Being on the East Coast, many people don’t know much about
the John Muir Trail. This is an overview of the trail for my friends and family to answer some of the basic questions they have about the trail in general. I will be doing another post to answer the questions I am most often asked as I prepare for the hike.
The John Muir Trail is a gorgeous 211 mile trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains that extends from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States. The summit of Mt Whitney is 14,505′ above sea level. The John Muir Trail (JMT) is named after naturalist John Muir, founding member and original president of the Sierra Club.
160 miles of the trail follows the same footpath as the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT runs from Canada to Mexico. The entire JMT is located within California. The trail goes through Yosemite, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
The JMT is truly a wilderness trail, coming close to civilization at only a few points.The trail does not cross a road, but there are resupply points on the trail such as the Muir Trail Ranch, Toulumne, and Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) to name a few.
On the trail you’re not really alone, even as a solo hiker. Many people travel the trail, or a portion of it, every year. You may go a whole day without seeing anyone else or you may run into dozens of people at a time. If you stop long enough, you’re bound to run into someone.
Some people hike the trail in sections, or just one section such as ascending Mount Whitney. For those who hike the trail in its entirety, the average length of time spent is three weeks.
The JMT is not a trail to hike on a whim. It takes careful planning and even a permit to hike the John Muir Trail. Assuming you start at the northern end, you need to request yours exactly six months prior to your start date. Currently the best practice is to fax your permit application to the ranger station at Yosemite National Park before 7am exactly 26 weeks before your requested start date. Getting the entry trailhead and date you want can require a bit of luck and persistence. 40% of permits are reserved for walk-ins where hikers camp out around 9pm the night before to obtain one.
The John Muir Trail is one of the most beautiful areas in the United States and I can’t wait to begin my journey. If you want to learn more about the trail check out the following online resources: Discover the JMT, “tour of the JMT”, JMT on google maps
Have a question? Post a comment and I will include it on my next post where I answer my most frequently asked questions during my prep for a JMT thru hike!
Last modified: November 28, 2014
Thanks for the info! I’ve put a note in my calendar in December to request a permit for the summer of 2015!
Awesome! Let me know if you have any questions as you begin to plan.
Great info on this blog. Does the trail go to the summit of Mt Whitney, or would it be a separate hike to reach the summit? Thx
Michael- The JMT officially ends on the summit of Whitney. About 2 miles before you’ll hit the trail crest where many drop their packs as you will continue up to Whitney from there, but must return to trail crest to descend to Whitney Portal, completing your hike. There is no separate permit needed for Whitney 🙂