John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail is a renowned long-distance trail that winds its way through some of California’s most scenic terrain. The starting point for the trail is found in Yosemite National Park. From there, it extends for 210 miles, passing through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon National Park before ending at the summit of Mount Whitney. A significant portion of the John Muir Trail follows the same footpath of the longer Pacific Crest Trail, and the elevation in most spots is more than 8,000 feet.


The history of the John Muir Trail can be traced back to the late 1800s. A man named Theodore Solomons was among the early advocates for the construction of such a trail, having originally come up with the idea in 1884 when he was just 14 years old. Shortly after the founding of the Sierra Club in 1892 was when Solomons really began to advocate the construction of his desired trail. He explored the High Sierra region trying to come up with possible trail routes. In 1898, Joseph Nisbet LeConte picked up where Solomons left off, and the trail that was ultimately proposed was set to be called the High Sierra Trail. In 1914, the Sierra Club appointed a committee to work with the State of California to begin construction of the trail. Later that year, the famous environmentalist, John Muir, passed away. Muir was a founding member of the Sierra Club and served as its first president, and the proposed High Sierra Trail was renamed the John Muir Trail in his honor. Construction on the trail began in 1915. The entire project was completed 46 years later in 1961.

Hiking John Muir Trail

Hiking John Muir Trail
Hiking John Muir Trail  Image: May Honan (flickr)

The primary hiking season for the John Muir Trail is usually July through September. In years where the snowfall is heavy, snow may linger on the higher passes into the month of August, and this can affect the trekking challenges at some spots. In the early season, hikers might also have to contend with streams that are swollen with snowmelt. The conditions are less demanding on the whole later in the season. A permit is required to hike the JMT, and it can be obtained at the national park or forest that you begin your hike in. The permits are valid for the entire hike. Most people hike north to south along the John Muir Trail, and a full trek can be completed in about three weeks if you are hiking at a generous pace. Camping is the most readily available lodging option along the trail. Hikers can find some more substantial accommodations at such places as the Vermilion Valley Resort, though these are few and far between.

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