Mount Hitchcock and Hitchcock Lakes from Trail Crest

The John Muir Trail Interactive Guide

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Planning your John Muir Trail adventure can be quite challenging due to its remote and lengthy nature. Spanning 210 miles without encountering any towns, resupplying for food can pose a significant challenge. Additionally, securing permits can be a daunting task, as the JMT ranks among the country’s most popular trails. Nevertheless, with meticulous planning, the John Muir Trail offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I’m Jordan, and this interactive guide is the resource I wish I had before embarking on my JMT journeys in 2010 and 2015. While I provide recommendations for planning your ideal trip, it’s important to note that each situation is unique. This guide empowers you to personalize every aspect of your journey, from choosing trailheads and campsites to arranging resupplies and transportation options.

When to go

John Muir Trail Calendar: July-August: popular starting dates; August - September: wildfires; before July 15: snow cover + high water crossings; after October 15: storms; July - August: mosquitoes
The best time to hike the John Muir Trail.

Most JMT hikers typically begin their journey in July or August. Starting the trail too early in the season, when the mountain passes are still blanketed in snow, can be hazardous and impractical. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that conditions vary from year to year. Some years may see snow-free passes as early as June, while in other years, snow can persist until September. Until most snow has melted you can expect streams to be at their highest level, making stream crossing hazardous.

During the early season when the snow is melting, mosquitoes can pose a nuisance. If you plan to hike in July or early August, I recommend packing long-sleeved shirts and pants to help protect against these pesky insects.

On the flip side, hiking later in the season comes with the risk of wildfires. Unfortunately, wildfires have been increasingly problematic in recent years, so it’s essential to stay informed and prepared for potential fire-related challenges during your journey.


Because permits are issued six months in advance (see below), it’s too early to know what the conditions will be in the summer. Therefore, I recommend checking the conditions a few months before your trip and adjusting your itinerary accordingly.

Plans change, so many people will cancel their permit. If you don’t mind planning at the last minute, you can try to snag a canceled permit. We can text you when we find permits.

Current conditions

Permits and trailheads

The first step in planning for the John Muir Trail is getting a hiking permit. Because the chances of winning a permit are low, I recommend waiting to get a permit before planning the rest of your trip.

A permit allows you to start your trip on a given date at a given trailhead and is valid throughout your trip. There are four major trailheads:

Map showing the major JMT trailheads: Happy Isles and Tuolumne Meadows in the north and Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Meadow in the south.
The four major trailheads.

Each trailhead has a different reservation process. The Happy Isles (traveling southbound) and Whitney Portal (traveling northbound) trailheads are the two “official” trailheads. Tuolumne Meadows or Horseshoe Meadows are popular alternatives with better odds of snagging a permit.

Here is how to apply for each permit:

Happy Isles

Official southbound trailhead


Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit

Entry point (as shown on

Happy Isles → Past LYV (Donohue Pass Eligible)


Tuolumne Meadows

22 mi shorter and skips Half Dome


Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit

Entry point (as shown on

Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass Eligible)


Whitney Portal

Official northbound trailhead


Mt. Whitney Permit

Entry point (as shown on

Mt. Whitney Trail (Overnight)


Horseshoe Meadows

5 mi longer and skips Mt. Whitney


Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit

Entry point (as shown on

Cottonwood Pass or Cottonwood Lakes



If you don’t want to carry too much food, you’ll probably need to resupply along the way. Most people pack at most one week’s worth of food. Even if you can carry more, it probably won’t fit in your (required) bear canister. Here are your resupply options:

Map showing the location of the resupply points along the JMT. From north to south, Tuolumne Meadows, Reds Meadow, Vermilion Valley Resort, Muir Trail Ranch, and Independence.
Resupply options along the JMT.


  • Vermilion Valley Resort is a favorite resupply stop, but it requires an extra 12-mile hike or a ferry ride.
  • For a 3-week trip, you’ll most likely need to resupply in Independence, which requires a 15-mile hike and a shuttle ride.

Tuolumne Meadows

Right off the trail


Store (camp food, fuel), post office

Learn more

May be closed in 2024

Red’s Meadow Resort

Right off the trail


Store (camp food, fuel), restaurant, campground, showers, resupply service

Learn more

Vermilion Valley Resort

12 mi round-trip or ferry ride


Store (camp food, fuel), restaurant, campground, showers, cabins, resupply service

Learn more

Muir Trail Ranch

Right off the trail


Store (fuel), cabins, resupply service

Learn more

Parchers Resort

27 mi / 6,000ft+ round-trip


Store (camp food, fuel), restaurant, showers, cabins, resupply service

Learn more


15 mi / 5,200ft+ round-trip + shuttle ride


Hotels, restaurants, post office, resupply service

Check out the Mt Williamson Motel for hiker services


Hikers usually take 19 days to complete the JMT, with an additional rest day (a.k.a. “zero-day”). The longer your trip, the more resupply stops you’ll have to make. Therefore, some hikers opt for a shorter trip (~15 days) to minimize resupply stops to a single one (in Muir Trail Ranch or Vermilion Valley Resort).

From Happy Isles
15 days
22 days
From Tuolumne Meadows
14 days
20 days
From Horseshoe Meadow
16 days
23 days
From Whitney Portal
15 days
22 days
Popular itineraries. Click to update the elevation chart below.


There are two popular side trips, Half Dome and Mt. Whitney. While Mt. Whitney is the terminus of the JMT, it adds a 4-mile detour when starting or ending at Whitney Portal, or a 16-mile detour when starting from Horseshoe Meadow.

The Happy Isles trailhead offers the chance to summit the coveted Half Dome, adding 4 miles to your trip.

Half Dome

4 mi / 1,800ft+ round-trip

Only available from the Happy Isles trailhead

Mt. Whitney Summit

4 mi / 1,100ft+ round-trip

Elevation chart

Want to customize your itinerary? Use the elevation chart below to pick campsites. But do not overthink it. Almost everybody’s plans change once on the trail.

I’ve only listed the most popular campsites, but you should be able to find places to camp almost anywhere. Make sure to camp at least 100 feet from the trail or water, avoiding vegetation and explicitly prohibited areas.

D1219.8 mi43,300 ft+Whitney PortalMount Whitney14,500Forester Pass13,200Glen Pass11,900Pinchot Pass12,100Mather Pass12,100Muir Pass12,000Selden Pass10,900Silver Pass10,700Donohue Pass11,100Cathedral Pass10,000
> 10,000 ft high
Favorite campsite
Popular campsite
Other campsite

I recommend camping below 10,000 feet for two reasons. First, nights get a lot colder above 10,000 feet. Second, campfires are only permitted below 10,000 feet (however, no campfires are allowed when the risk of wildfire is high).


The John Muir Trail is a one-way hike, so you’ll need to find a way to get on and off the trail.

By car

One option is to drive two cars and leave one at each trailhead. Long-term parking is allowed at all trailheads at the following locations:

Happy IslesPark at the Curry Village parking lot and hike 1 mile to or take the free shuttle to the trailhead.
Tuolumne MeadowsPark at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, where you can also grab your permit.
Whitney PortalPark at the Whitney Portal parking lot.
Horseshoe MeadowsPark at the Cottonwood Pass or Cottonwood Lakes trailheads.
Parking options at all four trailheads.

Public Transportation

The other popular option is to take public transportation. Two services, YARTS and ESTA, can get you to most places along the Sierra Nevada.

Map showing the major public transportation routes servicing Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Mammoth Lakes, and Lone Pine.
Public transportation along the Sierra Nevada.

Unfortunately, there is a missing link between Whitney Portal / Horseshow Meadow and Lone Pine. You can hitchhike or schedule a ride with the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce.

Additional resources

And that’s a wrap! Questions or comments? Shoot me an email; I’d love to hear from you!

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Happy Islespack for 0 days
Mount Whitney
Whitney Portal219.8 mi