John Muir Trail Section 5: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal

Tag Mount Whitney, the Lower 48's highest peak, during this 42-mile trek into Sequoia National Park where there's more acreage of wilderness than you'll know what to do with.
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Tag Mount Whitney, the Lower 48's highest peak, during this 42-mile trek into Sequoia National Park where there's more acreage of wilderness than you'll know what to do with.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 41.2

Waypoints

JMT116
Location: 36° 46' 21.12" N, 118° 20' 28.33" W
Onion Valley Trailhead
JMT117
Location: 36° 47' 30.97" N, 118° 21' 35.52" W
Golden Trout Lakes Junction
JMT118
Location: 36° 46' 23.28" N, 118° 23' 35.63" W
Kearsage Pass, leaving Kings Canyon NP into Inyo National Forest to Onion Valley
JMT119
Location: 36° 46' 25.25" N, 118° 23' 54.17" W
Kearsage Pass Tral Junction
JMT121
Location: 36° 46' 37.08" N, 118° 25' 43.57" W
Bubbs Creek/PCT Junction; head uphill
JMT122
Location: 36° 46' 36.78" N, 118° 24' 25.80" W
Camp in Lower Vidette Meadows
JMT123
Location: 36° 46' 33.48" N, 118° 24' 20.99" W
Vidette Meadow campsite and bear box
JMT124
Location: 36° 45' 5.47" N, 118° 24' 43.03" W
Bear box
JMT125
Location: 36° 44' 51.29" N, 118° 22' 22.20" W
Center Basin Creek
JMT128
Location: 36° 39' 31.67" N, 118° 23' 14.69" W
Tyndall Creek
JMT129
Location: 36° 38' 22.98" N, 118° 23' 16.97" W
Spur to Tyndall Creek Ranger Station
JMT130
Location: 36° 38' 6.06" N, 118° 23' 7.68" W
Bear box
JMT131
Location: 36° 37' 12.52" N, 118° 23' 50.30" W
Bighorn Plateau
JMT132
Location: 36° 36' 56.09" N, 118° 22' 26.95" W
Wright Creek
JMT133
Location: 36° 36' 39.42" N, 118° 22' 16.43" W
Crossing of Wallace Creek; bear box; campsites; Wallace Creek and High Sierra Trail junction and bear box
JMT136
Location: 36° 34' 49.02" N, 118° 21' 57.96" W
Crabtree Ranger Station and bear box; John Muir Trail to Mt. Whitney across creek
JMT137
Location: 36° 34' 24.06" N, 118° 19' 52.75" W
Campsite by stunning Guitar Lake; great basecamp for Whitney attempt. Even if you decide not to summit, enjoy camping in this high-alpine cirque
JMT139
Location: 36° 35' 41.44" N, 118° 18' 33.78" W
Summit Mt. Whitney, highest point in lower 48; enjoy views of the Great Western Divide, the central Sierras, and the Owens Valley below
JMT127
Location: 36° 39' 34.50" N, 118° 23' 17.05" W
Crossing, camp, bear box
JMT120
Location: 36° 46' 5.04" N, 118° 25' 41.09" W
Bullfrog Lake Trail junction, spur trail to Independence if you need a resupply
JMT140
Location: 36° 35' 14.14" N, 118° 14' 18.61" W
Whitney Portal: get to Lone Pine for burgers
JMT126
Location: 36° 42' 40.20" N, 118° 22' 24.48" W
Crest Forester Pass, @ 13,180 ft., the highest point on PCT. Enter Kings Canyon NP and descend knife-edged switchbacks. On early season snowpack, you might want to have an ice axe for self arrest.
JMT134
Location: 36° 34' 32.39" N, 118° 22' 42.73" W
L @ 3-way to Crabtree Meadows for camping if not heading up to Guitar Lake
JMT135
Location: 36° 34' 53.03" N, 118° 21' 2.16" W
R to Crabtree Meadow for camping (bear boxes) and Ranger Station.
JMT138
Location: 36° 34' 38.11" N, 118° 18' 35.29" W
Trail Crest (13,650 ft.) ; drop packs and head along crumbling spine of scree past Mt. Muir
Trail Crest
Location: 36° 34' 36.18" N, 118° 18' 34.41" W
A veritable gear store of packs wait as their owners tag Mount Whitney. © Andrew Matranga
Spires near Whitney
Location: 36° 34' 7.80" N, 118° 18' 35.43" W
Stacks of crumbly granite line the trail from Trail Crest to the Whitney Summit. © David Taus
Smithsonian Hut and summiters
Location: 36° 35' 40.44" N, 118° 18' 38.51" W
Join the often-crowded summit for a chance to stand atop the Lower 48's highest peak. © David Taus
Trail Crest from below
Location: 36° 34' 55.56" N, 118° 18' 32.38" W
Not too far to the turnoff to the summit. © David Taus
Guitar Lake from Above
Location: 36° 35' 38.41" N, 118° 18' 48.70" W
The instrument-like shape of Guitar Lake become apparent when viewed from a few thousand feet above. © David Taus
Kearsarge Pass into Kings Canyon National Park
Location: 36° 46' 22.30" N, 118° 23' 33.32" W
Wilderness sign in front of the Kearsarge Pinnacles. © David Taus
Trail sign near Charlotte Lake
Location: 36° 46' 9.04" N, 118° 25' 40.85" W
© David Taus
Kearsarge Pinnacles from the JMT
Location: 36° 46' 25.35" N, 118° 23' 59.86" W
© David Taus
At Forester Pass
Location: 36° 42' 40.74" N, 118° 22' 25.17" W
Andrew Matranga logs a waypoint @ the 13,180 ft. mark of Forester Pass. © David Taus
The Big Hill
Location: 36° 37' 57.14" N, 118° 23' 39.45" W
Views of Whitney begin in full once you pass out of the Tyndall Creek drainage. © David Hill
On the Bighorn Plateau
Location: 36° 37' 51.03" N, 118° 23' 38.43" W
Andrew Matranga stops and checks out views from the wide open spaces of the Bighorn Plateau. From here, see the Great Western Divide and plenty of Mount Whitney. This is one of the best spots on the JMT. © David Taus
Whitney
Location: 36° 37' 6.32" N, 118° 23' 39.45" W
Whitney rises in the center of the frame, a seemingly obscure peak from the east. It's a more pronounced summit cap from the west, but caps out the Sierra crest @ 14,495 feet. © David Taus
Hancock Lake and Guitar Lake
Location: 36° 34' 0.66" N, 118° 18' 33.40" W
Get great views of the basin below while climbing to Trail Crest. © David Taus
Kings Canyon
Location: 36° 42' 19.50" N, 118° 22' 1.68" W
The southern end of this wide canyon, that Muir himself said rivals Yosemite Valley in it's evidence of glacial action in the Sierra. © David Taus
Guitar Lake
Location: 36° 34' 13.92" N, 118° 19' 32.56" W
The Great Western Divide soars to the west from the eastern shores of Guitar Lake. © Andrew Matranga
Mount Hitchock reflected in Guitar Lake
Location: 36° 34' 24.13" N, 118° 19' 52.97" W
© Andrew Matranga
Intersection
Location: 36° 36' 41.65" N, 118° 22' 12.92" W
The junction of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail near Wallace Creek. © Andrew Matranga
Benchmark
Location: 36° 35' 42.49" N, 118° 18' 36.47" W
One of the many benchmarks atop the highest peak in the conterminous United States. See how many you can find, and which organizations claim the summit. © Andrew Matranga
Scree-strewn Summits
Location: 36° 34' 11.88" N, 118° 18' 38.51" W
The fin-like spires of Mount Muir and Keeler Needle protrude from the southern crest of Mount Whitney. © Andrew Matranga
Whitney from Crabtree Meadows trail junction
Location: 36° 34' 43.32" N, 118° 21' 29.05" W
Near Crabtree Meadows just east of Whitney, the rugged folds that create the west face come into full view. © Andrew Matranga
Logging In
Location: 36° 35' 36.36" N, 118° 18' 42.57" W
David Taus signs the register @ the Smithsonian Weather Hut. This structure aws built in 1909 as a station for meteorological observations and is now a National Historic Landmark. The metal roof of this hut attracts lightning which can be conducted through the building to individuals inside. Do not seek shelter here during a storm. It is unsafe to be anywhere on top of the mountain or any exposed high place during a thunderstorm. © Andrew Matranga
From the top
Location: 36° 35' 38.41" N, 118° 18' 37.49" W
The unparalleled vista from the summit. © Andrew Matranga
Sky Pilots
Location: 36° 34' 18.00" N, 118° 18' 33.40" W
These hardy, purple flowers make an existence at 13,000 feet. © Andrew Matranga
Twisted pine
Location: 36° 37' 39.81" N, 118° 22' 29.23" W
Views south to Whitney over the Bighorn Plateau. © Andrew Matranga
Forester Pass 13,200 feet
Location: 36° 42' 43.80" N, 118° 22' 21.07" W
The boundary between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. © Andrew Matranga
Window to the east
Location: 36° 34' 24.13" N, 118° 18' 34.41" W
These drop outs cut down thousands of feet. The views are outstanding, if not vertigo-induced. There are a multiple spots on the summit trail where you get this vantage into the basins below and the Owens Valley below. © Andrew Matranga
East Vidette from near Bullfrog Lake
Location: 36° 46' 47.61" N, 118° 25' 31.65" W
The sharp tip of East Vidette hulks in front of a group of southern Sierra peaks. © Andrew Matranga
Pond near Bullfrog Lake
Location: 36° 46' 20.26" N, 118° 24' 19.42" W
© Andrew Matranga
Ponds at dawn
Location: 36° 46' 21.27" N, 118° 24' 7.17" W
© Andrew Matranga
East Vidette
Location: 36° 46' 22.30" N, 118° 24' 51.88" W
© Andrew Matranga
Kearsarge Pinnacles
Location: 36° 46' 18.21" N, 118° 24' 35.56" W
© Andrew Matranga
Into Kings Canyon National Park
Location: 36° 46' 21.27" N, 118° 23' 30.25" W
© Andrew Matranga
More of Kearsarge Pinnacles and the peaks of the southern Sierra
Location: 36° 46' 22.30" N, 118° 23' 4.94" W
© Andrew Matranga
Up to Kearsarge Pass
Location: 36° 46' 24.33" N, 118° 22' 15.96" W
This is a dusty, treeless stretch approaching Kearsarge Pass from Onion Valley. © Andrew Matranga
Lake near Kearsarge Pass
Location: 36° 46' 23.32" N, 118° 22' 0.67" W
© Andrew Matranga
View of Whitney from Below Forester Pass
Location: 36° 40' 23.21" N, 118° 23' 58.81" W
The end of the hike looms in the distance. © Andrew Matranga
Lake Below Forester Pass
Location: 36° 41' 26.45" N, 118° 22' 28.21" W
© Andrew Matranga
Marmot below Forester Pass
Location: 36° 41' 17.28" N, 118° 23' 35.36" W
© Andrew Matranga
Dawn on the Sierra Crest
Location: 36° 34' 3.72" N, 118° 18' 35.43" W
Early morning light bathes the craggy western slopes of Mount Whitney. © Andrew Matranga
Triangular erosion
Location: 36° 34' 13.92" N, 118° 18' 39.52" W
Look at how crumbled rock has left interesting geologic geometry. © Andrew Matranga
Benchmark and the south Sierra
Location: 36° 35' 41.47" N, 118° 18' 35.43" W
One of the many markers on the summit, with a collection of mountains in the background. © Andrew Matranga
At the southern terminus
Location: 36° 35' 39.42" N, 118° 18' 40.54" W
Andrew Matranga and David Taus sit on the summit marker for the High Sierra and John Muir Trails. This was the end of their High Sierra Trail thru-hike and the start of their hike on the John Muir Trail to Yosemite Valley. © Jason Bandlow
JMT/HST sign
Location: 36° 35' 43.50" N, 118° 18' 41.55" W
Park Service sign denoting the John Muir and High Sierra Trails. © Andrew Matranga
Smithsonian Hut and the Sierra Nevada
Location: 36° 35' 43.50" N, 118° 18' 39.52" W
This stone structure sits atop Mount Whitney and surveys an spread of mountains. Not a place for shelter, now it's an historical landmark. © Andrew Matranga