CALIFORNIA’S JOHN MUIR TRAIL
The John Muir Trail is 220 miles of epic wilderness through California’s High Sierras. Starting in Yosemite Valley and ending on 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. Alpine lakes, wide open vistas, and 14 passes, the JMT offers adventure around every corner.
JOHN MUIR TRAIL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHEN SHOULD I HIKE THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL?
Prime hiking season for the John Muir Trail is early July through mid-September.
HOW LONG DOES THE JMT TAKE TO HIKE?
The John Muir Trail can be hiked in as little as 10 days, but this would require hiking about 20 miles per day. Most people take between 2-3 weeks in order to have time to enjoy the trail. I took 22 days from start to finish which included one day to hike out for a resupply at Onion Valley
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL?
Over the course of the John Muir Trail, you gain over 46,000 feet of elevation and go up and over 11 different passes. The altitude adds to the difficultly with much of the trail over 12,000 feet. The trail has it’s challenges, but isn’t technical in nature. The trail is well-signed and well-maintained, and a majority of the ascents and descents are switchbacks. If you train for the hike, research the gear, and spend a few nights in the woods prior to the hike, the John Muir Trail is a great first-time thru-hike. Need tips for training? Check out this post that will help you mentally and physically prepare!
HOW MUCH SHOULD MY PACK WEIGH?
You’ll hear a lot of people on the trail asking “how much does your pack weigh?” The thing to remember is pack weight isn’t a competition. Certainly, the lighter your pack is, the more comfortable you will be. But if you aren’t an ounce-counter, you will still survive the trail. My pack fully loaded with 3 liters of water and 7 days of food weighed about 45 pounds. This is on the heavier side, but it was my first thru-hike, and I have learned a lot since then about how to trim weight. I’ve published my entire John Muir Trail gear list with notes here which is a great starting point for figuring out what to pack for your JMT hike.
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HOW DO I GET A PERMIT?
The permit process is competitive, and the lottery takes place 168 days before your start date. For most people this means you need to start thinking about your JMT plans at the start of the year. For full details on the JMT permit process, see this post.
WHAT FOOD SHOULD I PACK?
Food on the John Muir Trail is one of the more difficult parts of planning. You want the densest calorie foods in the lightest, smallest package. I went the dehydrated route for my trip. All of your food must be carried in a bear-proof canister, and you’ll need to ship yourself resupply packages along the trail. Check out my full John Muir Trail shopping list, my favorite dehydrated food, and detailed guide to JMT resupply for more information.
I CAN’T HIKE THE WHOLE THING. IS THERE A SECTION I CAN HIKE?
Absolutely! As a starting point, my favorite section was from Bishop Pass to Kearsarge Pass. Here’s a full post detailing the different ways you can section hike the JMT.