John Muir Trail

  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user jdn
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user MiguelVieira
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user brookpeterson
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles
  • Nevada Falls - © By Flickr user Alaskan Dude
  • John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Mat Honan

Key information: John Muir Trail

    • The John Muir Trail passes through the beautiful, unspoilt wilderness of three of western USA's National Parks.
      • Unbelievable views in places, especially around Yosemite, and inspiring throughout.
        • This trail is the makings of a serious adventure - but most people chose to do a section of it, the most popular being the opening stages from Yosemite.
          • This is a high trail (averaging above 3,000m) in remote mountains on which you will have to be self-sufficient, camping and carrying all your food. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating86
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating86
  • Note: Negs: Heavy loads to carry

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 354km
  • Up to 20 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,421m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Mat Honan

WALK SUMMARY

The John Muir Trail, named after the famous pioneering environmentalist, runs along the spine of the Sierra Nevada range of northern California. Muir followed this route, in 1869, some 211 miles from the Happy Isles trailhead at Yosemite south to the summit of Mount Whitney.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada were referred to as the "Range of Light" by Muir, and contain an extraordinary array of the most outstanding scenery. This is many peoples' favourite hike - anywhere.

The trail meanders through three national parks, one national monument (the Devil's Postpile) and two wilderness areas, home to many animals and birds - ncluding black bears, coyotes, wolverine, mule deer, bighorn sheep, marmots, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls. It is definitely worth taking a pair of binoculars. Beware: the bears can be troublesome and potentially dangerous. Be sure to keep all your food stored in bear-proof containers.

This is a long trek of varying heights, for which one must allow approaching weeks to hike the whole trail. 

The route is not, however, especially difficult as it was engineered for pack animals, with no real scrambling unless you make the side trip to Yosemite's Half Dome.

Most people tackle sections of the trail only, mainly in the north, where entry and exit are easiest. The northernmost sections (from Yosemite) are the most popular (and therefore most crowded).

Once away from Yosemite, the trail passes through genuine wilderness for days on end, with no signs of humanity other than walkers, so you will be camping and carrying many days' food; this is hard work, although at least the trail isn't excessively tough. That said, it is well walked, both on its own account and because it shares a lot of its way with the endless Pacific Crest Trail [link].

The trail reaches 4,421m at the top of Mount Whitney, and averages a bit over 3,000m. Most of it is over 3,000ft.

It is possible to make supported expeditions, but this is rarely done.

A lot of people don't have the time (or desire) to walk the entire trail, but take on more digestible portions, exiting on trails to roadheads (at some of which there are seasonal buses). These include options of going out from Yosemite to Tuolumne Meadows, Red Meadows on the Muir Trail Ranch, or from one of these intermediate points onward (to avoid the Yosemite crowds), including on to the Le Cante Canyon. We strongly recommend the Cicerone, which is both inspiring and very practical. 

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user Rick McCharles

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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John Muir Trail - © By Flickr user brookpeterson...
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