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Yosemite National Parks

The John Muir Trail extends 221 miles along the crest of the Sierra Nevada Range through the Inyo and Sierra National Forests and Yosemite National Parks. It's named after the famous naturalist-conservationist, John Muir. This is real backcountry hiking as it can take 30 days or more to do the entire trip from Lone Pine Mt. Whitney to Yosemite. It's remote, it's long, and it's going to be a challenge!

TRAILHEAD ELEVATION - 10,000 at Yosemite
HIGHEST ELEVATION - 14,496 at Mt. Whitney
TRAIL DIFFICULTY - Strenuous and at high altitudes.
SEASON - Warm summer days, Freezing temperatures can occur at any time. Snow may be present in July.

If you are driving, the southern trailhead is just west of the town of Lone Pine, about 3 hours north of Los Angeles on Hwy 395. The northern trailhead is in Yosemite Valley, which can be reached from the west via Hwys. 120 or 140; on the east side of the Sierras, from Hwy 395 at Lee Vining via Hwy 120 over Tioga Pass. The John Muir Trail officially begins at Happy Isles in Yosemite the north end, and ends on the summit of Mt. Whitney. It is recommended to start at Yosemite, which is lower and work your way up, which will help you get acclimated to the high altitudes. Obtaining a Yosemite wilderness permit may be easier than obtaining a permit to begin your trip at Mt. Whitney, as many people wish to climb Mt. Whitney and you must compete with them for permits. There are many other possible entry trails along the way that will shorten the trip and provide easy access. Contact the appropriate Ranger Station for more information. You need to plan your trip for this is the mother of all trails. It is not a day hike!

The most popular time to travel the John Muir Trail is July through October. Snow may be present on high ridges and passes in early July. Most of the trail is at elevations above 7000 ft. and in some places over 13,000 ft. Summer days are usually warm, but freezing temperatures may occur at any time. Snow usually covers the trail in November.

A wilderness permit is required for any overnight stay in Wilderness or National Park backcountry areas. During the summer season, quotas are in effect on popular trails to minimize backcountry impacts and provide a quality wilderness experience for all visitors. Plan your trip early. Contact the Ranger Station nearest your entry point for further information on obtaining your wilderness permit.

Wood fires are prohibited in some areas due to fire danger and the scarcity of dead and down wood. In areas where fires are allowed, dead and down wood may be scarce or too wet to burn. Never cut down standing trees or branches off of standing trees. Please use existing campfire rings and make small fires to conserve available firewood. Extinguish fires with water, stirring until cold; never pour dirt on your fire as this rapidly fills the campfire ring. Camp stoves are strongly recommended.

Camp on mineral soil, never on vegetation. Terrain permitting, locate your camp at least 100ft from water and trails, never closer than 25ft. Pick a place where you won't have to clear vegetation, level a tent site or trench around your tent. Before leaving camp try to make the site look as if no one had been there. Your example may catch on!

Bears are present in many areas of the John Muir Trail. Improper food storage often results in bears eating food that is bad for them, and a hungry hike out to the nearest trailhead for the ill-prepared hiker. Bear-proof food storage lockers have been placed at some locations along the trail. Park regulations require that food be hung using the counter-balance method or stored in one of the lockers provided. A 50ft length of nylon cord must be carried for this purpose.

Surface water is common along the trail, but open water sources are easily contaminated. Boil, filter or chemically treat all drinking water. Water is contaminated by improper human-waste disposal. Bury human-waste at least 100 ft. from water and wet areas and burn or pack out all toilet paper.

The mountainous backcountry environment presents many hazards not commonly encountered in our daily lives such as bears and mountain lions. Enjoy the challenge of the wilderness but don't take unnecessary risks. Be prepared and alert to changing trail and weather conditions. Snowstorms can occur at any time of the year; warm, waterproof clothing is a must for safe backcountry travel.

For more information on wilderness permits, maps, guidebooks and special regulations, please contact the appropriate Ranger Station or Park Service office. Good luck and send us some photos and a story for our scrapbook.

Mt. Whitney Ranger District
P.O. Box 8 Lone Pine, CA 93545
White Mountain Ranger District
798 N. Main St. Bishop, CA 93514

Mammoth Ranger District
P.O. Box 148 Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Mono Lake Ranger District
P.O. Box 429 Lee Vining, CA 93541

June Lake
Nidever Mountain Guides
Po Box 446
June Lake, CA 93529

Mammoth Lakes
Cosley Houston Guides
Certified Mountain Guide
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Sierra Mountain Center
Private Registered Guide Service
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

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