These are Helpful Links:
* Best Map (I think this is the best one): http://amzn.to/JMT_MAP
* Planning Book (Descriptive and accurate): http://amzn.to/JMT_BOOK
* JMT's Most Essential Gear Item: http://amzn.to/trekkingpoles
* Blog: http://walkifornia.blogspot.com/2011/06/john-muir-trail-video-of-trail-from-mt.html
* Permit Help (Information for either direction): http://bit.ly/aQGIUJ
* Mileage: http://bit.ly/ak1INf
* Elevation Profile (Click on the Image and it expands): http://bit.ly/bodOxf
* Transportation from one trailhead to the other (best price): High Sierra Transportation 760.258.6060
Get in touch with me if you have questions about the John Muir Trail. I'm happy to help. Facebook Message: Ryan Commons
This is a summary of an October thru-hike on the John Muir Trail. I traveled seven days on foot from Whitney Portal to Yosemite and stuffed my camera with as much beauty as I could. Evening temperatures were below freezing each night and signs of winter were ever-present. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the story.
The John Muir Trail climbs out of Yosemite Valley northeast over the Cathedral Range to Tuolumne Meadows then descends into Lyell Canyon which it follows south, up Lyell canyon, to Donohue Pass (11,050' high), in the ridge which divides Yosemite National Park from the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Inyo National Forest. The largest glacier in the Sierras lies on the face of Mt Lyell.
Over Donohue Pass the trail descends into the valley of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, a wet region with many lakes and streams that attracts fishers (who need a permit from the State Fish and Game Department.) It descends to Shadow Lake, a famously-beautiful lake, then rises up over a ridge before descending to Devil's Postpile. The scenic Ritter Range, an old range whose rising preceded the rising of the Sierra forms the east wall of the valley. The soil changes from the rough grainy soil of eroding mountains to volcanic dust, a less pleasant soil to deal with keeping clean against, especially when wet.
At Devil's Postpile and Red's Meadow. A small National Monument, Devil's Postpile features the unusual formation of hundreds of hexagonal posts of basalt that had the opportunity to solidify without mixing, allowing them to freeze in hexagonal posts. A mile from Devil's Postpile lies Red's Meadow which has a campground (with a site for backpackers that always has room for one more), a hot springs plumbed into shower stalls providing free hot showers (perhaps after a wait for the water to get hot, especially the further down the pipes your stall. Wait for it.), a store (food but few supplies for hikers - it appears to serve fishers more) and cafe, both open 7 AM to 7 PM, and a shuttle bus goes to the town of Mammoth Lakes (round-trip: $8).
The trail climbs out of the valley of the Middle Fork through forest still burnt from the 1993 fire through a meadow, past Deer Creek, and then along the west face of the ridge above Cascade Valley to Duck Creek. From Duck Creek the trail ascends a ridge-point then descends into Purple Lake, then another ridge-point before descending into Lake Virginia. The trail descends steeply to Tully Hole, on a fork of Fish Creek, then gently to the head of Cascade Valley, where it crosses Fish Creek on a bridge and ascends another fork of Fish Creek past high rocky Squaw and Chief Lakes to Silver Pass on Silver Divide.
The trail descends Silver Pass past Silver Pass Lake, follows Silver Pass Creek to the North Fork of Mono Creek at Pocket Meadow, then descends to Quail Meadows, a mile east of Lake Edison. It crosses Mono Creek then rises steeply to Bear Ridge, follows the ridge then descends to the bank of Bear Creek. It follows Bear Creek, then its west fork, to its source, Marie Lake, then over Selden Pass.
The JMT now descends Selden Pass past Heart Lake, through a meadow to Sally Keyes Lakes, crosses Senger Creek and descends an exposed ridge to the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. About halfway down a trail that leads directly to Blayney Meadows and its hot spring meets the JMT. The JMT itself descends a little less steeply than that trail to the bank of the South Fork to where the Piute Creek joins the South Fork and the border with King's Canyon National Park.
The JMT continues up the South Fork, crossing it on bridges twice until it reaches Goddard Canyon, where it heads east steeply up into meadow-filled Evolution Valley. After passing through Evolution, McClure (ranger station here), and Colby Meadows it climbs to Evolution Lake, surrounded by many high mountains named after famous scientists who contributed to the theory of evolution, mountains popular with climbers. From Evolution Lake the JMT passes four more lakes before ascending to Muir Pass on the Goddard Divide. Muir Pass has a well-built stone shelter where stranded hikers can spend a night (no fires!).
The JMT descends past Helen Lake then follows the Middle Fork of King's River down to the meadows of Le Conte Canyon. After crossing Big Pete, Little Pete (ranger station at the south end of Little Pete Meadow), and Grouse Meadows it heads east along Palisade Creek to Deer Meadow, from which it ascends very steeply on a trail cut into the face of rock, sometimes with steps, to Palisade Lakes then up to Mather Pass.
From Mather Pass the JMT descends into the Upper Basin, a broad high basin covered with small streams and ponds, the beginning of the South Fork of King's River, then follows the South Fork until it turns southwest, at which point the trail crosses and begins to climb out of the valley. After leaving the valley the JMT comes to a pond and the Bench Lake Ranger Station, then passes three more ponds before coming to Lake Marjorie. After passing two more ponds it climbs to Pinchot Pass.
From Pinchot Pass the JMT descends to the North Fork of Woods Creek. It follows this fork into a steeply-walled canyon until just past the point where the South and North Forks of Woods Creek meet. Here the most impressive bridge on the whole JMT rises far above Woods Creek (at least in late summer) and crosses to a campground with bear-proof lockers on the south side. The JMT then climbs the South Fork of Woods Creek to Dollar, Arrowhead, and Rae Lakes, which have campgrounds with bear-proof lockers; Rae Lakes has a ranger station. Lots of fishers come to these lakes. Directly out of this valley the JMT climbs steeply up a rocky trail by a group of ponds to Glen Pass.
From Glen Pass the trail descends to near Charlotte Lake (home of the Charlotte Lake Ranger Station), then very steeply into Bubbs Canyon to Bubbs Creek and Vidette Meadow (Popular Vidette Meadow campground has bear-proof lockers and a ranger station.). The trail goes up along Bubbs Creek, fording many smaller creeks along the way, past a high lake, until it climbs Forester Pass (expect snow), on King's-Kern Divide, which divides King's Canyon from Sequoia National Parks.
Descending Forester Pass the JMT passes high ponds and lakes then Tyndall, Wright, and Wallace Creeks. From Wallace Creek it ascends gently through Sandy Meadow to Crabtree Meadow. Now the JMT leaves the Pacific Crest Trail at Whitney Creek, passes Crabtree Ranger Station, bypasses Guitar Lake, then a pond just past Guitar Lake, at which point it leaves water and vegetation behind. Now it climbs steeply to Trail Crest, the pass on the ridge which separates Sequoia National Park from Inyo National Forest, at which point the trail to Mt Whitney heads north.
The Forest Service has fixed up the cabin on the summit so one need not lie on the wet rocky floor. They have installed a toilet because the summit has no soil in which to dig a hole. One can spend the night; expect freezing temperatures and strong winds, a clear sky and more stars than anywhere else. Storms can get nasty.
To get down return to Trail Crest and head east down the hundreds of switch-backs to meet and follow Lone Pine Creek, pass Consultation, Mirror, and Lone Pine Lakes, Trail and Outpost Camps, to Whitney Portal, where sits a store and parking lot, and Lone Pine fifteen miles away.