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California Trails

High Points: Mt. Whitney, California

You could do it in a day, but don't rush this one.

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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.

Elevation: 14,494 feet

Rank: 2

Contact: Mt. Whitney Ranger District, Inyo National Forest, (760) 876-6200

USGS Topos: Mount Whitney; Mount Langley

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