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Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
JMT on 10/03/2007 14:36:16 MDT Print View

I am planning to hike the John Muir Trail, if not next summer/fall then in 2009. The reason for my early planning is the exact reason for my post. I have not done an extended thru hike before and just wanted to get some specific and help from people who have.

For instance the best time of year, how long did it take, major resupplies and gear that worked and some that didn’t as well. I am planning on going with my father and maybe a few others and go from North to South. I do have experience in backpacking when I was in the Boy Scouts but mostly a couple years ago meaning my stuff is all old and heavy, another reason for the long plan ahead. I will need to slowly update my gear.

So any other needs I will need, or any advice would be greatly appreciated, I am sure there will be other questions that will arise as the discussion deepens. Thanks.


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
JMT on 10/03/2007 15:26:46 MDT Print View

First: be sure you're in shape physically to do this. There is a LOT of elevation gain and loss, Mount Whitney notwithstanding.

Second: Order a copy of "John Muir Trail" 4th edition, 2007, by Elizabeth Wenk and Kathy Morey, . It lays out the route from N to S and again from S to N. The included maps are not sufficient for land navigation.

Third: I'd suggest starting at Tuolumne Meadows and going west DOWN to Yosemite Valley. That way, your first day starts with 7.7 miles and all of the trail's 1320 feet of elevation gain, followed by 16.5 miles and 5,905 feet of downhill; which gets steeper as you approach Yosemite Valley. This will serve as a great shake-down hike and help get your body and gear ready for Donahue Pass and beyond. Get to TM by 3pm, pick up your permit, and stay at the backpackers' campground that night. It also gives anyone who can't take it the opportunity to bail either in the Valley or back at TM. There are two gear stores and a huge grocery store in Yosemite Village, one of which is a mountaineering shop. Ask the [free] shuttle bus driver where to get off if you need something.

When you call for your permit, explain what you want to do to the ranger. You may need a 2nd and separate Yosemite NP permit allowing you to go from TM down to YV. Do not get a PassThru permit; that will prevent you from camping in Little Yosemite Valley.

My son and I did this in August of this year, taking 2.5 liesurely days to cover the 24.2 miles. We camped at the head of Long Meadow (about 11 miles out), just past the Sunrise High Sierra Camp and again at the backpackers' campground in Little Yosemite Valley. While we could have easily made it all the way down on the 2nd day, we could not have gotten there in time to catch that all-important 5:00 pm YARTS bus back to Tuolumne Meadows, and Yosemite Valley is no place to be without a campground reservation during the tourist season. Besides, the scenery from LYV down is awesome and you'll want to take lots of pictures. Did I mention that it gets REALLY steep (16.5% downgrade) near the valley floor?

Take half a day to rest, eat, and explore Yosemite Valley (wall to wall people and very hot) before taking the bus back to TM. Spend the night in the TM backpackers' campground, and head up Lyell Canyon early the next morning, heading south towards Whitney.

You can leave supplies in one of the many bear boxes in the parking lot of the TM Wilderness Center - where you pick up your permit - so you won't have much in the way of food weight heading down to the valley. YARTS will get you back to TM in time to catch the last park shuttle to the Wilderness Center, where one of you can pick up your resupply from the bear box while the other grabs a site in the campground. Yes, the rangers do check permits and bear canisters there and elsewhere throughout the park.

Of course, if you don't mind a 16.5 mile 6000 foot uphill climb right out of the box, feel free to start from Yosemite Valley.

Resupply at:
1) Red's Meadow ($25 package fee) - or go into Mammoth Lakes which is far better but far more expensive. The shuttle bus fee is $14. It is possible to resupply from the store at RM but selection is limited. Mountain House Freeze-dried meals were available there this summer.

2) Muir Trail Ranch (1.5 days south of Vermillion Valley) so you don't have to climb those 57 switchbacks up Bear Ridge with a freshly-filled 8 or 9 day pack. MTR charges $45 to pack your resupply bucket in by pack train. See their website for details.

3) Independence or Onion Valley CG. If you are truly lucky and blessed by a friend or relative with nothing else to do, maybe they'll hike from Onion Valley CG up and over Kearsarge Pass to bring you a resupply at the PCT/JMT junction with the Kearsarge Pass trail; that'll save you a 9 mile each way down and back trip. They can even take your trash out with them. Be sure to say "thank you" and pay their expenses.


Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 10/03/2007 15:50:17 MDT.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
JMT on 10/03/2007 15:55:12 MDT Print View

I also hiked it with my son the last week in August and first week in September hiking north. In my opinion the passes are easier hiking north. E.g we did Forester from it’s base in 45 minutes whereas hiking up from Vidette Meadow will take several hours if not most of the day. Additionally hiking south will put the sun in your face all day whereas it will be behind you all day heading north. On the other hand, if you want to avoid going into town to pick up food, there are more re-supply points early in the hike starting in the north allowing you to become somewhat conditioned before taking on a big load to finish up the trip.

Echoing Bob’s advice, go light. I had too much food to take my smaller pack and did not have enough gear to fill up my larger GoLite Trek so I took a Gregory Z pack weighing 3 ½ pounds. I wish I hadn’t done that. Looking back I could have reduced my pack load significantly if I had just taken a little bit of care.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: JMT on 10/03/2007 16:21:42 MDT Print View

Well, I have bought the book you describe and will continue to read it. I also believe I am in fairly decent shape as we did the day hike to Yosemite this summer, which is actually what inspired me to do the JMT, however I will obviously train on that as well.

My main questions were just personal accounts of what worked and what didn't work, shoes,stove, tent, clothes. That type of thing or when during the season is the best time to go for weather and bugs information like that.

Although thanks to the both of you for your replies, it sure got me thinking since I live closer to Yosemite it may be better to go S - N.

Thanks, Z

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
JMT on 10/03/2007 17:55:26 MDT Print View

IMO, the biggest downside to going from north to south is the immediate, right off the bat steep climb up to Whitney from the Portal. Note that I have never done it and never would; I've only read about it for many years.

A viable alternative would be to start from Onion Valley CG, climb up to the PCT/JMT, and go south to Whitney. You would have to make that long climb up the north side of Forrester Pass that John mentioned. After Whitney, you get to go DOWN to Whitney Portal, resupply, return to Onion Valley, climb up to the JMT again, and go north.

Another purely north-bound alternative would be to start from Horseshoe Meadows campground at 9900 feet, climb the Cottonwood Pass Trail for 4 miles up to the PCT at Cottonwood Pass at 11,160 feet, and go do Whitney that way. It means a 10 mile backtrack from Whitney to the PCT/JMT and another 2 days on trail, but it would ease you into the elevation gain - think of it as another body and gear shake-down hike. Allow 5 days from HSM to Onion Valley - or that dear friend who hikes up to meet you.

Sean - You really need to register with BPL so folks can PM you for an email address to which they can send you documents and/or info rather than load up this forum.

There is also a Yahoo JMT Group:


Edited by wandering_bob on 10/03/2007 18:01:41 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: JMT on 10/03/2007 18:36:40 MDT Print View

Hi Sean,

First and foremost just do it. I have about 8 years experience backpacking (probably 10 bag nights a year) and had a long trip of 4 days prior to hiking the JMT last month. Being out for an extended period of time where the start is a distant memory and the finish is too far away to think about is a liberating experience.

The second bit of advice is to take a few 0 days on the trail to just enjoy being in what I consider to be the most beautiful place on earth (no I don't what to debate this). I got this from the whiteblaze AT hikers in an article on the things they wish they had done on their hikes. It makes good reading.

Stop in at VVR. Others have suggested resupplying at Muir Trail as its a couple days less food you have to carry up Whitney. And that's fine, but the friends I met at VVR are one of the most memorable parts of my hike. It's a unique atmosphere that is worth the experience. When I go again I will likely resupply at Muir Trail but still go into VVR. However, if your goal is to get away from people than this won't work. Of course if that's your goal the JMT as one of the most heavily used trails in the world isn't the ideal place.

If you have remote interest in fishing take a fishing pole. I figure I ate at least 40 trout on my hike, easily covering the weight of my rod and making my diet a lot more interesting.

A tarp is great for the sierras. I took a gatewood cape. This was my first experience with tarp camping and it was a good one. I got hit with a couple of thunderstorms. One started in the middle of the night and lasted to 12 the next day. I felt as warm, dry, and secure under the tarp as I have under any tent. I did have condensation issues a couple of nights, but the sun always came out in the morning so it was easy to dry out.

The big thing that I would change is that I didn't take trekking poles. It had never been an issue on previous weekend trips, but after the continuous pounding over a couple of weeks my feet were really sore. Definitely take some sticks.

Have great time whenever you end up going.


Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: JMT on 10/04/2007 11:32:11 MDT Print View

Thanks again for the wonderful insight and responses. Wandering Bob, I thought I was registered with BPL but I will look into that so people can email me. Thanks for the heads up.

I will also check out the Yahoo group.

I will have to check into more specifics about the route and choose which I would rather do, and also into those resupplies listed. I was thinking about taking a leisurely pace, considering I probably wouldn't be able to take many trips of this length and I would want to enjoy the time I did have. A few 0 days is probably a good suggestion.

I will keep researching and I am sure I will have a good time, any other insight is welcomed thanks.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
your JMT may differ on 10/06/2007 18:41:04 MDT Print View

The jmt was my first long hike when I went solo in '05.
Here's my photo journal:

My only advice is to be in good shape and get comfortable with your gear. The style of hiking recommended by bob above is entirely opposite of mine. I started down in the valley, took a detour to avoid Tuolumne, only resupplied once. It was terrific. Find your own way to walk.
Good luck.
- k

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
pictures on 10/08/2007 09:21:30 MDT Print View

The jmt was my first long hike when I went solo in '05.
Here's my photo journal:

My only advice is to be in good shape and get comfortable with your gear. The style of hiking recommended by bob above is entirely opposite of mine. I started down in the valley, took a detour to avoid Tuolumne, only resupplied once. It was terrific. Find your own way to walk.
Good luck.

Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
South to North - North to South on 10/08/2007 18:28:33 MDT Print View

I guess the traditional route is from Yosemite to Whitney, N to S. This summer we did a trip to Whitney starting at Cottonwood and out Whitney Portal. A quick 3 day trip. After descending the front side to the Portal we all decided that we had the right route. The trip from the Portal up is brutal. I would not want to do that on a full first day pack.

I would even go as far to say that if I wanted to go S to N I would leave again from Cottonwood, hike up to Whitney from Crabtree and come back out and continue the trip. This way you also bag part of the PCT. I am planning on doing a thru hike with my boys in 2 years as we are going to the BSA camp in Philmont July, 08. The JMT is a goal of ours.

Martin Wilde
( - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: JMT on 10/08/2007 22:53:49 MDT Print View

I agree with Nia - I completed the JMT this summer in 18 days and throughly enjoyed it. I won't debate Nia either - it is my opinion the most beautiful place on the earth.

Having a zero day at VVR was very restfull - while I got bored sitting around - it was still fun and a good opportunity to clean gear and talk to other hikers doing the same thing. I met many great people there and the staff is friendly and courteous and they enjoy talking to hikers also. While a bit spendy - it is not Denny's and the food is very good.

I used all 4 resupply spots and enjoyed not having to carry a heavy pack until the last 7 days out of Muir Trail Ranch. By that time I was conditioned and really did not notice the heavy load the next day - in fact I did my longest days with heavier pack (17 and 21 miles) the next two days out of MTR. Yes it is a little bit of a coordination effort to pack and ship the 4 shipments - but worth it in the long run. Make sure you give plenty of time to allow your shipments to arrive. It can typically take 2 to 3 weeks to get them delivered to VVR or MTR since they are remote.

Train hard for the trip and that will make it easier in the end. Depending on how you adapt to altitude - most people recommend you take it easy the first few days on the trail to let your body adapt. Thus starting at Happy Isles (4000') and climbing over 3 days up to Donahue Pass (11,200') gives you a a better chance to adapt if needed. North to South as mentioned is the traditional way and allows you to adapt easier to the altitude.

Good trail shoes with a stiff sole is my recommendation. The rocks are pretty brutal on your feet. I used Montrail Hardrocks and had just minor sore feet each day. Many of the PCT'ers have commented that they switch to a stiffer sole for the Sierra's to keep their feet from getting beat up.

Another great source of information is There are several years of folks thru-hike journals there on the JMT that I found very valuable when planning my hike.

Enjoy and have a great time...


Edited by on 10/08/2007 22:57:44 MDT.