John Muir Trail – My Hiking Plans

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.

John Muir Trail Hiking Plan

I’m hiking the John Muir Trail!

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

This is a quote most people have heard at some point or another. The famous man behind those words is John Muir, one of the most influential preservationists in history and the founder of the Sierra Club in 1892. Simply put, he changed the way we interact with nature. He was an explorer, a writer, and an activist, and because of his work, Yosemite and many other magnificent places have been incorporated into the National Park system, preserving them for our enjoyment today.

Many places in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range are named after John Muir, including the 211 mile John Muir Trail. Known for glacial rock formations, countless turquoise lakes, and unparalleled beauty, there is no other trail in the world like it. This short video from the talented folks over at The Muir Project gives you an idea can be expected while hiking the John Muir Trail.

So this summer, I am finally taking the plunge. After many years of dreaming, I am setting off to hike the entire John Muir Trail on August 27th. I will start in Yosemite and hike south for 25 days until I reach the end of the trail on the summit of Mt. Whitney – the tallest mountain in the lower 48.
John Muir Trail Map

Source: shit-happens, via synanthropic

Now let me be clear. I have never done anything like this. The longest backpacking trip I’ve ever been on is 5 days, and I really have no idea what we are getting into. But what I do know is that it is going to be the absolute trip of a lifetime.

First things first. I need to think about getting in tip top shape. In reality, there’s no amount of elliptical training that can prepare you for over 47,000 feet in elevation gain (see below…), but the stronger my glutes and thighs are when I start, the more fun it’s gonna be.

John Muir Trail Elevation ProfileSource: Loc Nguyen

Thankfully, there are a ton of excellent books and online resources written by people who have been there, done that, that I will use to help plan. Here on Bearfoot Theory, I will be sharing with you our experience as we prepare for this epic journey, from what food and gear we will pack to the campsites we are most excited about. Then when we return, I will post our photos and write about the lessons learned, as I’m sure there will be many.

To follow me as I embark on this adventure, be sure to sign up for Bearfoot Theory’s monthly newsletter. It is filled with cool photos and good tidbits not available on the website, and you aren’t going to want to miss it!

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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.

12 comments on “John Muir Trail – My Hiking Plans

  1. I love your site and your instagram, and I’m especially loving all of your JMT information! I’m planning to hike the JMT in August. Did you ever consider hiking it alone? And now that you’ve finished the hike, do you think you could’ve done it alone ?

    1. Hi Erin – Thanks so much for checking out my site! That’s so awesome you are going to hike the JMT. I can’t speak highly enough about my experience. I didn’t consider hiking it alone, but we met plenty of solo hikers, both male and female, on the trail. We also met many groups of solo hikers who ended up connecting and hiking at least some portion of it together. I think whether you hike it alone is all up to how comfortable you are spending that much time by yourself and how you are going to feel in your tent at night. For me, doing it alone would have tested my limits in a deeper way than having a friend around. For example, I think at night, there could have been moments when my mind would’ve played tricks me…But do I think I could’ve done it? Probably so. We didn’t end up having any scary wildlife (or people) encounters and you really can choose how close or far away you camp from other groups. I hope that’s helpful! Keep me posted on what you decide and if you have any other questions, let me know. Thanks for the support! Kristen

  2. Hi Kristen,
    I am planning to hike the JMT next year with my 17 years old son and two sisters. Your site has been very informative and helpful. I am wondering what months are the best you start the hike.I had read July August or September are the best months. I am curious about temperature and appropriate clothing. Any suggestions?
    I am also concerned about meeting wildlife ( a bear specifically), any suggestions beyond using a bear vault?

    1. Hi Sondra – What a fun plan! The best time is mid July through mid-September. Depending on snow levels, you can also do it in June, but bugs are typically bad until the summer heat sets in. Have you seen my complete gear list? It has a list of all of the clothing I brought with me on the trail: I am also publishing a post on hiking apparel later this week that has some of my new favorite clothing items that I’ve been taking on my backpacking trips.

      You shouldn’t be too concerned about bears. You are required to use a bear canister to store all of your food and there are a few brands including the Bear vault that have been approved by the Park Service. Yosemite seems to be where they are the biggest problem, but they don’t really pose a human threat. As long as you follow proper procedure and put your bear canister away from your tent at night, you should be fine.

      If you have any other questions, please let me know! Cheers and good luck with your planning! -Kristen

  3. Hi Kristen – Looking for your thoughts about hiking the JMT this summer. My son and I are considering a trip, but the increased snowpack due to El Nino has me a bit concerned. We are limited to a shorter window, due to his school schedule. Do you think that the 13,000 and 14,000 peaks will be passable in mid to late July? Thanks!

    1. hey Chance – sounds like an awesome trip to have with your son. I would think this would be possible in late July, but I can’t say for sure. Have you seen the movie Mile Mile and a Half? They did it in a big snow year….good luck and let me know what you decide.

  4. I’m 59 and signed up for the NOBO JMT this August with my son. I’m a flatlander (midwest) in good shape (have run a couple half marathons) but I’m intimidated as heck by the thought of 25 days of hiking. Am I crazy to think at my age I can do something like this?

  5. Hi Kristen! I just recently decided that I am going to hike the JMT next summer! I’ve been spending every drop of free time I have to go through all of your JMT-related posts and figure out how I can prepare for it. I’m so glad I happened upon your site. The only question I have so far is how did you plan your airline ticket? I’m coming from MD, and I am confident that I could range from 8 (on a rough day) to 14 (on a really great day) miles a day. My goal would be to keep at 10mi a day, which would put me at 21-22 days. But, things happen and maybe it takes longer or maybe I do better than expected. Should I buy one way to and from? Or should I buy a roundtrip and just give myself a few days of leeway? Or should my focus be on just pacing myself along the trail to time it correctly?

    1. I think you’ll need to pace yourself either way because you’ll need to make miles on your resupply. If you finish a day or 2 early, spend a day exploring mammoth or SF or hit up some hot springs. Congrats on your decision to do the JMT. You’re going to love it.

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