The John Muir Trail – 221 Miles


CA-CathedralLakeJMTPayge McMahon writes about her 221 mile adventure, backpacking The John Muir Trail in California, for Osprey Packs.

Direct Article Link: Osprey Packs – Hiking the John Muir Trail by Payge McMahon

The John Muir Trail

  • Aura or Ariel 65

I’ve backpacked all over the world and the JMT is my all time favorite!

Located in Northern California, this breathtaking trek takes you 221-miles, up and over 11 mountain passes, ranging from 9,703 ft. (Cathedral) to 14,496 (Mt. Whitney), for a total of a total of 84,000 feet of elevation gains and losses.

If you’ve ever wanted to trek the Pacific Crest Trail, but thought 2,650 miles was just a bit much, do the John Muir Trail instead! A 170 of the 221 miles are on the PCT and you will trek through the most beautiful national parks in the United States. From Yosemite Valley, the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Parks and up and over Mt. Whitney to Lone Pine, CA. Enjoy remote the wilderness from; rivers, blue lakes, waterfalls, forests, mountains, deer, marmots to the occasional bear – you will see it all.

The best time to go is from June – August. The trek is traditionally done in 14-21 days, and if preferred, can also be section hiked. Most start in Yosemite and go south, but if you want to get the hard elevation out of the way first, start in Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney and go north. Get your permits early, pack clothes for hot to freezing weather and plan your food wisely.

My hiking partner and I packed food for 10 days and each of our packs weighed about 45 lbs. we when started.

Backpack Contents  39971_152351784776348_5700647_n

(Divided between 2 backpacks)

1 – Bear Vault2 – Sleeping Bag +15F2 – Silk Sleep Liner2- Thermarest Neo-Air Sleeping Pad

1 – Tent

2 – Poncho

2 – Sarong (towel)

1 – Camera & Cell Phone with chargers

1 – SteriPEN

1 – Esbit Stove (+12 Fuel Cells)

1 – BHK Knife & Ferro Rod

1 – Lighter

2 – Spork

1 – Titanium Cup w/ Tin Foil

2 – Wet wipes

1 – Paracord

2 – 1.5L Camelback Hydration Bladder

2 – Liter Bottle

2 – Sets of Trekking Poles

1 – Journal1 – JMT Trail Book w/ Maps2- Convertible pants, tank or short sleeve top, long-sleeve shirt & fleece2 – Base layer (top/bottoms)

6 – Pairs of socks & Handkerchiefs

1- Sports Bra

2 – Soft Shell Jacket, Fleece Gloves, Hat & Visor

2 – Flip Flops

2 – Hiking shoes

10 – Mountain House Dehydrated Meals

2 – Packs of Tortillas

1 – Jar of Goobers (Peanut butter/Jelly mix)

20 – Cliff Bars & Granola Bars

20 – Fruit Wraps

1 – Bag of Trail Mix


There are a few places along the trail to resupply. You can buy food and mail provisions ahead of time to the general stores. Or you can opt to ‘scavenge,’ like we did. Many hikers mail themselves too much food and ‘donate’ what they don’t want to carry, in big barrels outside the resupply locations. These barrels are great! ‘Scavenge’ through the donated dehydrated meals, peanut butter, beef jerky etc., take what you want for free and save yourself money!

Best guidebook: “The John Muir Trail: Through the Californian Sierra Nevada (Cicerone Guide),” by Alan Castle.

Best Place for stop and resupply: Vermillion Valley Resort

While the term, ‘resort’ is being used loosely; this place is a backpackers’ oasis, located in the forest, on the west end of Lake Edison, at about the half-way point on the JMT. The VVR has a general store and rustic restaurant, where you have got to try the barbeque bacon cheeseburger. You’ll swear it is the best thing you’ve ever eaten!

Jim, the owner is helpful, friendly and so are the folks who work there. Showers and a washer are available to do laundry, and you can camp on the grounds or splurge a little and stay in one of the basic hotel rooms or even more nostalgic, one of the musty, trailers on-site. Cell phone reception is unlikely and electricity comes from a generator. At 9pm its lights out until 7 am the next day.   58244_157396370938556_7507020_n