Hiking the John Muir Trail is a life-changing experience. Once youve followed the crest of the Sierra from Yosemite to Mount Whitney (or visa-versa if youre hiking Northbound), youll forever be returning to those memories of hiking wideness one of the most scenic mountain ranges on Earth.

I hiked the JMT Southbound when in 2014 over 22 days and kept a day-by-day log of my journey. Below, I share my 3-week JMT itinerary, wrenched up into sections by resupply points, to highlight some of my favorite viewpoints, campsites, swimming holes, and lunch spots.

In 2023, BFT freelancer Mary of The Blonde Coyote widow some spare tips and insight from her 2020 JMT Northbound thru-hike. We hope these first-hand finance requite you a glimpse of what life on the JMT is like – happy trails!

Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practicegood trail etiquetteand remember toLeave No Trace. This ways packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper), stuff respectful to others, and pursuit the established rules.


Section 1: Yosemite National Park to Reds Meadow

Day 1 – Yosemite Valley (Mile 0) to Little Yosemite Valley Backpackers Zany (Mile 4.8)

The John Muir Trail traditionally begins at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley and quickly gains 2,000 vertical feet over the first 4 miles, passing several epic waterfalls and vistas. With a heavy bag and leaden legs, this is a tough climb plane though the mileage is low.

Nevada Falls waterfall on a hazy day. Day 1 of the John Muir Trail
Nevada Falls | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Around 5 miles in, you reach the junction of Half Dome, a Yosemite icon. If youre expressly fit and ambitious, you could try to secure a separate permit to summit Half Dome, an epic kick-off to a JMT adventure. Hiking Half Dome will tack on an spare 7.2 miles from Little Yosemite Valley and another 2,700 ft of elevation gain.

View of Half Dome from the John Muir Trail. A man wearing a yellow walkabout hikes on the trail.
View of Half Dome from the JMT | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 2 – Little Yosemite Valley (Mile 4.8) to Lower Cathedral Lake (Mile 17.7)

After a light-mileage first day, Day 2 feels like the first official day on the John Muir Trail. There’s an optional detour on this section: at Sunrise Lakes, you can do a 10-mile round-trip day hike up to Clouds Rest, arguably the weightier vantage point in all of Yosemite. Mary camped at Sunrise Lakes and hiked Clouds Rest at the end of her NOBO trip in 2020 and highly recommends this detour.

A man stands at the summit of Cloud's Rest in Yosemite overlooking Half Dome
View of Half Dome from Cloud’s Rest

If you’re skipping Clouds Rest, throne onward to Cathedral Lakes on Day 2.

First, we checked out Upper Cathedral Lake which is right on the trail. Its a gorgeous spot, but we couldnt find a suitable campsite. So we kept going and took the 0.75 mile detour off the trail at mile 17.1 to get to Lower Cathedral Lake. This ended up stuff the BEST decision, and we found an wondrous campsite on a point on the north side of the lake.

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While still populated, Lower Cathedral Lake was a little quieter and, in our opinion, superior to Upper Cathedral Lake. Right at our campsite there was a waterfront for sun tanning and a waddle in the middle of the lake that wasnt too far to swim to. Also, as the sun set, Cathedral Peak worked a stunning reflection in the water, and we had the weightier viewpoint of the unshortened lake. 

Another tip – if you have uneaten time, walk out to the northwest whet of the lake where you’ll find a a wide-open view of Tenaya Lake.

A man hikes in a unappetizing meadow withal the Lower Lake Trail through the John Muir Trail
Lower Cathedral Lake Trail | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 3 – Lower Cathedral Lake (Mile 17.7) to Lyell Pass (Mile 31)

Waking up to a gorgeous sunrise, the morning reflection of Cathedral Peak was plane increasingly perfect than the sunset the night before, confirming Upper Cathedral Lake as one of my favorite spots during our first week on the JMT.

After packing up, we made our way to Tuolumne Meadows. There is a General Store and restaurant where you can buy supplies and supplies and moreover grab a meal if you are so inclined. This is moreover the last place that there is any lamina service until Reds Meadows in specimen you need to phone home.

*Note that in 2023 the Tuolumne Meadows Campground will be sealed and services in 2023 may be limited. Double trammels on the Yosemite National Park website so you know what to expect there.

While the scenery is a little monotonous compared to the previous day, its one of the flattest days on the trail, so you can really pack in some miles.

There are tons of camping options withal the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, many with trappy swimming holes. Since we would be tackling Donahue Pass the next day, we hiked as far as we could and then set up shop at a nice secluded spot on the river.

JMT Tip: Plan on climbing passes in the morning when the storm threat is low and your legs are fresh.

A man stops to view Lyell Pass on the John Muir Trail. There are mountains and a creek in the distance
Lyell Pass | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 4 – Lyell Pass (Mile 31) to Davis Lake (Mile 40.2)

Donahue Pas is the first pass on the John Muir Trail with an elevation of 11,060 feet at the top with views of the permanent snowfield on Mt. Lyell and icy undecorous rivers below. If you time it right, there were some amazing, but windy, campsites at the Upper Lyell Wiring Camp (mile 34.4).

Rocky trail Donahue Pass on the John Muir Trail
Donahue Pass | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

After Donahue Pass, many people try to make it to Thousand Island Lake or Garnett Lake to zany for the night. These impressive lakes were some of Ansel Adams favorites, and for that reason, they can yank crowds. Without 4 days of rented trails in Yosemite, we were looking for some solitude, so at mile 40.2, we took a mile-long detour to Davis Lake. We found a trappy secluded lake, made of a series of islands and were treated to a colorfully pink sunset.

Camping Tip: If you decide to throne to Davis Lake, stick to the outer whet when looking for a campsite. Despite stuff small, the maze of islands is easy to get lost in. In the morning it took us 45 minutes of waddle hopping just to get when to the trailhead. It was not the weightier way to start the day.

Thousand Island Lake on the John Muir Trail. Snowy rocky mountain and big lake in the distance
Thousand Island Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 5 – Davis Lake (Mile 40.2) to Lake Ediza Junction (Mile 48.4)

Day 5 was packed with gorgeous lakes and myriad places to swim. We planned to stop at Thousand Island Lake for lunch, but when we arrived, it seemed that many other hikers had the same idea. Alternatively, we took a swim/lunch unravel at Emerald Lake, which was just 1.5 miles up the trail. While not as spectacular as Thousand Island, we had the lake all to ourselves.

Shortly thereafter, we stumbled upon Ruby Lake, which had two campsites on the east side of the lake right withal the trail. With the unrelatedness of the undecorous water versus the red mountains, Ruby Lake would have been a lovely place to swim or camp.

Ruby Lake on the John Muir Trail
Ruby Lake

Garnet Lake was moreover beautiful, but busy, with views of both Banner and Ritter Peaks. A waterfront on the southeast side unliable for an easy tideway for swimmers and provided a perfect spot to sun afterward.

After you leave these lakes, you climb a series of switchbacks and then waif when lanugo to the Ediza Lake Junction. We found a sunny spot all to ourselves to set up zany on the south tip of the trail right withal Shadow Creek. Late in the afternoon, this is the last place on the trail where you will see any sun, and in my opinion, sun is a hair-trigger component of any good camp.

When Mary hiked the JMT in 2020, she took the Minaret Lake Loop, leaving the JMT at Johnston Meadow and rejoining it at Ediza Lake Junction. This detour off the JMT doesnt add significant mileage and brings you right to the wiring of the iconic spikey skyline of the Minarets, passing several gorgeous lakes with unconfined campsites withal the way.

Minaret Lake on the John Muir Trail. A man hikes on a rocky path whilom the lake
Minaret Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 6 – Lake Ediza Junction (Mile 48.4) to Read’s Meadow (Mile 59.9)

Shortly past the Lake Ediza Junction, you come wideness Shadow Lake. We were lucky to hit it at just the right time in the morning when the mountains reflected off the water.

My favorite spot of the day was Rosalie Lake. Right unelevated the trail, we found some big unappetizing rocks where we stopped for snacks and photos. This is the last nice place that you will come wideness surpassing Reds Meadow, so make sure to soak it all in.

The only other suitable spot for lunch is Trinity Lakes at mile 52.7, but dont expect to swim here considering its very marshy and buggy.

The remaining portion of the trail leading to Devils Postpile is all downhill and travels through a large forest full of sufferer trees. Its rather unpleasant compared to the scenery over the past 6 days, so we booked it to Devils Postpile National Monument.

Once you get to Devils Postpile, you will start to see signs of civilization, including cars and roads. It will finger strange, but its worth a quick stop to see the monument itself.

Devil's Postpile National Monument on the John Muir Trail
Devil’s Postpile National Monument | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

The only place to zany in the zone is at the established Reds Meadow Forest Service campground. It financing $22 a night for a site, however, it is super user-friendly to the “Resort” where you will pick up your resupply box, and you can moreover buy an ice-cold beverage. There are withstand lockers in the campground, which is helpful without the resupply since your withstand box will likely be quite full that night. Theres moreover a concrete-enclosed hot spring in the campground. Its small and you may need to wait your turn but feels wondrous on tired muscles and sore feet. 

The scenery up until this point on the JMT was magnificent, but it was moreover the most crowded. As we unfurled south, the crowds thinned out and it began to finger like true wilderness.

Thru hikers yack outside Red's Meadow, a resupply spot on the John Muir Trail
Red’s Meadow | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Section 2: Reds Meadow to Muir Trail Ranch

Day 7 – Red’s Meadow (Mile 60) to Duck Pass Junction (Mile 70.5)

Not to start on a low note, but I want to mentally prepare you for this day. Theres no good way of putting it this stretch between Reds Meadow and Duck Pass Junction was just awful. Everyone we met on the trail agreed. First, your pack is well-nigh 10 pounds heavier than the day surpassing thanks to your resupply at Reds Meadow. But whats worse is that without leaving Reds Meadow, you uncork the day by traversing through a shrivel zone where the trees are sufferer and there is veritably no shade. Id recommend getting an early start so you can stave getting stuck in the blazing sun (another reason why camping at Reds Meadow the night surpassing is a good idea).

We originally talked well-nigh camping at Deer Creek, but when we arrived, the stream was nothing increasingly than a trickle, and it was still early in the afternoon. Hence, we kept trucking.

There are very few stretches withal the JMT where there is no water and the 4.5-mile section between Deer Creek and the Duck Pass Junction is one of them, so make sure to fill up surpassing standing uphill.

As we got closer to our destination, we were treated to occasional views of the Silver Divide. Its the only thing that kept me going with the rememberable twinge I was feeling in between my shoulder blades.

When we finally arrived at the creek at Duck Pass Junction, we found a nice place to set up our tent just unelevated the trail on the west side of the creek.

The Silver Divide on the John Muir Trail
The Silver Divide

Day 8 – Duck Pass Junction (Mile 70.5) to Fish Creek (Mile 77.5)

After the previous day, we needed a little pick-me-up. We had read in our guidebook that Lake Virginia, 4 miles up the trail, was heavenly. So we hit the trail, first coming to Purple Lake. For those who have some stamina left in them the day before, Purple Lake appeared to have some pretty nice campsites. Mary camped at Purple Lake in 2020 and was treated to one of the weightier sunsets of her trip. 

sunset reflects on Purple Lake on the JMT
Purple Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

We arrived at Lake Virginia virtually lunchtime. We decided to follow a side trail that veered off to the west side of the lake an found a perfect spot to set up shop for a few hours.

We hung out for a couple of hours, and virtually 2:30 we well-set it was time to move on. As we descended the switchbacks lanugo into Tully Hole, I began to think that we made a big mistake not camping at Lake Virginia. Plane though it was pretty, all of the campsites we passed on Fish Creek were shady and cold. Eventually, we spotted some sun on the other side of the creek and found a unscratched place to cross. Without mulling well-nigh for a while, we settled on a campsite. It was nice, but it was no Lake Virginia.

Jon Muir Trail Looking lanugo into Tully Slum and Fish Creek
Looking lanugo into Tully Slum and Fish Creek

Day 9 – Fish Creek (Mile 77.5) to Quail Meadows (Mile 88)

Today we tackled Silver Pass. The climb to the top was quite easy compared to some of the other passes on the trail. But take your time getting there, as there are several trappy lakes on the way.

My favorite lake of Day 9 was Chief Lake which is right at the tree unelevated Silver Pass. The dramatic views and aquamarine water made it a unconfined place to stop for lunch surpassing making the last uphill push.

A undecorous lake on the John Muir Trail, Chief Lake
Chief Lake

Between Chief Lake and Silver Pass, you will be completely whilom the treeline. As you escalade the waterless landscape, youll get sweeping views of the lakes unelevated and the mountains where you spent the last several days.

Traveling south from Silver Pass, you throne lanugo withal the North Fork of Mono Creek. There are many shady campsites withal the way. Our goal was to make it tropical to Quail Meadows since we wanted to take on the upcoming 2,000 foot climb to Withstand Ridge first thing the next morning when our legs were fresh.

Quail Meadows is located at the Lake Edison Junction which is the trail you would take if you were planning to stop and resupply at Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR). We skipped VVR considering it required a bit of maneuvering to get there – a combination of hiking, a ferry, and/or a jeep ride. Plus, we were all fueled up with our supplies from our visit to Reds Meadow a few days prior. 

Because of its tropical proximity to VVR, Quail Meadows was a popular zany spot for JMT hikers. To stave the crowds, we settled on a site just north of Quail Meadows that was reminiscent of an old cowboy zany and had easy wangle to some nice hang-out spots on the creek. To find this huge campsite, veer left off the trail just whilom the intersection of the North Fork with Mono Creek.

the top of Silver Pass on the JMT, looking lanugo on a undecorous lake
the top of Silver Pass

Day 10 – Quail Meadow (Mile 88) to Withstand Creek (Mile 96.3)

Our day started with a 4 mile gentle climb up a series of switchbacks to the top of Bear Ridge. If you are tired when you get to the top, stop for snacks, but dont be tempted to take your lunch unravel here. Some of the weightier swimming holes on the trail are just a short way ahead.

After reaching the top, you will waif lanugo to the Bear Creek Junction, where the trail begins to run parallel to Withstand Creek for the next two miles.

While our lunch spot was lovely, we found that the remoter we got withal Withstand Creek, the largest the swimming opportunities. When we turned a corner virtually mile 95, we stopped sufferer in our tracks when we came wideness a long straightaway in the river with a cascading waterfall full of calm, clear, and deep swimming holes.

About a mile later, we stumbled upon flipside idyllic series of pools. Could we pass these ones up too? Neither of us took much convincing. We immediately threw our tons down, where we would later set up camp. This spot in the river had some huge unappetizing boulders forming a series of waterfalls. Since the water was low, you could walk right out onto the granite and sit in the middle of the waterfalls. It was heavenly. We were grateful to say goodbye to our older guilt and spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the glistening sun. This was 100% my favorite zany from the second section of the JMT.

Bear Creek on the JMT
Bear Creek

Day 11 – Withstand Creek (Mile 96.3) to Muir Trail Ranch (Mile 108)

Marie Lake is dotted with granite islands and offers superb views of the surrounding mountains. Sitting at 10,500 feet, there are several small, sandy, and exposed campsites withal the trail. It was windy when we came through, but I imagine on a wifely night, this would be an wondrous spot to camp.

A manh hikes on a rocky trail whilom Marie Lakes on the JMT
Marie Lakes | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Next up was Seldon Pass, which was only 500 increasingly feet whilom Marie Lake. Make sure to enjoy the wide-open views of Marie Lake and Silver Pass as you climb.

Once you are over Seldon, you first waif lanugo to Heart Lake and then Sallie Keyes Lakes. We stopped for lunch at the north end of Sallie Keys. However, if it is a warm day, I recommend heading to the southern whet of the lake where there appeared to be good swimming with easy access.

Heart Lake on the JMT
Heart Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Our original plan was to stop at Sallie Keys and zany for the night, but it was a windy day and since we made such good time, we set off for Muir Trail Ranch, our second resupply point.

The trail between Sallie Keys and Muir Trail Ranch ends with a long section of downhill switchbacks into a trappy river canyon. There is no suitable camping withal this stretch. At mile 108, you reach the northern cutoff to Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), where you will undoubtedly stop, as it is the last place directly on the JMT to resupply. Follow the signs which lead you lanugo a dry, dusty trail to the camp.

Be prepared to zany with a tuft of other thru-hikers on your night at MTR. Sites are spaced tropical together and there is little privacy. There are moreover no bathrooms, so finding a subconscious place to go was a bit of a challenge.

Also, definitely dont miss taking a soak in Blaney Hot Springs wideness the river. From the MTR campsites, thoughtfully navigate the river, and then follow the trail downstream for well-nigh five minutes until you reach a series of natural hot pools. They are small and a bit murky, but the hot water will do wonders for your sore muscles. This vacated made staying at MTR worth it.

At this point, we are just well-nigh at the halfway point on the JMT. And I have to say that from here on out, the scenery just gets better, bigger, and increasingly dramatic.

Muir Trail Ranch from the outside, a resupply spot on the JMT
Muir Trail Ranch | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Section 3: Muir Trail Ranch to Lake Marjorie

Day 12 – Muir Trail Ranch (Mile 108) to McClure Meadow (Mile 119.3)

Two hours without getting our resupply at MTR, we reached the official verge of Kings Pass National Park. For the next 3.5 miles, the trail followed the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Despite stuff flat, these were sun-exposed miles. So be prepared and consider getting an older start from Muir Trail Ranch.

We stopped for lunch at the Goddard Pass Junction, where there are a few tent sites, and supervenient immediately began the steep climb to Evolution Meadow.

As we neared the top of the switchbacks, we could hear some turbulent waters running to our left. We veered off the trail to reservation a glimpse. Here Evolution Creek tumbled lanugo the cliff, forming a series of deep holes as it cascaded into the San Joaquin River below.

As we made our way remoter into Evolution Meadow, the terrain transformed from dry, exposed slopes to unappetizing untried pastures with Evolution Creek slowly snaking through.

At some point, you have to navigate Evolution Creek. In upper water years, protract walking up the right side of the creek until it’s unscratched to cross.

In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at McClure Meadow and began searching for a spot to set up for the night. Well-nigh 5 minutes past the ranger station, we spotted a small seat on the right with an expansive view of the eastern skyline, including the peaks towering over Evolution Valley where we would be headed the next day.

A backpacking tent is set up in McClue Meadow on the JMT
camping in McClure Meadow

Day 13 ̵ McClure Meadow (Mile 119) to Big Pete’s Meadow (Mile 135)

After a night of rain, we hiked through Evolution Valley and began to escalade to Evolution Lake. The sky remained dark, but there were no signs of thunder, so we kept trucking along. Right as we unprotected our first sighting of Evolution Lake, I felt a raindrop.

Literally within three seconds, the Sierras unleashed their wrath and the sky was dumping buckets. We kept hiking, but now at a much faster pace. Soon, we reached the northern tip of Evolution Lake. We were now whilom the treeline, completely exposed. Andit started to hail. Frozen sideways hail. Then thunder. At first, I felt adventurous, but then I just got scared. We still had 5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation to proceeds surpassing the top of Muir Pass and now there was nowhere to hide.

Fortuitously, the afar thunder and lightning were kept at bay, but the rain and wind sustained. We hiked and hiked and hiked. Not stopping for water. Not stopping for food. Not plane the bathroom. We knew that in a split second, the conditions could transpiration and we could be unprotected in a dangerous situation.

Finally, I could see Muir Hut at the top of the pass. We were unsure if we were going to be worldly-wise to get into Muir Hut, a shelter that was built in 1930 by the Sierra Club. So we were relieved when we reached the top of the pass and were worldly-wise to seek refuge inside.

Muir Hut at the top of Muir Pass on the JMT
Muir Hut on a sunny day | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

An hour later, the rain appeared to be on its way out, and we plane unprotected a few glimpses of undecorous sky in the late afternoon on the hike down.

There werent a lot of campsites on the way lanugo from Muir Pass, so alimony that in mind when planning out your day. We finally found a spot just surpassing Big Petes Meadow, and in total ended up hiking 16 miles that day.

In unrelatedness to Kristens harrowing trip over Muir Pass, Mary on her NOBO hike enjoyed a bluebird day in Evolution Valley in 2020. Without summiting Muir Pass in the morning, they descended lanugo through the basin, stopping to swim and fish in several of the lakes (fun fact: Lakes Wanda and Helen are named without Charles Darwins daughters). Without setting up zany near Evolution Lake, they hiked up to Darwin Bench, a short side trip that takes you to an overlook of the Basin, at the throne of Darwin Canyon. This was one of Marys favorite days of the whole JMT. 

Three undecorous lakes in Evolution Valley on the JMT
Evolution Valley | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 14 – Big Pete Meadow (Mile 135) to Upper Palisade Lake (Mile 148)

The first half of the day was pretty uneventful. Little Pete and Grouse Meadows are both trappy places to stop and take a break, but we pushed through considering we had a big climb up ahead: the dreaded Golden Staircase.

The Golden Staircase is a steep 1,500-foot takeoff up 50 or so odd switchbacks. Its a marvel of trail-building engineering and was the last section of the JMT to be completed. But like most tough spots on the trail, it wasnt as bad as I expected. Just think of a never-ending Stairmaster at the gym, but with a far superior view.

A man looking serious at the top of The Golden Staircase on the JMT
Top of the Golden Staircase | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

We had planned on camping at Lower Palisade Lake, but when we got there, there were quite a few tents once set up. And stuff whilom the tree line, there was really no privacy so we decided to alimony going. We figured wed find a spot with some solitude at Upper Palisades Lake

Well, as it turns out, the loftiness between the Lower and Upper lake is remoter than it looks on the map. And the trail is quite a bit higher than the lake itself, so we were having trouble finding a tent site with easy wangle to water. Eventually, we crossed a small creek and decided to veer left off the trail in search of a unappetizing spot near this water source.

By the time we got our tent set up, the sun was going lanugo quickly. We hustled to filter our water and melt and eat dinner. In less than 45 minutes, we were tucked yonder in our sleeping tons and ready for shuteye.

Hiking Recommendation: The Golden Staircase is tough, but dont be tempted to leave it till the next morning. If you go that route, it ways you will have to climb the Golden Staircase and immediately follow it with Mather Pass, for a total of 3,500 feet in one day. Mather Pass is moreover one of the toughest passes on the trail in my opinion, so youll want a pair of fresh legs when you tackle it.

the sun sets on the John Muir Trail
approaching palisade lake as the sun goes down

Day 15 – Upper Palisade Lake (Mile 158.5) to Crossing Unelevated Lake Marjorie (Mile 158.8)

As soon as we started hiking on Day 15, we were going uphill on our way to the top of Mather Pass. Now I was happy that we unfurled on to Upper Palisade Lake the night before.

The takeoff to Mather Pass is kind of a beast. Most of the passes on the trail are well-graded switchbacks. They might be long, but there are few with big waddle steps like Mather. That said, it still ended up stuff one of my favorite passes. The view as you climb is just spectacular. The waterless landscape is speckled with sapphire-colored lakes and surrounded by six peaks that exceed 14,000 feet.

Once you get to the top, make sure to take some time and relax. The views to the south of Mather are equally awesome. On our descent, looking when at Mather Pass, it was nonflexible to believe we came from all the way up there. What took us 2 hours to climb only took 30 minutes to hike down.

A backpacking pack set lanugo on the trail at the top of Mather Pass on the John Muir Trail
Mather Pass | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

As you get farther yonder from Mather Pass, the mountains transform from light-colored granite to a colorful, red metamorphic rock. Well-nigh two miles past Mather Pass, youll run into the South Fork of the Kings River, which you then follow for flipside 4 miles. Anywhere withal here is a unconfined place to stop for lunch and a swim.

Once you well-constructed the main South Forks Crossing, its when uphill then on a dry dusty slope. Up lanugo up down. Thats the name of the game on the JMT. But not to fret, this uphill section is short, and once you reach the top, you have your nomination of lakes to zany on.

South Fork of the Kings River on the JMT
South Fork of the Kings River

Since we were pretty worn-out by this point, we stopped at an unnamed lake on the right just past the Bench Lake Ranger Station. We traveled a bit off of the trail on the north side of the lake and found a perfect spot for our tent.

Then as the sun started to go down, we headed north of the lake to get an plane largest sunset view. What was really tomfool is we could see all the way when to Mather Pass where we came from. It makes you finger pretty proud when you realize how far you walked that day.

This secluded campsite ended up stuff flipside of my favorites on the JMT.

Day 16 – Pinchot Pass (Mile 161) to Woods Creek Junction (Mile 168.4)

Our day started with an firsthand climb to the top of Pinchot Pass. The 1,000-foot takeoff was one of the easier passes on the trail, consisting of some summery switchbacks and really nice views of Lake Marjorie below. The geology moreover became noticeably variegated as we ascended, with vivid red hues rhadamanthine increasingly dominant in the waddle faces.

The view from the top of Pinchot Pass revealed an exposed and waterless landscape speckled with several shallow lakes. From here, the rest of the day was all downhill. We would be losing well-nigh 3,500 feet in elevation between here and the day’s destination.

Pinchot Pass from the whilom on the John Muir Trail
Pinchot Pass

There were some well-flavored campsites at Twin Lakes and this unnamed lake on the west side of the trail. These were the last lulu spots to zany that we noticed between here and the Woods Creek Junction.

Soon without Twin Lakes, we passed the Sawmill Pass Junction and met up with Woods Creek. For the rest of the afternoon, the trail hugged the creek with little shade. When we were well-nigh a mile from the Woods Creek Junction where we would be camping that night, we spotted an superstitious swimming slum lanugo unelevated the trail. While we were eager to get to camp, we were hot and dusty and well-set a little dip would lift our spirits.

A quick 30 minutes without our swim, we reached the Woods Creek Junction. Here the trail turns left, crossing Woods Creek on this old rickety suspension bridge. Once we crossed the bridge, we found at least a dozen campsites and set up zany for the night.

A backpacking tent is set up near Woods Creek Junction on the JMT
camping without Woods Creek Junction

Day 17 – Woods Creek Junction (Mile 168.4) to Middle Rae Lake (Mile 175)

I was looking forward to camping at Rae Lake and we had a super short (6.5 mile) day, so we decided to thorax it out as quickly as possible so we could get to zany and hang out all afternoon. 

Even though we were in a hurry, we decided to take a quick unravel at Dollar Lake. The tall round mountain in the preliminaries is thus tabbed Fin Dome. As we left Dollar Lake, we entered this trappy meadow with clearer views of Fin Dome.

The view of Fin Dome via Dollar Lake on the JMT
The view of Fin Dome via Dollar Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

We moreover contemplated stopping at Arrowhead Lake, but we were so tropical to Rae Lakes that we kept on trucking. We finally arrived at Middle Rae Lake. The trail hugged the edge, and we began to scout for a campsite.

There are a ton of sites spread out all virtually the east whet of Middle Rae Lake, including a tuft of sites near the Ranger station with a withstand locker. While we normally went for the off-the-beaten-path sites, this time we chose a site that was a little closer to other groups. We just couldn’t resist this view.

By 1:30pm, we had once eaten lunch and gotten our tent set up. Record speed, and we couldn’t have been happier. We headed lanugo to the waterfront in front of zany where there was a sandy archway to the lake. We dove in and had the rest of the day to swim (Rae Lake surprisingly wasn’t as unprepossessed as some of the other lakes on JMT) and sunbathe. As the sun went down, we cooked dinner and enjoyed the evening light over Glen Pass and the Painted Lady where we would be headed the next day.

If you have some uneaten energy in your legs, consider taking a side hike up to the Sixty Lakes basin. You can either set up zany at Rae Lakes and hike with just a light day pack or if the Rae Lakes are too crowded, take your backpack; youll likely have the unshortened Sixty Lake basins to yourself. As you escalade the 2.3-mile long trail, the views when over the Rae Lakes and the Painted Lady are astounding. This was one of Marys favorite detours off the JMT. 

A man looks lanugo over Rae Lakes from the Sixty Lakes Valley Trail
Rae Lakes from the Sixty Lakes Valley Trail | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Day 18 – Middle Rae Lake (Mile 175) to Flower Lake

Thanks to the spectacular skyline at sunrise, we had a lazy morning and got a late start out of camp. We finally hit the road and made our way by Upper Rae Lake and the Painted Lady.

Then we started to climb up Glen Pass. I think the views as you climb Glen Pass are some of the weightier on the trail, although its a challenging pass. The colors of the lakes unelevated the Pass were mesmerizing.

A man hikes lanugo Glen Pass on the JMT
Glen Pass | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Shortly without the pass, we came to the junction that led to Kearsarge Pass. This was the moment we had been dreading for days considering we had to get off the JMT to go pick up our last resupply at Onion Valley. This was a 14-mile detour…and we were NOT happy well-nigh it. We were moreover not stoked to be heading toward our second pass of the day.

Frustrated, we hung a left up towards Kearsarge Pass and once then started to climb. As soon as we got these views of Bullfrog Lake unelevated the trail, we decided that maybe it wasn’t so bad without all.

Next, we passed Kearsarge Lakes. We heard there were some nice spots to zany lanugo there, although there had been reports of withstand worriedness in the area.

After making it to the top, we were on the home strtch. Only 3.5 miles to our resupply box, which had been left for us by TK Company in a withstand box at the trailhead*.

Mary moreover resupplied at Onion Valley and loved the hike over the pass. She camped at the far end of Kearsage Lakes, one of her favorite campsites of the trip.

*Important Note: Food caches are no longer unliable to be left in the withstand boxes at the trailhead, but there are several options for resupplying at Onion Valley. For info, see our blog post How To Resupply on the John Muir Trail.

A man dives in Kearsarge Lake on the John Muir Trail
Kearsarge Lakes | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Section 4: Kearsarge Pass to Mt. Whitney

Day 19 – Flower Lake to Upper Vidette Meadow (Mile 182.4)

When we started out on Day 19, it looked like it was going to be flipside trappy day in the Sierras, but the weather quickly turned as we made our way to the top of Kearsarge Pass. Something that we learned is that the weather can turn in an instant up there. While we were very lucky throughout our trip, it’s hair-trigger that you have easy wangle to whatever suit you need to be comfortable. For me, that was my raincoat and sometimes rain pants.

We reconnected with the John Muir Trail at mile 179.4, and for the rest of the afternoon we experienced on-and-off rain as we descended lanugo into Vidette Meadow.

During lunch, we got unprotected in a downpour and shortly without we decided to stop and set up shop. We were feeling wet and tired and with Forester Pass just ahead, we didn’t want to risk ascending in the storm. So we found a nice riverside spot for our tent in Upper Vidette Meadow and hid out for a couple of hours while the rain passed. 

Note: This is a worldwide predicament on the JMT: either hike in the rain or set up zany early. On a few occasions, Mary hid out in her tent for a few hours during the height of an afternoon rainstorm, and then once it cleared, she packed up and hiked a few increasingly miles surpassing nightfall. Which tactic you use will depend on the weather, the terrain (youll want to stave gaining elevation during storms), and your overall worthiness to stay warm, dry, and positive in a downpour. 

Flower Lakes at sunrise. The sun reflects on the granite mountain in the background
Flower Lakes at sunrise

Day 20 – Upper Vidette Meadow (Mile 182.4) to Wright Creek (Mile 197.9)

I had mixed feelings waking up on Day 20. hat day we would be tackling Forester Pass. The biggest and winnowed pass of them all…or at least that was the rumor on the trail. I was a little bit nervous, but waking up to those undecorous skies I had a feeling it was going to be a good day. 

The top of Forester Pass sits at 13,110 feet and marks the official verge between Kings Pass National Park and Sequoia National Park. Quickly without leaving Upper Vidette Meadow, we emerged whilom the tree line and slowly made our way up the talus trail. We were surprised to find that yes, Forester Pass was long. But it really wasn’t any harder than any of the other passes we had encountered.

Two backpacking packs leaned versus an "entering Kings pass National Park" sign at the top of Forester Pass
Forester Pass | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

We hung out on the top and soaked it all in surpassing going lanugo the other side into Sequoia National Park. Once we descended, the trail zig-zagged lanugo the waterless terrain with expansive views of the Kaweah subrange off in the distance.

We remained whilom the treeline for several miles south of Forester Pass. Just surpassing the junction with the Lake South America trail (Mary recommends this 6.2-mile round trip detour to the headwaters of the mighty Kern River!), we decided to unravel for lunch. Shortly without lunch, we found our first sign indicating the loftiness to Mt. Whitney. It started to seem very surreal that we only had 2 days left on our trip.

We didn’t have a real plan well-nigh where we wanted to zany that night, so we just kept trucking along. Next, we hit Bighorn Plateau, a unappetizing sandy landscape at 11,430 feet. I would have loved to zany on the small swimming that is up there, but the clouds looked a little unpredictable, and we well-set that staying up there wasn’t the weightier idea.

Bighorn Plateau is moreover where you reservation your first glimpse of Mt. Whitney. It was nonflexible to believe we’d soon be standing on top of it.

By the time we decided to stop for the day at Wright Creek, we’d hiked well-nigh 15.5 miles. It’s wondrous how far we had come since day 1 in terms of our abilities. I remember struggling to make 8-10 miles a day during our first week in Yosemite. As you go, your muscles, endurance, and conviction grows, and I felt pretty excited well-nigh the transformation I was experiencing.

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

Day 21 – Wright Creek (Mile 197.9) to Guitar Lake (Mile 206)

After the long day prior, we were excited that we only had to imbricate 8 miles on Day 21. This was moreover going to be our last night on the trail, so we really wanted to have some time to relax at zany and enjoy it. So we got an early start and enjoyed flipside view of the Kaweahs, which seemed so much remoter yonder coming lanugo from Forester Pass.

We arrived at Crabtree Junction around lunch. There is a ranger station there wideness the river, and we thought it would be a good idea to stop in and inquire well-nigh the weather forecast for that night and next day. We were pleased to hear that there was nothing but sun headed our way and that gave us some conviction for Whitney.

Soon we passed Timberline Lake and this meadow would be the last greenery we encountered until we came lanugo from Whitney the next day.

We arrived at Guitar Lake in the mid-afternoon and found all of the campsites were once in the shade. We wanted the sun! According to everything I had read, Guitar Lake was the last source of water surpassing Mt. Whitney, but the Ranger at Crabtree told me otherwise. He said there were a few ponds just up the hill from Guitar Lake where we could moreover camp, so we decided to alimony going in search of those rays.

We found pretty much the most epic campsite on the JMT. There was one other group of two camped wideness the small pond, but there was plenty of room for two parties there.

A backpacking tent set up versus the scenery of jagged granite peaks on the JMT
our last night on the JMT

We had several hours of hot afternoon sun surpassing it started to set. We were so happy that we unfurled on past Guitar Lake. Plus, we got to spend our last night watching an wondrous sunset. While the evening sky was pretty throughout our whole trip, there weren’t many nights where we had a perfect view of the sun setting over the horizon. We couldn’t have been increasingly thankful to end our last full day on the trail this way.

That night we went to bed early with the jitters, and I barely slept at all. In less than 12 hours we’d be standing on top of the tallest mountain in the lower 48 and soon without that, wed be washed-up with the JMT. It was a very strange feeling.

Day 22 – Guitar Lake (Mile 206) to Mt. Whitney (Mile 211)

We wanted to watch the sunrise from the top of Mt. Whitney. We had just over 3,000 feet to climb in well-nigh 4.5 miles, and we weren’t exactly sure how long that would take us. We moreover weren’t sure if we would be unauthentic by the altitude.  The ranger told us that 2:00 or 2:30am would be a good time to wake up, and sunrise would be well-nigh 6:30. To play it safe, we set our watchtower for 2:00 and packed up in a hurry. And off we went in the dark, led only by our headlamps.

Hikingup those switchbacks in the visionless was invigorating. We couldn’t tell how far we’d gone or how steep the cliffside was. The excitement and the brisk air kept us pushing ahead, while we thoughtfully kept our eye on the time.

Jagged rocky trail up to Mt Whitney at the end of the John Muir Trail
Mt. Whitney Trail | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

When we got to the Trail Crest, the side trail that leads to the summit, I think it was well-nigh 5:30am. We still had 2 miles and 1,000 feet to climb. We started to get nervous that we weren’t going to make it, so we decided to waif our packs at that junction since we would be passing by it then on the way down. I quickly grabbed my small daypack, some water, and an uneaten layer. Now running 30 pounds lighter, we were worldly-wise to pick up our pace as we raced the sun to the top.

Note: Dropping packs at Trail Crest is worldwide practice but alimony in mind that the marmots are keen on digging through packs for snacks! Make sure you put all snacks and scented items in your withstand canister and tightly tropical all zippers and buckles on your pack. There is a risk that a unswayable marmot will chew a slum through your pack! 

Dropping our packs ended up stuff an spanking-new decision. We arrived just surpassing 6:30, just in time to witness the velvety undecorous sky light up as the sun rose in the east over Death Valley. It was FREEZING unprepossessed up there, but the sunrise was everything we wanted it to be. I plane felt a little emotional up there. All that planning and all that hiking to get there. We did it. We were proud, excited, and sad. Lots of mixed emotions.

After the sun came up, we were so unprepossessed that we couldn’t really stay up there much longer. We tried to warm up in the hut but sooner decided to sign the register and throne when down.

A woman smiles at the summit of Mt Whitney at the end of a 3 week John Muir Trail thru-hike
on the summit of Mt. Whitney

Mary moreover elected to wake up at 2 am to hike up Mount Whitney for sunrise. But since she was hiking Northbound, she left her tent set up at Crabtree Meadows and hiked Whitney out and when with a light pack. Without climbing in the visionless and summiting at dawn, she detoured to Hitchcock Lakes for a victory swim on the way down. Hitchcock Lakes, located just vastitude Guitar Lake but slightly off trail, would be flipside spanking-new unorganized camping option for a SOBOers last night on trail. 

A man jumps into Hitchcock Lake a detour from the John Muir Trail
Hitchcock Lake | Photo Credit: Mary Caperton Morton

Overall, the hike lanugo from Mt. Whitney to Whitney Portal was unquestionably pretty difficult. You lose well-nigh 5,500 feet over 8 miles and it’s pretty tough on the knees. Make sure you have unbearable water and snacks to fuel you till the end. There are several spots to filter water on the way down. At the trailhead, youll find the Whitney Portal Store, which sells snacks, souvenirs, and legendarily huge victory pancakes. 

In the end, I hiked well-nigh 240 miles over 22 days, and Mary hiked over 300 miles in 27 days, including multiple side trips off the JMT. It was one of the most transformative trips of my life. We hope this 3 week JMT itinerary inspires you to plan your own thru-hike of this iconic trail!

Any questions well-nigh this 3-week John Muir Trail itinerary? Leave a scuttlebutt below!

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