The "Golden Staircase," the section up Palisade Creek to Mather Pass, was the last section of the current JMT to be completed, in 1938. Prior to that time, there were apparently a couple variations. One route reportedly branched south down the Middle Fork of the Kings River, then up Cartridge Creek and over Cartridge Pass to join the current trail in the Bench Lake Area. Another was a longer detour; from "Pathway in the Sky, The Story of the John Muir Trail," by Hal Roth:
"Before the trail was built up Palisade Creek and over Mather Pass, travelers had to detour a long distance west and south from the crest, going down the Middle Fork of the Kings River to Simpson Meadow, climbing over Granite Pass, dropping to the South Fork of the Kings, and ascending Paradise Valley back to the John Muir Trail, a detour of almost 50 miles from the highest peaks."