The John Muir Trail is a 210(+) mile hiking trail in California from Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park to the summit of Mount Whitney. Much of the John Muir trail (about 160 miles) follows the path of the much much longer Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. The JMT runs along the backbone of the High Sierras, and was named to honor naturalist John Muir. Along the trail, hikers can expect to gain over 42 (or 44 or 46, depending upon your source) thousand feet of elevation gain. To put that in perspective, that’s about 1 1/2 times the height of Mount Everest.
The hiking season for the JMT varies from year to year depending upon snowfall, but most years it runs from early July through September. Most hikers tackle the hike from north to south (with the exception of PCT through hikers, who almost always go south to north). My husband, Andrew, and I plan to go north to south. We live in Madison, Wisconsin – elevation 846 feet. Mount Whitney, at the southern terminus is the highest point in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet. If we started off at Mount Whitney, I guarantee my butt would be on the ground every 8 steps and I’d probably have to turn around. To prevent altitude sickness, most people recommend sleeping above 8,000 feet several nights before attempting to summit. It just so happens that much of the trail is above this altitude.
Andrew was an Eagle Scout, and I, obviously, was not. I didn’t even start backpacking until 2013 after a particularly rough winter. But, I feel in love with it. I love being able to get away from my desk job and go where my own two feet can push me. And I love being able to see things that you can’t see otherwise. The JMT seems like the best trail that we can do that (1) is a true thru hiking experience, (2) has amazing views, and (3) we don’t have to quit our jobs to do. There’s a lot of work to do before we get to the trail, and I can’t wait to share it with you.