Sequoia National Park: Mount Whitney via Whitney Trail

Take a day or a three-day weekend for a challenging 20.2-mile climb to the roof of the Lower 48, and see why Muir called it a paradise of rock and light.
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Take a day or a three-day weekend for a challenging 20.2-mile climb to the roof of the Lower 48, and see why Muir called it a paradise of rock and light.

Rabid hikers can make the 21.4-mile round-trip in a day, but to savor the grandeur of the Sierra, secure a camping permit and do the hike in three stages. Nestled in a grove of pines at 10,365 feet, Outpost Camp is a perfect first-night stop. On day two, pitch your tent among the boulders at the 12,000-foot Trail Camp, a stunning amphitheater of crumbling granite with a soothing view of the freeze-your-bunions-off Consultation Lake. Ninety-seven (but who's counting?) switchbacks separate you from the heady exposure of Trail Crest at 13,777 feet. The final push on the narrow John Muir Trail wends through a field of boulders to a squat stone house perched incongruously on the summit.

Permit Self-register for permits (free) from December to April. For May to November, enter the lottery before February 15; the Forest Service reserves 40 percent of permits for walk-ins. fs.fed.us/r5/inyo.
Contact Mt. Whitney Ranger District, Inyo National Forest, (760) 876-6200; Sequoia National Park, (559) 565-3730; nps.gov/seki
USGS Topos Mount Whitney; Mount Langley
Map Mt. Whitney Zone ($10,tomharrisonmaps.com)
Eat The Mount Whitney Restaurant, Lone Pine, (760) 876-5751
Sleep Whitney Portal Family Campground, Mt. Whitney Ranger District, (760) 876-6200
Gear: Lone Pine Sporting Goods, (760) 876-5365

-Mapped by Rajeev Jain

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 16.3

Waypoints

First view atTrail Crest

Location: 36.5604820251465, -118.293090820312

©Rajeev Jain

Long-range views of the High Sierra

Location: 36.5609397888184, -118.293182373047

Hitchcock Lakes and the Mt. Hitchcock framed a sublime High Sierra vantage. ©Rajeev Jain

Looking back down

Location: 36.5603904724121, -118.287208557129

See the Owens Valley and surrounding, rugged peaks in the Whitney Basin. ©Rajeev Jain

Sunrise at Outpost Camp

Location: 36.5712203979492, -118.25691986084

©Rajeev Jain

Alpenglow

Location: 36.5682830810547, -118.262794494629

©Rajeev Jain

Morning sun on the pinnacles and Mt. Whitney

Location: 36.5703964233398, -118.261779785156

©Rajeev Jain

Looking down at Mirror Lake

Location: 36.5699348449707, -118.262886047363

©Rajeev Jain

Guitar Lake

Location: 36.5684661865234, -118.292991638184

The iconic, and aptly named, Guitar Lake sits in a scoured basin framed by the Great Western Divide towering in the heart of the Sequoia backcountry. ©Rajeev Jain

Trail camp

Location: 36.5616340637207, -118.282646179199

©Rajeev Jain

Looking down at Lone Pine from the top

Location: 36.5784759521484, -118.29207611084

©Rajeev Jain

Signs for JMT and High Sierra Trail

Location: 36.5785675048828, -118.29207611084

©Rajeev Jain

Smithsonian Hut

Location: 36.5780143737793, -118.292991638184

Crowds flock to the trail register atop the Lower 48's highest peak. This stone hut was placed by the Smithsonian Institute in the early 1900s as a study center. ©Rajeev Jain

Views of the summit

Location: 36.5724143981934, -118.29207611084

©Rajeev Jain

MWT001

Location: 36.5872611999512, -118.238502502441

It's 8,365 ft. @ Whitney Portal--only 6,100 ft. to go. Hike up Lone Pine Creek. Daytrippers: Start before 3 a.m. with ample food, headlamp, extra batteries

MWT002

Location: 36.5734405517578, -118.254402160645

Willows weep in Bighorn Park; climb up and up

MWT003

Location: 36.5723609924316, -118.260101318359

Rest in pine groves @ Outpost Camp (10,365 ft.) near Mirror Lake; stone walls of Thor Peak command view to N

MWT004

Location: 36.5656814575195, -118.271301269531

Bring bear cans if camping @ Trail Camp (12,000 ft.). A stunning amphitheater cups Consultation Lake below the toothy crown of Wotans Throne

MWT005

Location: 36.5629806518555, -118.279098510742

Believe it: 99 switchbacks over next 1.6 mi. separate you from the airy (and giddy) vantage to come @ Trail Crest

MWT006

Location: 36.558650970459, -118.287399291992

Last turn before crest

MWT007

Location: 36.5605888366699, -118.293098449707

Trail Crest (13,650 ft.). The climb isn't over, but high-fives and photos are in order. With the wind in your face, ascend on finlike ridge with nonstop mountain views

MWT008

Location: 36.5652809143066, -118.292701721191

Pass Mt. Muir; eye-popping views drop thousands of feet into Owens Valley

MWT009

Location: 36.5771713256836, -118.297203063965

Trail turns E, looking at the spire of Keeler Needle

MWT010

Location: 36.5786018371582, -118.291999816895

See Death Valley, the Great Western Divide, and more from the 100-mi. vantage of 14,495-ft. Whitney. Retrace route

Whitney's ridgeline and Mount Muir

Location: 36.5746002197266, -118.292594909668

The view south along stacked piles of fin-like talus to Mount Muir. ©Rajeev Jain