Hiking the John Muir Trail

2 close college buddies of mine have resolved, after watching the documentary “Mile… Mile and a Half” to hike the John Muir Trail. If you haven’t heard of either the movie or the JMT, I recommend you check it out –

Movie trailer – https://vimeo.com/36675195
JMT Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Muir_Trail

The John Muir trail is one of America’s most famous and beautiful trails, stretching 211 miles in the Sierra Nevadas from Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park. It terminates in the south at the peak of Mt. Whitney – the highest peak in the contiguous United States and runs through some very famous scenery, near places like Mono Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, Devil’s Pile National Monument.

Around 1500 hikers attempt the trail each year, though not all of the complete it. The hikers in the documentary attempt to complete the trail in 25 days, but we’re going to do it in just 10. I personally need to start training and getting a decent amount of gear together for the attempt.

The permitting can be complicated and frankly difficult to obtain (70% of applications have historically been denied) but there are actually ways to guarantee that you can hike the trail in advance (without having to hope for the walk-in permits) so I thought I’d share some of our simplified version of how to get permits and what websites to use. This is an email I wrote to my buddies –

Here’s the different approaches (and I think we can practically guarantee we’ll get at least one as long as we spend a little bit of reservation money) –

1) Start at Yosemite. The application process seems to involve filling out a paper application and faxing it in every day, 24 weeks before you wish to actually hike. Today, March 13th – seems to correspond to August 28th. So we’re starting to get to the September application dates. There’s a max of 45 people who are allowed to hike

The paper application to fill out is here – http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/wildpermitform.pdf

2) Start at Devil’s Postpile. Devil’s Postpile is 51 miles south of Yosemite near Mammoth ski resort. It’s quite easy to book an entry permit here – you just do it online at http://www.recreation.gov/permits/Inyo_National_Forest_Wilderness_Permits/r/wildernessAreaDetails.do?page=detail&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72203

But unlike the Yosemite application, if you start here and you want to exit via Mt. Whitney (meaning go to the end of the JMT which involves climbing Mt Whitney at the end), you have to book an exit permit. There’s a max of 25 people per day who can exit via Mt Whitney. Booking the exit permit can be done online as well but you have to do it 24 weeks in advance (similar to the Yosemite paper app) so spots for the August 28th exit are opening up today.

1) Start at Mt. Whitney. To do this, we need to get involved in the Mt. Whitney lottery that closes March 15th. We can choose 15 dates and I will just choose a bunch of Fridays-Mondays in September for our start date.

Here’s the website – http://www.recreation.gov/permits/Mt_Whitney/r/wildernessAreaDetails.do?page=detail&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72201

2) Start at Kearsage Pass (Onion Valley Trailhead). This is 33 miles north of Mt Whitney. It’s super easy to get a permit that starts us here and ends in Yosemite – you just do it at the Inyo website above. However, if we wanted to visit Mt Whitney, we would have to first head south to Mt. Whitney, then double back north to the JMT. This permit though is easy – none of the exit quota or lottery nonsense involved.

Hopefully this is helpful for anyone else looking to hike the trail. Best, Space.


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