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Family of Five on the John Muir Trail - Segments?
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Michael Moomaw
Family of Five on the John Muir Trail - Segments? on 04/30/2013 13:59:58 MDT Print View

We are planning an August 8 day family backpacking trip on the John Muir trail. What segments of the JMT are must see and what parts should we avoid? There are a lot of segments and I am having a hard time choosing based on the literature.

Background: It will be my wife and I and our three kids, 16, 13 and 11. We are going to go as UL as we can afford and we have four training trips planned on the East Coast. Still I will plan fairly modest daily mileage. The 16 year old and I have been on long trips in the Wind Rivers a couple of times and lots of trips in the East.



Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
JMT Segment for 8 days on 04/30/2013 14:29:46 MDT Print View


Hmm. 8 days on the JMT. Can you provide a little bit more information about the milage you plan to do per day?


Edited by Orienteering on 04/30/2013 14:31:07 MDT.

Michael Moomaw
Mileage on 04/30/2013 14:45:23 MDT Print View

Manfred, It will depend on the elevation changes but it will definitely be modest. My 16 year old son can go all day with quite a load but the 13 and 11 year old girls aren't quite there yet. 7-10 miles a day might be a good estimate.

On our first training hike this last weekend we walked 7 miles and 4.5 miles on the AT with full gear. We have three more training hikes before we fly West so I will know better as we go through the Summer.


Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
JMT on 04/30/2013 15:04:56 MDT Print View

Most people say that one of the real highlights of the JMT is from Tuolumne Meadows through Lyell Canyon to Thousand island lake...and out at Agnew Meadows. We certainly thought it was wonderful. And if it doesn't take you all eight days, there are plenty of places to explore around that route...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: JMT on 04/30/2013 15:24:37 MDT Print View

I agree with Paul. That stretch of trail is good and scenic, but it is not the toughest.


Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Permit? on 04/30/2013 15:32:50 MDT Print View


August is coming up fast and quotas for many JMT trailheads are filled right when they become available (168 days in advance). Do you intend to try for a walk-in permit? That will be a little harder with 5 people.


Edited by Orienteering on 04/30/2013 15:33:56 MDT.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
More questions to find the best JMT segment on 04/30/2013 15:55:59 MDT Print View


You are one lucky guy that your whole family will go with you on an 8 day trip. Do your wife and your kids have special interests you want to take into consideration? Fishing? Waterfalls? Hot Springs? Peak Bagging? Based on these there are different segments and even other alternatives you might want to consider. Think about the following.

1) Would your family want to see Yosemite as part of the trip?
2) Would they want to climb Half Dome or see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls?
3) Would your family rather avoid the tourist crowds and enjoy solitude?
4) Would your family want to climb Mt Whitney (highest mountain in the lower 48)?
5) Would your family want to soak in a natural hot spring?

Here is a trip report from our last JMT (we have done it three times now) May be the photos give you some ideas of what you and your family would like to see.


Edited by Orienteering on 04/30/2013 15:58:21 MDT.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Some options to consider on 04/30/2013 21:49:45 MDT Print View


without any further information I will just throw out three options. There is no particular order. Of course you can reverse each route if you want to switch ascent and descent)

1) Happy Isles to Red's Meadow (53.4 miles, 13,417 ft ascent, 9,838 ft descent)
You see Yosemite Valley, pass Half Dome (you might even climb it with some family members), walk thru beautiful Lyell Canyon, see Thousand Island Lake with Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak and end your trip with visiting Devil's Postpile National Monument.

2) South Lake to Florence Lake (48.0 miles, 8,661 ft ascent, 11,529 ft descent)
You hike over Bishop Pass into LeConte Canyon, hike by the beautiful Pete Meadows and make your way up to iconic Muir Hut on top of Muir Pass. Take a couple of steps of the JMT at the north end of Evolution Lake to see the waterfalls from the lake down into Evolution Valley. Continue your journey through Evolution Valley and don't forget to look back when at McClure Meadow - the view is fantastic, especially at sunset. Leave the JMT at Muir Trail Ranch and cross over the San Joaquin River to soak in the Hot Springs in Blaney Meadow for your last night. Finish your trip at Florence Lake (you can even take the ferry across if you want to shorten the hike by roughly 5 miles)

3) Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (43.1 miles, 13,493 ft ascent, 14,370 ft descent)
Climb over Kearsage Pass to the JMT, enjoy the view from the highest pass on the JMT (Forester Pass at 13,200 ft), cross the unique Bighorn Plateau and climb Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48.

3a) Baxter Pass to Whitney Portal (54.5 miles, 19,414 ft ascent, 17,112 ft descent)
If you want to add the beautiful Rae Lakes to option 3.

There are other options that are very popular like doing the Rae Lakes Loop or hiking the High Sierra Trail that overlap partially with the JMT.

Have fun out there!


Michael Moomaw
JMT - Thanks for the information! on 05/01/2013 14:01:25 MDT Print View

Guys, Really appreciate the help. This is just what I needed. Processing now.

Manfred, This is especially helpful. I think we are going to skip the Yosemite Valley this time. Amazingly, I have the family fired up to do some backpacking so we will do Yosemite when we are in CA car camping some time in the future. Several of your other suggestions sound awesome.

Now to get to work before all the permits are gone (or if its too late - to find other ways)!


Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
permit problems on 05/01/2013 16:46:12 MDT Print View

I'm betting that you are not going to find permits, so you might think of other routes that are easier to get permits.

The Wind Rivers require sign in as you enter, no quota on permits as far as I know.

I know of a great 8 day hike in the Sawtooths of Idaho.

Also the White Clouds of Idaho.

Michael Moomaw
RE permit problems on 05/01/2013 16:50:15 MDT Print View

Thanks Bob. We have five round trip tickets DC to San Fran so we are going to have to figure something out.


Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Try Agnew Meadows to Yosemite if you have problems getting a permit on 05/01/2013 20:10:08 MDT Print View

We went out of Agnew Meadows near Mammoth a couple of years ago and had no problem getting a permit. There are three trails leaving the area heading towards Donahue Pass-the JMT, the High Sierra Trail, and the River Trail. We took the River Trail which is very gradual with nice views of Mammoth Mountain but you miss the lakes before Thousand Island Lakes.

This year you should have very little snow in the way.

Michael Moomaw
Got Permits - Rush Creek on 05/31/2013 12:39:04 MDT Print View

Great news! Thanks to your help and a bunch of searching my family of 5 now has Overnight permits for 9 nights out of Rush Creek (

Rush Creek is pretty central so we can go West down through Yosemite or South toward Mammoth. Right now we have a route existing Happy Aisle but we are having fun looking at all the options.


Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
YARTS stop at Rush Creek TH on 05/31/2013 20:22:37 MDT Print View

One of the stops on the YARTS (Yosemite Area Rapid Transportation System) route is Rush Creek trail head parking lot. So whether you hike out at Mammoth or Yosemite you can hop on the bus and get back to your car - perfect.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Rush Creek option on 06/02/2013 12:07:08 MDT Print View

Oh! If you're starting at Rush Creek, the two obvious options (to me) are:

1. NORTHBOUND. Agnew Pass to River Trail (southbound for a bit) to Garnet or Shadow/Ediza Lakes; then northbound on the JMT.

1a) Go slowly, do lots of layover/side trips. Side trips are AMAZING in this area - Ediza and Iceberg Lakes; west ends of Garnet & Thousand Island Lakes; basins containing Davis, Marie, and Lost Lakes; Lyell Glacier; Ireland Lake. Exit Tuolumne.

1b) Go faster. Fewer side trips. Exit Happy Isles.

Personally I don't find the section from trail from Tuolumne to Half Dome (Option #1b) to be very interesting, especially compared to all the gem lakes on the side trips in #1a. But you do get to see Half Dome and Nevada Falls. On the other hand, as you said, you could save Nevada Falls and Half Dome for a separate trip involving a visit to Yosemite Valley and a day-hike from there.

2. SOUTHBOUND. Pass Waugh Lake and Island Pass, then go southbound on the JMT, slowly visiting some of the lakes listed in #1a, as far south as Tully Hole. Exit over McGee Pass. The McGee Pass trail is absolutely stunning (and will offer two days of solitude after your time along the JMT Highway). It is pretty easy to organize a shuttle between Rush Creek and McGee Pass trailhead; I can highly recommend Rolf from Mammoth Shuttle:

A downside to #2 is that the section of the JMT just before and just after Reds Meadow (a few miles in each direction) is kind of hot and tedious, including a trek through a burnt-out area just south of Reds. Try to start southbound out of Reds first thing in the morning, when it's still cool.

- Elizabeth