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Backpacker Magazine – December 2000

Hiking California's John Muir Trail

This magnificent trail travels through three California parks while showcasing the natural wonders Muir worked to preserve.

by: Taryn Jory and Andy Dappen

John Muir, the staunch 19th-century conservationist, might well be considered the father of our National Park system. It is due largely to his lobbying, writings, and influence that California's Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks exist today.

So it's appropriate that the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) travels through all three parks. Along the way, and with 11 additional miles to traverse from the top of Mt. Whitney to Whitney Portals, the trail showcases the features so magical to Muir: sheer rock walls, mile-deep canyons, skyscraper-tall trees, saw-blade ridges, golden granite, green lakes, cobalt skies, and pine-scented forests. With such natural endowments, it's not surprising that the JMT, spanning 160 air miles of wilderness uncrossed by roads, was one of our readers' top picks for scenery.

Unfortunately, the solitude that Muir so valued in the Sierra is now somewhat diluted; don't harbor illusions that the JMT will lead you far from human contact. The trail is well used, and regulating agencies have put a great deal of effort into providing ample signage, quality trail work, and well-maintained campsites.

Muir might roll over in his grave if he knew his Sierra has become so civilized, but readers appreciate the results of all this work. Without it, a well-loved trail might be loved to death.

For best information:
Pacific Crest Trail Association, (916) 349-2109; Guide to the John Muir Trail, by Thomas Winnett and Kathy Morey (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227;; $11.95).

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