PLANNING 2018-05-12T08:32:27-04:00

Overview of the trail

The John Muir Trail (JMT) begins at Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite National Park and passes through 220 miles of spectacular scenery as it takes hikers up to the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet). Although the trail officially ends at Mt. Whitney, the typical JMT thru-hike ends at Whitney portal.

North or South?

Hikers generally begin the JMT from the northern terminus in Yosemite, and hike south (SOBO). By hiking south, hikers can slowly acclimate to the altitude and have several opportunities to resupply during the first half of the hike (allowing a lighter backpack at the beginning of the trip). Wilderness permits for a SOBO hike have become increasingly difficult to obtain during the prime summer season, however, so a NOBO hike can be a great alternative as the permits are much easier to get.

Entry points for a SOBO JMT hike

The traditional starting point is from Happy Isles (HI), so this entry point is often the first choice of JMT hikers. Glacier Point also is a popular option, as it takes hikers on a scenic alternative route that rejoins the JMT at the 2.8 mile marker. The Sunrise Lakes trail joins the JMT at the 13.2 mile marker, and the Lyell Canyon entry point is located further down the trail in Tuolumne. These 5 entry points are currently the only options allowed for a SOBO thru-hike of the JMT, as there is an exit quota for anyone going over Donohue Pass (the JMT goes over this pass).

Please note: Little Yosemite Valley is a backpacker’s campground at mile 4.5 on the trail. If you would like to camp here, you must get a permit for Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley or Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley. Hikers with other permits are not permitted to camp here. The campground has a bathroom and food storage boxes.

When to go?

This varies from year to year, as it depends on the amount of snowfall during the previous winter/spring. Generally, the best time to hike the JMT is from the beginning of July to early September, which is when trail conditions are optimal. In the early season (June), or even early July (during ‘big snowfall years’), hikers can expect the upper elevations to be covered in snow, with potentially dangerous stream crossings and more arduous hiking conditions overall. Hiking later in the season (late September onward) also presents potential challenges (snow, resupply locations shut for the season), so it’s important to gain an understanding of the weather conditions before setting out on the trail.

How many days?

JMT hikers generally spend 2-4 weeks on the trail, depending on their pace and the number of ‘zero’ days they plan to take. Some hikers prefer to spend the whole day hiking (going 12 or more miles a day), while others prefer the flexibility of a slower pace in order to rest in scenic areas, explore, or do side trips. Regardless of whether you plan to hike at a faster or slower pace, it’s good to add an extra day or two to your intended itinerary, in case you run behind due to weather, illness, or injury.



Planning resources

Wilderness permits
NOBO route & permit




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