Distance: 210 Miles
Average Completion: 2-4 Weeks
Typical Hiking Season: July – September
Typical Direction: North to South
Starting Location: Yosemite Valley
Finishing Location: Mount Whitney Summit
Highest Point: Mount Whitney, 14,505 Feet
Elevation Gain: 46,700 Feet
John Muir Trail
Basic Trail Information
Distance: 210 Miles
Links to Our Other JMT Pages
We’ve put together a lot of information about the JMT. On this page, you’ll find a general overview of the trail. Here are some links to our other pages that have other specific Information about the trail.
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range covering some of the most amazing backcountry terrains in the United States. Typically, hikers start their over 210-mile journey at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite National Park and hike south to the summit of Mount Whitney. The JMT runs mostly along the same trail as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), one of the most iconic thru-hikes in the world.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the official length of the JMT is 210.4 miles. The JMT is often regarded as being longer because the official end to the trail is at the summit of Mount Whitney and there is an additional 11 miles of hiking required to reach Whitney Portal, which is the most common finishing location for JMT hikers. Along the way hikers pass through Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, Inyo and Sierra National Forests, and the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas.
An interesting fact about the JMT is the lowest point of the trail is located at the northern terminus (Happy Isles Trailhead, Yosemite National Park) and the highest point is located at the southern terminus (summit of Mount Whitney). In the entire duration of the hike, there are 46,700 feet of elevation gain and an estimated 38,000 feet of decent. In total, there is close to 85,000 feet of elevation change.
As is true with most long-distance trails, the hiking season on the JMT fluctuates yearly and is largely dependent on the previous winter’s snowfall. Typically, hikers start hiking in July and go through December. Hikers who start in July will likely only encounter snow at the highest passes, if at all. It’s not unheard of to hike the trail outside of these times, it all depends on the experience that the hiker desires. Hikers who start earlier than July will likely encounter far more snow on the ground. Hikers who go beyond October will experience far colder temperatures and possible snowfall. Once the snow begins falling some of the resupply locations along the trail close. Although, if you dare to battle the possibly adverse conditions the trail will be much less crowded. Here are an interesting article and discussion about when to hike the JMT.
First, a little history about the man the trail is named after:
John Muir was born in Scotland in 1938. When he was 11 years old he immigrated to the United States and eventually attended the University of Wisconsin.
Muir was a major advocate for the establishment of the National Parks. He was an incredibly influential writer that wrote poetically about areas such as Yosemite, Sequoia, the Grand Canyon, and many others. His writings were extremely influential in the late 19th century in establishing these areas as National Parks. Because of his work, he is regarded as the “Father of our National Park System”.
In 1892 Muir founded the Sierra Club, an organization that is still one of the largest environmental activist groups in the world. Muir was the first president of the Sierra Club and led the organization for over 20 years.
The original idea for the John Muir Trail originates from Theodore Solomons. Solomons can best be described as an explorer and visionary.
Solomons spent years in the late 19th century exploring the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Yosemite and Whitney. By the early twentieth century, Solomons had been joined by several other explorers such as Joseph LeConte and Coit Brown, professors at Berkeley and Stanford respectively.
After John Muir died in 1914 other Sierra Club members searched for ways to honor his legacy and formed a committee that was to work with the State of California to acquire funding to construct a trail. The committee decided on the route that was surveyed by Solomon and his fellow explorers. The committee was able to acquire $10,000 from the State of California to begin construction of the trail which began in 1915. The State made additional contributions and funding for the trail was completed by the US Forest Service and National Parks Service. Construction of the trail was officially completed in 1938 which concluded a project nearly 50 years in the making.