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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

The Plan: Doing Ultralight Right

In 10 days, carrying just 25 pounds, you can pound through the John Muir Trail...happily. Get the plan.

by: Michael Lanza

PAGE 1 2

Logistics Transportation between the endpoint trailheads is a challenge. The nearest airport is Reno, Nevada, 3.5 hours from Yosemite Valley and 4.5 hours from the Mt. Whitney trailhead. It's a 3.5- to 4-hour drive from the Mt. Whitney Trailhead to the Valley. Unless you hire a shuttle service (below), the easiest plan for a north-south hike is to leave one vehicle at the Mt. Whitney Trailhead (crowded on weekends), leave another in Lee Vining near Yosemite's east entrance, and take the YARTS bus (877-989-2787, to the Valley.

For an early start on day one, spend the night before in the Valley: Curry Village can be noisy, but it's just a 20-minute walk from the trailhead. Otherwise, stay in either the Yosemite Lodge or Ahwahnee Lodge (559-253-5636,; make reservations a year in advance. Valley campgrounds book up quickly; reserve a site four months in advance (800-436-7275, See for more info. The Valley's free buses run frequently but don't start until 7 a.m.

Hiker shuttles
High Sierra Transportation serves the Sierra and regional airports (760-258-6060, Check other shuttle services at

The only logical time for an ultralight thru-hike is mid-August to mid-September, when–usually–the mosquitoes have abated, rain is rare (allowing you to use a tarp instead of a tent), and the passes are snow-free.

Get a permit for the entire JMT from the park or forest where you plan to start, either Yosemite National Park (209-372-0740,, or the Inyo National Forest (760-873-2485, Yosemite permits are free, but reserve one (up to 24 weeks in advance, $5/person). Yosemite has trailhead quotas for permits; if you're day hiking from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows (as suggested above), you can get a permit for starting the JMT at Tuolumne instead of a hard-to-get permit for the JMT/Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley.

Bear canisters
Required throughout the High Sierra, they can be rented or purchased at several locations in Yosemite (

Get the John Muir Trail map pack for $19 (the entire set weighs 3 oz.). Tom Harrison maps, (800) 265-9090 or (415) 456-7940,

John Muir Trail–The Essential Guide to Hiking America's Most Famous Trail, by Elizabeth Wenk with Kathy Morey, incorporates the Tom Harrison maps; $18, Wilderness Press; (800) 443-7227,

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Star Star Star Star Star
Dave in California
Feb 23, 2014

Nice hike. The horsepackers all seem to have little dogs along.

Leave the dog at home, and bring along a smoking hot brunette. With sad eyes. And a stunning figure.

Star Star Star Star Star
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Apr 27, 2012

Hi all!
I am looking for a 15-day JMT itinerary for this summer 2012 with no rest days (I will add them where I need them). The only itineraries I can find are 21-day hikes, but they don't give me an idea of which campsites to prioritize. Can anyone help me out? Thanks.

Apr 27, 2012

I'm looking for a 15-day JMT itinerary for this summer, with no rest days (I will add them in where needed). Can anyone help me out? I hear talk of experienced hikers accomplishing this, but all I can find are 21-day itineraries that don't give me an idea of what campsites I could easily skip without hurting the aesthetic appeal of the trail.

Byron n
Dec 17, 2011

Nov 27, 2011

Hello Andy,
Thanks for the good info. I went out on Sept7 and had a great fasthike; H.I. to upper Lyell on day one, to R.M. on day two and to Mono Pass junction on day three. A heck of a storm broke out that evening (rain, hail, snow, the works). I was not willing to weather a week-long forcasted storm so I exited at VVR. What made me glad was reading your seven day and this report. My tactics were very similar and up to par with your advice. (PS, dogs are not allowed on national trails. I guess the exception would be a recognized disabled person's working dog.)
Good times!!

Ken H.
Jun 09, 2011

We did the sections of the PCT/JMT with mt Bernese Mountain Dog (Q) in 2005 (a friend, me and dog) and 2009 (me and my dog) from Silver Lake up to Thousand Island Lake (not allowed in Yosemite) and south coming out at Piute Pass and to North Lake/Bishop. We stopped both times at Lake Edison Vermilion Valley Resort for great steaks, beer and a re-supply. (they pick you up and ferry you to the resort) Q did great with no sore paws, except maybe one evening. Q died of K9 cancer in March, but I'm thinking of repeating it with my new dog.... Ken H.

the buckaroo
Jun 09, 2011

...hey andy...dogs horses, mules, llamas are all JMT approved, except in the valley portion.

Jun 09, 2011

@andy - you can't do the entire JMT with a dog because the national parks do not allow dogs on backcountry trails. there are only something like 100ish (non-consecutive) miles of the jmt that are dog-friendly - the longest stretch being about 70 miles from rush creek trail to piute canyon.

Jun 09, 2011

Has anyone tried it with a dog?

Mar 30, 2010

I'm not sure why you would try to pound out a great trail in ten days. Give yourself 14 and enjoy it.

Jul 21, 2008

I decided to start in Yosemite after all. Starting Aug 10!

Bryan L. Allen
Jun 19, 2008

Previous poster Jim mentioned "permits not available for Yosemite." I did the JMT in 2007 and started at Glacier Point to avoid this problem; typically lots of permits from there. I've hiked up from Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley many times so going via Glacier Point was new and fresh. Google "bryanlallen" for details.

May 11, 2008

This itinerary sounds tough but I'm going to try to get close. With permits not available for Yosemite I'm starting at Red's Meadow and hiking north, then grabbing the YARTS bus from Happy Isles back to Mammoth and starting south. Logistically it makes car shuttle and resupply at Red's easier, though it does break the continuity a bit. My plan allows 15 days which will hopefully include two rest days.


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