The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile trail that runs through California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, from Yosemite National Park to Mount Whitney. Here are some interesting facts about the JMT noted by Backpacker Magazine:
The trail is named after the famous naturalist and conservationist John Muir, widely considered the “Father of the National Parks.” Here is our list of the 10 best John Muir Trail hikes, along with a brief description of each hike on the trail.
Table of contents
1. Muir Pass
Muir Pass is a spectacular hike on the John Muir Trail that takes hikers over a 12,000-foot pass in the Sierra Nevada. Offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers, making it one of the most iconic and beautiful hikes on the trail. The hike is a moderate 12-mile round-trip hike that climbs 3,200 feet in elevation. With its stunning views, wildflowers, and glaciers, Muir Pass is a must-hike for any outdoor enthusiast. Also, be sure to check out John Muir Hut, a stone shelter that serves as a backcountry refuge for hikers.
2. Half Dome
This iconic hike is one of the most popular on the John Muir Trail. The hike to Half Dome is a strenuous 14-mile round-trip hike that climbs 4,800 feet in elevation. Further, the final 400 feet of the hike requires cables to climb to the summit. The views from the top of Half Dome are truly spectacular and well worth the effort. It is one of the best hikes on the JMT for experienced hikers. Note: You must have a permit to hike this trail.
3. Yosemite Valley
The John Muir Trail passes through Yosemite Valley, one of the most famous and beautiful places in the Sierra Nevada. The valley offers a variety of hikes, including the Mist Trail, which takes hikers to the top of not-only Vernal and Nevada Falls, but also the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail, which leads to the top of Yosemite Falls. The Mist trail is about 7 miles round-trip, and it’s a favorite among JMT enthusiasts because of its views of the waterfall and granite cliffs.
4. Lyell Canyon
This section of the John Muir Trail offers hikers a relatively easy hike through a beautiful alpine meadow. The trail passes through the John Muir Wilderness and has views of the Lyell Glacier, the highest glacier in the Sierra Nevada. The hike to Lyell Canyon is a 8.5-mile round-trip hike that is relatively easy and suitable for novice hikers.
5. Thousand Island Lake
This takes hikers to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the Sierra Nevada. The trail to Thousand Island Lake is a moderate 10-mile round-trip hike that climbs 2,000 feet in elevation. The lake is surrounded by peaks, making for a truly amazing view. The hike is known for its beautiful alpine scenery and the crystal clear waters of the lake.
6. Donohue Pass
This hike takes you over one of the highest passes on the John Muir Trail. Donohue Pass sits at an elevation of 11,056 feet and offers hikers panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada. The hike to Donohue Pass is a strenuous 8-mile round-trip hike that climbs 2,800 feet in elevation. Moreover, it features panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada and the surrounding peaks.
7. Reds Meadow
This section of the John Muir Trail takes hikers through a beautiful alpine meadow, home to a variety of wildflowers and wildlife. The trail passes by several hot springs, making it a popular spot for hikers to rest and soak their feet. Also, the hike is relatively easy and suitable for novice hikers.
8. Evolution Basin
Featuring one of the most beautiful basins in the Sierra Nevada, the trail to Evolution Basin is a moderate 14-mile round-trip hike that climbs 2,500 feet in elevation. The basin is surrounded by peaks, making for several Instagramable moments. Once more, the hike is known for its beautiful alpine scenery and the crystal-clear lakes in the basin.
9. Mather Pass
Mather Pass sits at an elevation of 12,100 feet and offers hikers panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada. Equally important, the hike to the pass and back is a strenuous 12-mile round-trip hike that climbs 3,500 feet in elevation. In short, this hike’s not for beginners.
10. Mount Whitney
The John Muir Trail ends at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. The hike is considered one of the most challenging hikes on the John Muir Trail, but the views from the summit are truly breathtaking and well worth it. The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, and on a clear day, hikers can see as far as California’s Central Valley. Furthermore, the hike is known for its diverse wildlife and plant life. It is a must-hike for any JMT enthusiast and a great way to finish the trail. Also, a permit is required to hike Mount Whitney and is best obtained in advance.
In conclusion, these 10 best John Muir Trail hikes offer spectacular and diverse outdoor experiences. From iconic locations to serene alpine meadows, each hike offers unique and breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada and is a true testament to the natural beauty of the region.
Fun Outdoors Team
The FunOutdoors team is comprised of seasoned writers and editors with a passion for outdoor living.