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Guidebook to walking the John Muir Trail through California's High Sierra from Yosemite (El Capitan and Half Dome) to the summit of Mount Witney. The 216 mile hike is split into 21 daily stages, with full information on preparation, permits, wilderness, bears, water and trekking skills. Part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
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The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a world-famous trek and North America's best known walking trail. It runs for 216 miles through California's Sierra Nevada mountains, from Yosemite Valley (El Capitan and Half-Dome) to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,496ft), the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. It also makes up part of the epic Pacific Crest Trail which runs the length of the Rockies through Canada and the US.
All you need to know to plan and prepare for your trip is contained within this guide, from obtaining trekking permits to buying trek food and forwarding food caches along the trail. Abundant advice is given on such topics as dealing with inquisitive bears, coping with altitude, negotiating river crossings, as well as tips on booking transport to and from the trailheads and on what equipment to take. In addition there is a detailed description of the flora and fauna of this remarkable region.
The walking trail, which is named after the great 19th-century Scottish naturalist, conservationist and writer John Muir, is entirely through the unspoilt wilderness of the American West and passes through three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Information includes:
We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our Feedback form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).
|Parks along the JMT|
|The Pacific Crest Trail|
|Using this Guide|
|Planning your Trip|
|Flights to California|
|Public Transport to and from the Trailhead|
|General Fitness and Trail Fitness|
|Health and Medical Considerations|
|Coping with Altitude|
|Dealing with Bears|
|Other Natural Hazards|
|Low-Impact Trekking and National Park/Wilderness Regulations|
|Public Holidays in the US|
|The Natural World by Dr Charles Aitchison|
|Geology of the Sierra Nevada|
|Vegetation and Flowers on the John Muir Trail|
|Birds of the John Muir Trail|
|Mammals along the Trail|
|Day 1 Yosemite Valley (Happy Isles) to Half Dome Trail Junction/Sunrise Creek and the Ascent of Half Dome|
|Day 2 Half Dome Trail Junction/Sunrise Creek to Sunrise High Sierra Camp|
|Day 3 Sunrise High Sierra Camp via Cathedral Pass to Tuolumne Meadows|
|Day 4 Tuolumne Meadows to Upper Lyell Canyon|
|Day 5 Upper Lyell Canyon via Donohue Pass and Island Pass to Thousand Island Lake|
|Day 6 Thousand Island Lake to the Devil’s Postpile|
|Day 7 The Devil’s Postpile via Reds Meadow to Deer Creek|
|Day 8 Deer Creek to Tully Hole/Cascade Valley Junction|
|Day 9 Tully Hole/Cascade Valley Junction via Silver Pass to Edison Lake|
|Day 10 Edison Lake to Rosemarie Meadow|
|Day 11 Rosemarie Meadow via Seldon Pass to the Muir Trail Ranch|
|Day 12 Muir Trail Ranch to McClure Meadow|
|Day 13 McClure Meadow via Muir Pass to Unnamed Lake North-East of Helen Lake|
|Day 14 Unnamed Lake North-East of Helen Lake to Deer Meadow|
|Day 15 Deer Meadow via Mather Pass to Kings River|
|Day 16 Kings River via Pinchot Pass to Woods Creek|
|Day 17 Woods Creek via Glen Pass to Vidette Meadow|
|Day 18 Vidette Meadow via Forester Pass to Tyndall Creek|
|Day 19 Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake|
|Day 20 Guitar Lake via Mount Whitney and Trail Crest to Trail Camp; and the ascent of Mount Whitney|
|Day 21 Trail Camp to Whitney Portal|
|Appendix A Camping Areas on the JMT|
|Appendix B Ranger Stations along the JMT|
|Appendix C Escape Routes on the JMT|
|Appendix D Bear Box Locations on the JMT|
|Appendix E Mountain Passes and Peaks on the JMT|
|Appendix F Useful Addresses and Websites in the UK and US|
|Appendix G Bibliography|
|Appendix H Trail Summary Table|
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is one of the world’s greatest treks and is North America’s best-known middistance walking trail. It runs for 216 miles through the high Sierra Nevada mountains of California, from Yosemite Valley in the north to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,496ft) above Lone Pine in the south, and takes about three weeks to complete.
The route is largely a wilderness experience, and this intensifies as one progresses along the Trail from the relative civilisation between Yosemite and Tuolumne, where there are many day-trippers and other walkers, to the huge wilderness areas further south, particularly after the Muir Trail Ranch. Tourists are once again encountered, in the form of day walkers on Mount Whitney, during the very last stages of the Trail.
However, although the JMT passes through areas of genuine wilderness, the Trail by its very nature confines backpackers to a narrow corridor through that wilderness. The Trail was man made and is maintained by rangers, and along its length there are Ranger Stations where officials are found during the summer season. You will undoubtedly pass many other hikers during your sojourn along the JMT, and will rarely be more than a mile or two from other human beings. Only by leaving the man-made trails would one truly be entering the huge wilderness that is the Californian High Sierras.
While the John Muir Trail passes through high mountain country where spectacular peaks and high passes abound, the JMT itself is a relatively easy trail to walk. Gradients are rarely very steep, as the trail was expertly engineered and was originally intended for pack animals, mules and horses. So although the JMT often goes over high passes, the routes over them are nearly always well graded. You may, however, marvel that horses were expected to traverse such narrow and dramatic trails as those over the Forester and Glen passes; both an experienced rider and horse would be necessary!
There is little in the way of exposure along the entire length of the JMT, no scrambling is involved and no particular head for heights is required. The only exception is perhaps on the descent from the Forester Pass, but most mountain walkers would hardly give even this a second thought. The ascent of Half Dome, which is not part of the JMT, is a rather different matter. The climb to the top of the mountain is over very steep and polished granite, but the route is well protected and those with some scrambling ability in the mountains should again have no worries. Navigation along the Trail is relatively straightforward, and users of this guidebook who also carry the recommended maps for the JMT should experience few route-finding problems. The Trail is well waymarked on the ground. Note that the above analysis, of course, applies only to good summer conditions; snowedand iced-up passes and rivers in spate would be altogether far more difficult and dangerous.