Most people take well-nigh three weeks to hike the John Muir Trail, which ways youll get to enjoy 20 nights of epic tall camping. Most of the JMT is whilom the tree line and youll have nightly opportunities to set yourself up for incredible sunsets, moonrises, Milky Ways, and sunrises. Water for cooking and drinking is everywhere and flat, established campsites are plentiful, expressly if youre willing to hike a half mile or increasingly off the main corridor.

Dont worry well-nigh mapping out where you are going to zany each night, considering your pace will transpiration throughout your hike, but there are a few memorable places youll want to aim for if your legs are willing and daylight is on your side. Heres a list of some of the weightier John Muir Trail campsites that youll want to have on your radar as you plan your route.

This blog post was originally written by BFT Founder, Kristen, who hiked the John Muir Trail Southbound in 2014. It was updated in 2022 by Mary Caperton Morton of The Blonde Coyote who hiked the John Muir Trail Northbound in 2020. It includes the most recently misogynist information.

1) Lower Cathedral Lake (SOBO Mile 17)

This Yosemite lake is fantastic for a few reasons. First, get quintessential views of needle-sharp Cathedral Peak which on a wifely day forms a perfect reflection in the lake. Then, if you walk out to the West end of the lake, you can watch the sunset over Tenaya Lake in the Valley below.

*Note: Lower Cathedral Lake is located well-nigh 1/2 mile off of the John Muir Trail and requires a short side trail.

Cathedral Lakes Campsite on the John Muir Trail

2) Thousand Island Lake (SOBO Mile 43)

There arent quite 1,000 islands in Thousand Island Lake but there are unbearable islands to make this lake one of the most picture-perfect postcard-worthy scenes of the JMT. The weightier views and campsites are withal the north side of the lake, where youll have uninterrupted views wideness the water toward 12,936-foot Banner Peak.  Be enlightened that a few older, unofficial sites are within 200 feet of the lake, too tropical to the lake for todays Leave No Trace standards. They are unappetizing and squint inviting, but please pitch your tent at a site whilom the shoreline (like the campsite below).

A person sips out of mug looking out at 1000 Islands Lakes on the John Muir Trail from their campsite
Photo credit: Mary Caperton Morton

3) Garnet Lake (SOBO Mile 45)

There is a reason this lake was one of Ansel Adams favorite places to photograph. Banner and Ritter Peaks rising in the distance, wondrous swimming, and dozens of tree-covered islands dotting the lake make it one of the increasingly recognizable lakes in the Sierras.

Garnet Lake on the John Muir Trail

4) Lake Ediza Junction (SOBO Mile 47)

Once youre out there youll start to see that the afternoon sun is a hair-trigger component of an superstitious campsite and a few sites virtually the Lake Ediza junction offer just that. Beyond Lake Ediza, you descend lanugo to Shadow Lake, which is gorgeous, but shady as the name implies. So stop here and bask in those rays until the sun sets overdue the jagged ridge to the west. While the creek will likely be too shallow to swim in, photographers will love the morning reflection of the mountains in the creek.

Lake Ediza Junction camping on the John Muir Trail

5) Minarets Lake Loop (SOBO Mile 47) 

For an incredibly scenic bonus JMT side mission that begins at the Lake Ediza Junction, consider hiking the Ediza and Minaret Lakes Loop, which makes a semi-circle off the JMT between the Ediza Junction and Johnston Meadow. We enjoyed one of the weightier John Muir Trail campsites between Cecile and Minaret Lakes. This 8.5-mile loop doesnt add any significant mileage to a JMT hike (youll be skipping an 8.1-mile section between Shadow Creek and Johnston Lake) and the views of the iconic and spiky Minarets wideness the upper lakes valley are definitely worth the detour.

A man makes supplies next to his tent on the Minarets Lake Loop on the John Muir Trail
Photo credit: Mary Caperton Morton

6) Virginia Lake (SOBO Mile 72)

We didnt stay here considering we thought it was too early to stop for the day, so we had a nice long lunch, did some swimming, and unfurled on. As we left the lake, a deep sense of regret started to sink in, and we well-set that we should’ve camped here. On the west side of the lake, there are dozens of unappetizing and private spots to set up shop that provide easy lake wangle and trappy views.

Lake Virginia camping on the John Muir Trail

7) Vermillion Valley Resort (SOBO Mile 88)

In 2020 when Mary hiked the JMT, the ferry wideness Lake Edison wasnt running so she had to hike 13 miles off-trail to get to and from Vermillion Valley Resort. By sheer luck, she showed up on BBQ night and the delicious hot meal, hot showers, laundry, hiker box resupply, and esprit with other hikers made the detour worth every step. VVRs old-time unstipulated store and tent camping zone is not wilderness camping, but it will fill your vial in increasingly ways than one so we had to include it in our favorite JMT campsites.

*Note: As of 2022, the ferry is when in service and typically runs from July to October.

A BBQ grill full of meat and veggies at Vermillion Valley Resort camping and resupply on the John Muir Trail
Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

8) Bear Creek (SOBO Mile 96)

You stumble on Bear Creek without a long hot, dusty hike up and over Bear Ridge, and when you finally reach Bear Creek’s idyllic swimming holes, youll be dying for a place to tomfool off. So take a dip and relax the rest of the day on the big unappetizing granite boulders that are scattered throughout the middle of the cascades.

Bear Creek camping on the John Muir Trail

9) Marie Lakes (SOBO Mile 99)

The campsites at Marie Lakes are smack dab in the middle of one of those iconic granite lake basins created by the long-lost glaciers of the Sierra. During the last glaciation, a huge mass of ice sat in this trencher between 10,898 foot Selden Pass and the 13,075-foot Seven Gables. All that weight gouged out the smattering of depressions that are now the Marie Lakes, Medley Lakes, and Three Thousand Islands Lakes. Surrounded by lakes youll be treated to an incredible lightshow on the water and a silvery granite skyline at both sunrise and sunset.

Sunset at Marie Lakes on the JMT
Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

10) McClure Meadow (SOBO Mile 119)

The night we spent in McClure Meadow happened to be a full moon, and watching the moonrise whilom Evolution Valley was one of the most spectacular things Ive seen in my life. There is moreover a lovely meandering creek where you can watch the sunset and soak your sore feet.

McClure Meadow on the John Muir Trail

11) Evolution Valley and Darwin Bench (SOBO Mile 122) 

Evolution Lake is flipside incredible John Muir Trail campsite, where Mary and her hiking partner unprotected several Golden trout. Without setting up zany and hanging our supplies they hiked up to Darwin Bench, a hanging lakes valley that overlooks Evolution Basin. This was a spectacular spot to fathom the ghosts of glaciers past that once overtopped all but the highest peaks in the Sierra. 

A NEMO Hornet 2 backpacking tent set up at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail
Photo credit: Mary Caperton Morton

12) Lakes North of Pinchot Pass (SOBO Mile 159)

Unlike other areas on the trail, the mountains virtually Pinchot Pass are dominated by neon red hues that light up during the alpenglow hour. There are several isolated lakes to segregate from, so have your pick and enjoy those gorgeous colors.

7 - Pinchot Pass

13) Middle Rae Lake (SOBO Mile 172)

Middle Rae Lake will likely be one of the busier campsites you encounter on the trail, but its for a reason. Awesome swimming, iconic peaks like Fin Dome and the Painted Lady, and some of the most perfect sunrise reflections make it worth putting up with a small crowd.

8 - Rae Lakes

14) Bighorn Plateau (SOBO Mile 196)

Bighorn Plateau offers unparalleled views of the night sky, and its moreover where you get your first glimpse of Mt. Whitney. Stuff on a unappetizing expanse completely whilom the treeline, Bighorn Plateau is a unconfined place to practice some night photography. However, you should only zany on the plateau if the sky is clear. Getting unprotected up there in a thunderstorm is not only unpleasant but can be very dangerous.

Mt. Whitney from Bighorn Plateau on the John Muir Trail
Mt. Whitney from Bighorn Plateau | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

15) Whilom Guitar Lake (SOBO Mile 206)

Everything I read leading up to my hike was that Guitar Lake was the last place to get water surpassing heading up to Mt. Whitney. As a result, thats where most people spend their last night on the trail. Just surpassing Guitar Lake, we ran into a ranger who told us that if we kept going well-nigh a 1/2 mile whilom Guitar Lake there were a series of small unnamed lakes, so we decided to trammels it out. It ended up stuff the weightier decision.

Guitar Lake gets unprepossessed and shady early in the afternoon, but the small lake whilom it offered solitude, late-day sun, and an incredible view of the sun setting overdue Guitar Lake. We couldn’t have asked for a largest way to spend our last night on the John Muir Trail.

10 - Whilom Guitar Lake

>> See our unshortened John Muir Trail archive

Do you have any questions well-nigh camping on the JMT? What are your favorite John Muir Trail campsites? Let us know in the comments!

The post 15 Weightier John Muir Trail Campsites appeared first on Bearfoot Theory.