The John Muir Trail Basic Guide

Whether you’ve lived in the mountains for your entire life or have only recently fallen in love, there’s no better way to intimately know them than by backpacking the John Muir Trail.

Trekking through the wilderness for three weeks is intimidating to just think about, but as outdoors enthusiasts the team at ASO Mammoth knows that even if you only hike a portion of the John Muir Trail or all 211 miles, the reward is worth the struggle as long as you do it safely and respectfully.

To help you do so, we’ve put together a guide to basic John Muir Trail information so you can decide if, when, and how to approach the trail. Remember, reading this guide is like taking your first step on the trail. There is still plenty more to do and learn, so continue researching online beyond this guide alone. For questions about gear and the parts of the trail that run through the Mammoth Lakes area stop by ASO Mammoth!

Point A to Point B

The John Muir Trail runs for 211 miles from Yosemite National Park all the way to where Mt. Whitney stands as the highest peak in the contiguous United States.

The most popular route is north to south with the view from the summit of Mt. Whitney being the final reward for tired hikers but hiking south the north is also an option. If you’re trying to decide between the two, you should consider that backpacking north the south means you will be able to acclimate to the altitude at a more comfortable rate than starting with Mt. Whitney. You should also consider the fact that the best time to attempt the trek is between July and September.

What Permits You Need

You will need a permit to hike the John Muir Trail, but which permit depends on where you will be starting your hike. If you’re hiking from north to south then you will need a permit for Yosemite National Park. For a south to north hike, you will need a permit for the Mt. Whitney portal. If you’re considering a through hike of the John Muir Trail, then you can understand why these permits are extremely popular. For that reason, you should plan far in advance and book your permits early to make sure you can hike when you’re ready. Depending on your plans, you may need additional permits as well as adhere to other regulations.

The Basic Gear You’ll Need

Everyone who is hiking on the John Muir Trail should train ahead of time to make sure they’re prepared for the challenges on the trail. Part of that training is buying and using the right gear.

The basic gear you’ll need is boots, protective clothing, shelter, gear to help you rest such as a sleeping bag or mattress pad, a reliable backpack, water, equipment to purify water, food, gear to protect your food from wildlife such as bears, and several other pieces of miscellaneous gear that will keep you safe and able to continue hiking. Start with the basics like boots and clothing on training hikes to make sure you have the best gear for you before stepping on the trail.

No matter when or how you hike the John Muir Trail, respect the spectacular natural beauty that thousands of people have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy for years to come by leaving nothing behind and staying on the trail as much as possible.

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