By Michael Lanza

For many serious backpackers, a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail looms as a sort of holy grail. But every JMT aspirant inevitably faces the question: How do you plan a 221-mile hike of “America’s Most Beautiful Trail?” Besides preparing physically for it, a JMT thru-hike poses myriad logistical and organizational challenges, from obtaining one of the country’s most sought-after wilderness permits to choosing an ideal time of year, the itinerary and number of days to take, gear, food resupplies, transportation, acclimating to elevations commonly between 9,000 and over 13,000 feet, and other details.

And, of course, you also want to know: Where are the best campsites along the JMT?

This article offers information and tips regarding some critical planning details for thru-hiking the JMT—unquestionably one of America’s 10 best backpacking trips. It draws on my JMT experience as well as thousands of miles of backpacking all over the country over the past three decades, including numerous trips in the High Sierra, as a past Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine and many years running this blog.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A hiker on the John Muir Trail below Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Heather Dorn hiking the John Muir Trail below Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/JMT1-12-Heather-Dorn-on-JMT-below-Cathedral-Peak-Yosemite..jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/JMT1-12-Heather-Dorn-on-JMT-below-Cathedral-Peak-Yosemite..jpg?fit=426%2C640&ssl=1″ width=”426″ height=”640″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/JMT1-12-Heather-Dorn-on-JMT-below-Cathedral-Peak-Yosemite..jpg?resize=426%2C640&ssl=1″ alt=”A hiker on the John Muir Trail below Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park.” class=”wp-image-9304″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/JMT1-12-Heather-Dorn-on-JMT-below-Cathedral-Peak-Yosemite..jpg?w=426&ssl=1 426w, https://i2.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/JMT1-12-Heather-Dorn-on-JMT-below-Cathedral-Peak-Yosemite..jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w” sizes=”(max-width: 426px) 100vw, 426px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Heather Dorn hiking the John Muir Trail below Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park.

Two friends and I completed our JMT thru-hike in an admittedly insane seven days, hiking ultralight and averaging 31 miles per day. (The JMT spans 211 miles, but its southern end is atop Mount Whitney, where you still must hike over 10 miles downhill to finish the trip.) While the pre-trip prep proved time-consuming, it came together smoothly and we had a very successful—and quite memorable—trip.

Want to save a lot of time and ensure your JMT hike goes as well as possible? See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan a JMT hike. At the bottom of that page you’ll find many comments from people who’ve received my custom trip planning service, including a reader named Lauren who wrote: “Michael helped me plan my solo JMT thru-hike, and the process was beyond what I expected.
Did you miss our previous article…
https://www.mansbrand.com/the-surface-of-the-moon-is-electrically-charged-which-could-allow-a-hovering-robot-to-explore-it/

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