I bought a few books for reference. While physically preparing yourself for a thru-hike and making sure you have your JMT gear dialed in is important, you also need to mentally prepare yourself for the highs & lows of trail life. We’ve included books to support you through the FULL planning process.

  • Elizabeth Wenk’s John Muir Trail Guidebook

Elizabeth Wenk crushes it with her John Muir Trail guidebook that answers everything you need to know pre-trail. This JMT book has a mile by mile breakdown of the trail, info on water availability, good camps, and more. While it added a little weight to my pack, I’m happy I brought it with me. Every night at camp, we’d bust out this book and make our plan for the next day.

Elizabeth Wenk also has a South to North John Muir Trail edition if you’re going the opposite direction as most JMT thru-hikers who hike North to South.

Discover the best John Muir Trail planning tools. We share our favorite books, maps, apps, and blog posts for planning a thru-hike of the JMT.


  • Books for JMT Mental Prep

For mental prep & inspiration, I recommend the book, “Highs & Lows on the John Muir Trail.” And if you haven’t read John Muir’s Wilderness Essays yet it also a must-read. Once you’re feeling prepared, pick it up, sit back and take a moment to immerse yourself in Muir’s words to prepare yourself to see the land through the eyes of one of its first protectors.

Best John Muir Trail Maps

  • Tom Harrison’s JMT Map Pack

I packed Tom Harrison’s JMT Map Pack. The best thing about these topographic maps is they are built for the trail; they’re durable and water resistant. There are thirteen individual color maps clearly marking your route to Yosemite’s Valley to Mt. Whitney. The separate pages are nice because you can store that day’s page in your pocket and the rest in your pack.

Discover the best John Muir Trail planning tools. We share our favorite books, maps, apps, and blog posts for planning a thru-hike of the JMT.


  • Pocket Map

Erik the Black’s Pocket Atlas is also very popular among JMT hikers. You can’t argue with packing this book; it’s only 3 ounces.

  • Print Maps at Home

Looking to save some dollars? You can also print the Halfmile JMT maps. Halfmile is very popular for Pacific Crest Trail hikers; for the JMT you only need to print California Section H.

Best John Muir Trail Apps

  • Gaia’s John Muir Trail GPS Map 

A really helpful new John Muir Trail planning tool… Gaia just released a new NatGeo John Muir Trail map for their premium subscribers. The topographic map has not only the JMT clearly marked, but a majority of side trails as well as points of interest as well. The app allows you to also search on the trail, which is a great added feature. If you sign up at the link below, Bearfoot readers get 20% off a Gaia GPS membership, and the app is useful far beyond the John Muir Trail.

For any trail you hike, Gaia allows you to track yourself and view your route afterwards with stats like distance and elevation.

Discover the best John Muir Trail planning tools. We share our favorite books, maps, apps, and blog posts for planning a thru-hike of the JMT.

Other John Muir Trail Planning Resources

  • Meet Up Groups

If you’re not familiar with MeetUp, it’s an online network of interest-specific groups that host activities & events known as “Meetups.” You can search by your interest, as well as by location. There are tons of John Muir Trail groups across the country where you can find a collection of JMT alumni & prospects.

Hiking as a solo female? Read more about how to connect with other outdoor women for guidance & inspiration.

  • Facebook Groups

Facebook Community Groups are not only a great place to gain John MuirTrail tips, tricks, and resources, but you can get answers to your posted questions from community members and even meet others heading for the trail.

Here are some JMT-specific Facebook Groups to join:

We also love our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group which has numerous JMT-hiker alumni. Join us!

Discover the best John Muir Trail planning tools. We share our favorite books, maps, apps, and blog posts for planning a thru-hike of the JMT.


  • Pacific Crest Trail Association

The PCTA has a great vault of planning resources for JMT prospects. From information to the intense permit process to transportation and basic FAQs.

  • Bearfoot Theory JMT Blog Posts

I wrote up a number of detailed John Muir Trail blog posts based on my trip, and the information has been updated every year so it’s relevant as the permit process changes and new gear comes out. Check out these posts to start planning your JMT Thru-hike.

Have you hiked the John Muir Trail? What John Muir Trail planning tools did you use? Share your comments below!

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Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

3 comments on “Best John Muir Trail Planning Tools, Books & Resources

  1. I’m doing the JMT for the first time. I was curious about my headlamp and how often I will need to replace the batteries during the trip? I know it depends on how much I use the light but was hoping for an average. I will use triple A lithium for my headlamp. May use it to do a little bit of fiddling around inside and outside of my tent at night but not a lot. Maybe a short amount of reading time. I’ll probably need it for an early summit of Whitney as well. Thanks for any info! Robert

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