Hiking the John Muir Trail is a perfect way to stretch your legs, interact with nature and recharge your batteries in the High Sierra Back Country.
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is one of the top long distance walking trails in the United States and holds some of the most awe inspiring views on the planet. Named after famed naturalist, author and Sierra Club founder John Muir, construction of the path began in 1915 and took almost 46 years to complete. Running through the High Sierra back country for 215 miles, this route follows the Pacific Crest Trail for about 160 miles and rarely dips below 8,000 feet elevation.
The JMT starts in the stunning Yosemite National Park and continues through pristine wilderness until you reach the end of the road, the highest peak in continental America, Mount Whitney (14,496 ft). Passing through Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and numerous other National Forests / designated wilderness areas. The diverse and spectacular landscapes of these protected environments offer a little bit of something for everyone.
As with other long distance hiking trails, The John Muir Trail is popular with thru-hikers, who attempt to complete the entire trail in one trip. Most thru-hikers attempt the hike from North to South and start in July, August or September after most of the snow pack has melted. Hiking any earlier in the season requires carrying mountaineering gear and is not recommended for inexperienced or solo hikers.
Starting at a lower altitude allows you time to acclimatize to the elevations of the trail rather than immediately having to tackle a 6,000-foot (1,800 m) climb to the summit of Mount Whitney. In addition, there are several resupply points convenient to the JMT during its Northern half, allowing the hiker to carry a lighter food load early in the hike and also to exit the trail easily if problems arise. The Southern half of the JMT is more remote and generally higher in elevation, thus making it more appropriate for the second half of the hike when maximum conditioning has been attained.
A permit is required to hike the John Muir Trail, which is obtained from the National Park or Forest Authority at your point of entry and is valid for the entire hike. Backpackers are generally required to carry their food in approved hard-sided storage containers known as bear canisters to prevent unwanted interest from black bears, which are common in the region.
Planning ahead is important, as with any long distance walk, and having the right equipment can make the difference between an enjoyable walk and a miserable one. Lightweight gear and suitable clothing should all be purchased before the walk and thoroughly researched, Amazon is the best place to look and displays unbiased customer reviews. Food and water on the other hand will need to be acquired and replenished along the way but again, proper research will pay dividends whilst on the hike.
Knowing where to find food and fresh water avoids any unnecessary dehydration or exhaustion and massively increases your chances of success. There are several resupply points convenient to the JMT during its Northern half: Tuolumne Meadows, Reds Meadow, Vermillion Valley Resort and the Muir Trail Ranch
Once you pass the Muir Ranch however, it gets increasingly remote and is the highest and most rugged part of the JMT. If you are a fast hiker, you might be able to go from the Muir Ranch to Whitney Portal carrying a full 10 days of supplies (and the hopes of finishing in 8 days). If you don’t fancy carrying a big heavy pack all those miles, the most common way to re-supply is to hike to a nearby trail-head and hitch-hike into town. Options include: Independence over Kearsarge Pass and Bishop, over Bishop Pass
While most hikers complete the trail within three weeks, there is no need to do a day by day breakdown of JMT if you have the means to camp in the wild. Instead of setting strict daily walking deadlines, judge your urgency to reach a certain point by your supplies of food and water. This gives you the freedom to carve your own path and act upon any opportunity that arises along the way, like a spot of fishing for example.
Considering these facts, why rush? Our philosophy is to enjoy every mile, every meal, and every moment. Most of us are average folks looking for adventure, not super athletes looking to endure grueling tests of strength and endurance. Hiking the John Muir Trail is a journey you will surely remember for the rest of your life and is both a privilege and an to walk.