How to Hike California’s John Muir Trail

Kristin Hanes shares her expertise climbing the John Muir Trail in California. How to pack, what to eat and what she did unsuitable. This is the proper information for planning your hike. 

“The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah, the ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah!” The tune pounded relentlessly by my head as I focused on placing one foot in entrance of the opposite.

My backpack dug into my hips and shoulders. Large boulders and talus rocks littered the dusty path. I knew if I regarded too far up the path, I’d flip round. Sit down. Give up. It was the fourth excessive altitude mountain go of the week, and I used to be exhausted.

“The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!”


One foot in entrance of the opposite. Breathe out and in. Take a break, flip round to survey the surroundings, and weep at its exceptional magnificence. Keep strolling and climbing, day in and time out, till you are feeling such as you would possibly break.

That’s what it’s like climbing the 221-mile John Muir Trail by California’s Sierra Nevada.

The complete John Muir Trail is 220 miles however we began additional south and ended about 20 miles early. In whole, we nonetheless did 230 miles.

Map: John Muir Trail Map

The path is well-marked however I believe folks nonetheless want to carry alongside a map. You should purchase a map of John Muir Trail on Amazon. We used waterproof maps by Tom Harrison.

About the John Muir Trail

john muir trail pictures scenery

The John Muir Trail is among the most brutal and most rewarding issues I’ve ever finished in my life.

It took us 22 days of climbing from daybreak to nightfall by among the most unbelievable mountain surroundings within the United States. Think lush, hidden valleys, crystal clear creeks, brilliant blue tarns, and beautiful alpine vistas.

Most of the path is over 10,000 toes in elevation and contains six mountain passes, considered one of which tickles 14,000 toes. And if you would like (and we did), you’ll be able to summit Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain within the contiguous United States at 14,505 toes.

rocky landscape of jmt trail california

The John Muir path is just not for the faint of coronary heart, or from individuals who endure altitude illness. I took excessive altitude drugs for 3 days earlier than tackling the path, and 5 days earlier than summiting Whitney, and I nonetheless threw up and virtually handed out on my descent.

But what I discovered on this hike is that this: the physique adapts, the mindset is essential, and ending a thru-hike of this magnitude is a life-changing expertise. I’ll by no means be so match and so tuned in with nature as I used to be on the finish of my hike.

Would I do it once more? Maybe. Would I like to recommend others do it? Definitely.

Sound like one thing you need to do? Here’s how to sort out the path.


John Muir Trail Permits

john muir hiking trail permits data for john muir trail traffic

Getting a allow is troublesome due to the sheer quantity of individuals wanting one!

Landing a allow to hike the John Muir path is among the hardest components about this hike. People from all around the world fly to California to sort out this winding mountain path removed from civilization.

What which means is that this: You are competing with 1000’s to get a allow.

The hottest route to hike the John Muir Trail is from Yosemite Valley and exiting by the Mount Whitney Portal.

To cope with the inflow of demand, Yosemite solely permits 45 hikers per day to exit the park by way of the John Muir Trail. That means the variety of permits could be very restricted.

Even although most individuals need to begin from the valley flooring, there are a number of different trailheads inside Yosemite the place you’ll be able to start your hike.

When making use of, it’s good to put a number of trailhead choices in your allow.

john muir trail application choices

Choices from Happy Isles to Glacier Point or Sunrise Lakes and extra.

Another well-liked approach to get a allow is to change instructions totally and hike from south to north.

We tried every single day for a month or two for a allow out of Yosemite, however after we failed, we picked up a allow from Cottonwood Meadows northbound. That meant we had two full days of climbing earlier than we met up with the John Muir Trail, and one additional excessive mountain go.

If you don’t need to hike all the path, you’ll be able to enter midway, or three-quarters of the best way, from considered one of many trails that joins up with the John Muir Trail.

How to Pack Food For the John Muir Trail

california hiking food

The one large mistake I made when packing for the John Muir Trail is that this: I did our meals all unsuitable.

We began our hike carrying 12 days of meals, and all of it didn’t match inside our bear-proof containers. That meant we had to hike far sufficient every single day to discover campsites with bear containers.

Plus, I picked all of the unsuitable meals.

Things like heavy packs of tortillas, rolls of sausages, onerous cheese. When carrying this a lot meals, it’s essential to go freeze-dried.

Every considered one of our meals ought to have been freeze-dried for this 12-day stretch. I ought to have been meticulous about our pack weight.

I’m embarrassed to say that after we began our hike our packs should have weighed 65-pounds every. That is approach an excessive amount of weight when climbing over mountain passes in excessive elevation.

Food Drops

We scheduled two meals drops for our hike: one at Muir Trail Ranch after 12 days of climbing, and one other 5 days later at Reds Meadow.

If I did this hike once more, I’d schedule a 3rd meals drop so I wouldn’t have to carry a lot meals at a time.

Pack weight is all the pieces while you’re clocking 12+ miles per day with 6,000 toes of acquire/loss.

Pack a Variety of Foods

variety of food for trekking

Another useful meals tip is to carry a wide range of meals.

You’ll get tired of the identical taste of protein bars day after day. I bear in mind how excited I used to be when a few hikers gifted us two totally different flavors of ProBar. Those bars tasted like heaven!

We have been additionally fortunate to be gifted some dried apricots and chocolate from one other group of hikers and solely walked about 10 steps earlier than scarfing the treats down mid-stride.

Change issues up when it comes to your backpacking meals. And bear in mind to carry some enjoyable treats like peanut butter M&Ms or Snickers bars to perk you up while you’re feeling down.

In every meals drop, I packed some smoked salmon that we would eat proper then and there. It was AMAZING.

Food Ideas:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal packets, freeze-dried fruit, powdered entire milk, freeze-dried sausage, freeze-dried refried beans, ProBars. light-weight granola
  • Snacks: Bars of all kinds, Kind Bars, Pro Bars, Snickers Bars, Peanut M&Ms, path combine, (we did not have sufficient salty meals…I want we had packed extra chips or Fritos or one thing salty), additionally vitality boosters like Stingers are good
  • Lunches: I like to recommend not carrying 12 days of meals, I believe having some “real” meals morsels like parmesan cheese or dried fruit goes a good distance. We’d additionally eat peanut butter on crackers or tortillas, or tuna packets
  • Dinners: I made my very own freeze-dried meals, however I additionally purchased Mountain House meals. We additionally had ramen, sizzling tea, and sizzling apple cider. I would advocate bringing a bit container of olive oil for additional energy with dinner.

john muir trail hiking and water purification

Drinking Water on the Trail

You will probably be ingesting out of lakes, rivers, and streams on the John Muir Trails, so it will be significant to pack a water filter system. We used the Sawyer Squeeze System, however be at liberty to advocate any water filtration product. It weighs simply three ounces, and we crammed up the pouch with water from the backcountry after which squeezed it by the filter for clear ingesting water.

Dave and Deb advocate the SteriPen.

You can watch the video to see the way it works.

You can select any water purification that works for you.

John Muir Trail Packing List

It’s essential to pack garments and kit for every type of climate when climbing the John Muir Trail. High mountain climate can go from sunny and heat to raining in minutes, and a few thru-hikers have encountered snow on the larger elevations.

hiking john muir trail packing list

Here are the garments I introduced to hike the path:

  • Two pairs of wool socks
  • Two pairs of underwear
  • Two sports activities bras
  • One pair of lengthy climbing pants
  • One pair of shorts
  • One short-sleeved climbing shirt
  • One long-sleeved sun-shirt
  • One wool sweater
  • One hat
  • One pair of lengthy john bottoms
  • One puffy down coat
  • One raincoat
  • Rain pants
  • Over-ankle climbing boots
  • Tevas
  • A sunhat

We did “laundry” each night time, which meant “washing” our garments in a close-by stream.

Protecting the surroundings

Keep in thoughts we by no means used cleaning soap in or close to the water!

We simply dunked and scrubbed our garments utilizing recent spring water, then hung them up to dry on a clothesline in a single day. Sometimes, we hiked with our moist garments dangling from our backpacks, letting the Sierra sunshine dry them.

I would really like to point out one thing about solar clothes. Every day climbing the John Muir Trail, I wore lengthy pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a solar hat to shield my pores and skin from the brutal high-altitude sunshine.

This additionally meant I rarely wore sunscreen. It’s nice to hike with out sunscreen as a lot as attainable as sunscreen can hurt the fragile ecosystem if it will get within the water.

If you do want to put on sunscreen, put on a bodily barrier sunscreen that accommodates zinc oxide somewhat than a chemical sunscreen.

How the John Muir Trail modified me

jmt hike how it changed me

About ten days into our hike, we determined to trudge eight miles out of the best way down to Vermillion Valley Resort for a much-need half-day off.

We drank beer, ate burgers, and chatted with different thru-hikers. We did laundry and took a bathe.

What I bear in mind is that this: the scent of the laundry detergent smelled unhealthy. Deodorant smelled unhealthy. So did shampoo and conditioner. The odor of all these washed garments in my tent virtually made me gag. We’d turn into so accustomed to the scents of nature that the scents of “civilized” humanity grew to become virtually insufferable.

I additionally bear in mind sleeping within the tent that night time, leaping after I heard a automotive engine begin. I hadn’t heard a automotive engine in virtually two weeks! Car doorways slamming additionally startled me. Our senses had turn into finely tuned the longer we spent in nature.

When we lastly completed the John Muir Trail, I used to be in shock. There have been too many vehicles driving too quick. Too many loud vacationers smelling of fragrance, lugging cameras. Listening to music on the automotive stereo felt alien.

I wasn’t prepared to re-enter civilization, the crush of humanity.

The first time I ran on a treadmill after ending the John Muir Trail, I cried. Why ought to I be exercising this fashion when there have been mountain passes and forests and alpine lakes? Being within the “real world” felt unsuitable and unnatural after the pristine fantastic thing about nature.

What I do know is that this: climbing the John Muir Trail will change you.

hiking the jmt

In what approach, I’m not positive. But you’ll stroll away from that path figuring out one thing new about your self.

You’ll have completed probably the most difficult thru-hikes on this planet. And you’ll have new information concerning the world, nature and your personal highly effective drive to succeed.

Are planning to hike the John Muir Trail? Why not save this text to Pinterest for future reference?

how to hike the John Muir Trail in California

John Muir Trail Quick Facts:

The John Muir Trail is within the Sierra Nevada mountain vary of California.  The path goes by among the nation’s most well-known nationwide parks. Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are all in sections of the John Muir Trail.

The John Muir Trail Length is 211 miles from finish to finish.

It ends at Mount Whitney, the very best peak within the continental United States standing at 14,496 ft. (four,418 meters).

Best time to hike John Muir Trail – According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the path is accessible from July by September.

It is feasible to begin earlier in June and go to October, however you should have elevated dangers of snowfall that may be harmful.

Author Bio

Kristin Hanes is a journalist and author who lives on a sailboat and in a van within the San Francisco Bay space.

She’s an avid outdoorswoman and beer lover who blogs about campervans, RVs, sailboats and tiny properties at The Wayward Home.
You can observe her on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.


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