Trails and Treasures Home Page  Hiking

John Muir Trail

Summer 2003

From July 28th until August 18th, I hiked the John Muir Trail from near Purple Lake to Mt. Whitney, accessing the trail over Duck Pass and exiting via Cottonwood Pass.  I did it with a group pulled together by friends I met while hiking in Tuscany in the Fall of 2001.  We walked approximately 177 miles in the 22 days, carrying only day packs; mules carried our tents and other gear.

Our party consisted of 9 hikers plus a cook, a packer and a wrangler from Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit who rode horses, and 12 mules to carry our gear, our food, and their food.  Five of us were over 50 years of age, and two were under 21.  Some of us were strong hikers who whizzed through the miles, and some of us took our time, checking out the wildflowers and taking lots of photographs.  All of us were awed by the scenery. 

It was, at least for me, a once in a lifetime experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m glad I did it.  But, I wouldn’t do it again—at least not the exact same thing.  Even though we rarely walked long hours, I felt rushed, like I didn’t have the time to really experience the experience.  I missed having more time to explore and photograph a place filled with wildflowers or to sit and read in a meadow surrounded by high peaks.  I wanted to be able to feel more deeply via all my senses the wide variety of places we passed through.

For all my East Coast and non-hiking friends who know nothing about the John Muir Trail—let's start with the fact that it’s in California.

The John Muir Trail (JMT) traverses the High Sierra from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.  Along the way, it passes through the Minarets and John Muir Wildernesses; Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks; and Devils Postpile National Monument.  Estimates of its length vary from 211.9 (to the top of Mt. Whitney) to 218.3 miles (to Whitney Portal).  With the exception of the highway through Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite NP, there are no road intersections, although the shuttle bus that makes its way through Devils Postpile is only a few feet away from the original route of the JMT.  Civilization also comes close at the Muir Trail Ranch and one or two other resorts, but for most of its length, cars, electricity, telephones, flush toilets, and all the rest of the trappings of modern civilization are far, far away.

The difficulty of the JMT is related more to the daily and sometimes hourly changes in elevation rather than it's length.  Elevation profile  (I started just before Virginia Lake which is just to the left of the 75 mi. scale marker.)

Coda: A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune describes the JMT as "the world's most physically-challenging trail ..."

Daily Journal and Photographs

Day 1: Lake Mary over Duck Pass to Purple Lake (≈ 9.5 mi.)

Day 2: Purple Lake to near Lake of the Lone Indian (6.5 mi.)

Day 3: Near Lake of the Lone Indian over Silver Pass to Quail Meadows (10.7 mi.)

Day 4: Quail Meadows to Rosemarie Meadow (≈ 11.8 mi.)

Day 5: Rosemarie Meadow over Selden Pass to Muir Trail Ranch (9.8 mi.)

Day 6: Muir Trail Ranch to Evolution Meadow (9 mi.)

Day 7: Evolution Meadow to Evolution Lake (6.5 mi.)

Day 8: Evolution Lake over Muir Pass to Big Pete Meadow (12.1 mi.)

Day 9: Layover at Big Pete Meadow

Day 10: Big Pete Meadow to Deer Meadow (8.7 mi.)

Day 11: Layover at Deer Meadow

Day 12: Deer Meadow over Mather Pass to Upper Basin (9.5 mi.)

Day 13: Upper Basin over Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek Canyon (≈11.5 mi.)

Day 14: Woods Creek to Baxter Creek (≈5.8 mi.)

Day 15: Baxter Creek over Glen Pass to Charlotte Lake (≈10.4 mi.)

Day 16: Layover at Charlotte Lake

Day 17: Charlotte Lake to Vidette Meadow (≈7.6 mi.)

Day 18: Vidette Meadow over Forester Pass to Tyndall Creek (≈11 mi. )

Day 19: Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake (≈11.7 mi.)

Day 20: Layover at Guitar Lake below Mt. Whitney

Day 21: Guitar Lake to Rock Creek (9.5 mi.)

Day 22: Rock Creek over Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadow (≈15 mi.)