Trip Details

Duration: 31 days

Group size: 4-12 participants

Trip Rating: Moderate/Difficult

Price: $12000 (+fees)

Date: August 19-September 18, 2024

  5. MAPS
Trip Overview:

The John Muir Trail—

The Sierra Nevada’s John Muir Trail is probably the finest wilderness route in the world. The trail skirts the peaks and high plateaus of the John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite.

The John Muir Trail follows the spine of the Sierra through Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks as well as the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses. The spectacular granite domes and spires, lush meadows, rushing creeks, and waterfalls along the 211 mile trail have made it one of the most famous long-distance wilderness treks in the United States.

Hikers who aspire to traverse the length of the JMT prepare for months before beginning the trek training to carry a heavy pack and working out food drops and transportation. Rock Creek Pack Station simplifies your experience, preparing gourmet food, carrying your gear, and setting up a comfortable camp each night. The camp will include chairs, a privy, and even a warm shower on layover days.

You will hike for 31 days in the Sierra backcountry carrying nothing but a daypack. Join us for this trip of a lifetime.

Distance: 243 miles, 46,800’ total gain and 52,700’ loss on moving days

Preparation: Hikers should be able to walk 12 miles, 3,000’ elevation gain/loss.

Meet Up: 6:00 AM at 245 Rocking K Road, Bishop. Leave personal vehicles there.

Trailhead: In – Horseshoe Meadows; Out – Yosemite Valley. RCPS will drive you from Bishop to Horseshoe Meadows and then pick you up in Yosemite Valley, returning you to Bishop.


  • Tom Harrison Maps (some can also be downloaded onto an tablet or smart phone):
    • John Muir Trail and Mt. Whitney High Country
    • Mt. Whitney High Country
    • Kings Canyon High Country
    • Mono Divide High Country
    • Mammoth High Country
    • Yosemite High Country
  • National Geographic Maps: John Muir Trail
  • Halfmile PCT Maps California Sections G and H. Download free from https://www.pctmap.net
    Apps for Smartphone/Tablet:
    • Guthook’s Hiking Guides, PCT Hiker
    • National Geographic National Park Maps, download HD map
    • Gaia GPS, download area we will cover

John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail Ride
Horseshoe Meadows to Happy Isles

Daily Itinerary for the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail Ride
Please note that this represents the planned itinerary. Weather or other factors may affect the choice of campsites and daily travel. All decisions are made by the Head Packer with attention to the safety and comfort of guests and stock.

Segment 1: Horseshoe Meadow to Charlotte Lake
Overview: The first segment of the trip includes the opportunity to summit Mount Whitney. The trip starts with a hearty meal at the home of owner, Craig London, before travelling to the trailhead at Horseshoe Meadows. We will cover 23 miles following the Pacific Crest Trail over three days to stage for the ascent to Mount Whitney at Guitar Lake. The top of Mount Whitney begins the start of our trek along the John Muir Trail. We will then follow the JMT north enjoying views of the Kaweah Range to the west and the Sierra crest to the east before crossing over Forester Pass, the highest pass on the John Muir Trail. Dropping into a U-shaped valley we will follow Bubbs Creek to Vidette Meadow before climbing over a low ridge and finally descending to beautiful Charlotte Lake 61 miles and seven days from the trailhead.

Day 1 Horseshoe Meadow over Cottonwood Pass to Chicken Spring Lake
4.5 miles, 1,400’ gain, 100’ loss
The day will start with a 6:00 breakfast at 245 Rocking K Road, Bishop, and then the two-hour ride to the Horseshoe Meadows trailhead. The walk begins as a gentle ascent beside the meadow for a mile before entering the open forest to climb steadily to 11,160’ Cottonwood Pass by mile 3.8. We will turn north onto the Pacific Crest Trail, walking another half mile before leaving the trail to follow the creek a short distance up to Chicken Spring Lake.

Day 2 Chicken Spring Lake to Rock Creek
9.9 miles, 600’ gain, 2,300’ loss
Returning to the Pacific Crest Trail, the path climbs briefly, gaining 300’ in the first mile and then undulates along the side of the mountain with good views of Big Whitney Meadow to the left. The trail enters Sequoia National Park in three miles, dropping steadily through open forest the rest of the day, passing the Siberian Pass junction at mile four and the Upper Rock Creek Trail junction at mile 8.5. The trail will finally cross Rock Creek and then we will follow a use path down the north side of the creek to our camp alongside a beautiful meadow edged by the creek. The creek crossing might be tricky if there has been recent rain.

Most of the seasonal streams in this area will be dry with no reliable water until we approach Rock Creek at the end of the day. Be sure to leave Chicken Spring Lake with plenty of water.

Day 3 Rock Creek to Guitar Lake
9.8 miles, 3,050’ gain, 1,050’ loss
The day starts with a steady climb out of the Rock Creek drainage to Guyot Pass, 1,400’ in 2.5 miles. Views to the south are of Forgotten Canyon. Dropping down from the pass, the trail traverses the hillside on a sandy trail. Twisted foxtail pines frame views of Red Spur across the Kern Canyon. A brief climb into the Whitney Creek drainage, before we drop 400’ to the Whitney junction near the creek, which is about six miles from our camp. Turn onto the trail to Whitney, following Whitney Creek and passing the ranger station before joining the John Muir Trail in 1.1 miles. Turn up canyon toward Mount Whitney, passing out of the trees at Timberline Lake and finally stopping at our camp above Guitar Lake. Mount Whitney towers 3,000’ above us to the east.

There is fairly reliable water about a mile out of camp, with the next reliable water at Whitney Creek, 6 miles from the Rock Creek camp.

Day 4 Mount Whitney
9.2 miles, 3,100’ gain, 3,100’ loss
Mount Whitney provides several hours of shade after sunrise making the long climb to the top in the treeless landscape less daunting, so plan to leave camp at dawn. The trail starts off to the southeast for about a mile before starting to climb the steep wall on long switchbacks. Look across Hitchcock Lakes to Mount Hitchcock to gage your progress up the mountain, as Trail Junction, at 13,484 feet, is only 300’ above Mount Hitchcock. Go left at the junction to follow the fairly narrow trail cut into the rock on the west side of the pinnacles. There are several “windows” providing stunning views to the east. Another 1.9 miles and 1,000’ elevation gain takes you to the top. Enjoy your time at 14,496.811 feet before leaving the crowd at the top and returning to your wilderness camp at Guitar Lake. p class="padding"> There is no reliable water between Guitar Lake and the top of Mount Whitney.

Day 5 Guitar Lake to Tyndall Creek Frog Ponds
10.6 miles, 1,750’ gain, 2,250’ loss
We retrace our path 2.6 miles down the trail past Timberline Lake to the junction at Lower Crabtree Meadow, but this time we follow the John Muir Trail to the right for 0.8 miles to merge with the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail soon skirts the east side of Sandy Meadow with views to the west of Red Spur. The trail climbs a low ridge before dropping down to Wallace Creek which can usually be crossed on rocks. The creek runs through an open meadow surrounded by pines and the crossing is a pleasant lunch spot at 6.8 miles. Continue north past the Kern River junction to climb up a ridge to meadows of Wright Creek with stunning views to the east of the Sierra crest including Mount Whitney. The 1,000’ ascent out of Wallace Creek tops out at the treeless Bighorn Plateau with views of the Kaweah Range and the Kern River Basin to the west before dropping down to our camp at the frog ponds near Tyndall Creek.

There is reliable water at Wallace Creek and Wright Creek.

Day 6 Tyndall Creek Frog Ponds over Forester Pass to Bubbs Creek
11.9 miles, 2,250’ gain, 3,300’ loss
We drop ½ mile down through open forest to the Tyndall Creek crossing and then start the 2,300’ climb over 4.4 miles to the top of 13,180’ Forester Pass, the highest pass on the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. The trail begins through alternating forest and meadows. The landscape becomes more austere as the trail approaches and is cut from the headwall of the Kings Kern Divide. The last mile switchbacks up the right side of the pass before crossing over to the left side with tight switchbacks over the final grade. One is rewarded at the top with spectacular views of the Great Western Divide, the Kaweah Range, and the tall peaks north of Mount Whitney. Turning north, the trail enters Kings Canyon National Park, dropping down steep switchbacks. The rocky terrain gives way to forest with the final few miles a pleasant walk along Bubbs Creek to Vidette Meadow.

Day 7 Bubbs Creek to Charlotte Lake
4.2 miles, 1,300’ gain, 850’ loss
The trail continues to follow Bubbs Creek to the lower meadow before turning north to climb 1,200’ in almost two miles to the Charlotte Lake Junction. Turn off the John Muir Trail to drop 1.3 miles to a comfortable camp near the outlet of Charlotte Lake.

Day 8 Layover at Charlotte Lake
A day to recover from some long, high-altitude hikes with large elevation gains.

Segment 2: Charlotte Lake to Big Pete Meadow
Overview:This is truly the Sierra High Country. We will climb over three 12,000’ passes and walk down the famous golden staircase. Hiking above tree line for much of this section affords us expansive views of the glacial cut granite walls of Kings Canyon National Park. The varied landscape rewards us with cascading creeks as well as serene meadows along much of the hike.

Day 9 Charlotte Lake over Glen Pass to Baxter Meadow Charlotte Lake over Glen Pass to Arrowhead Lake
7.7 miles, 1,750’ gain, 1,850’ loss
We will backtrack 1.3 miles to the John Muir Trail junction before turning north toward the narrow ridge of 11,978’ Glen Pass. The day will start in forest, but soon climbs out of the shade to rocky slopes as it approaches the pass. You will pause at the top to celebrate the climb, but you will stay to enjoy the spectacular view. Eventually drop down from the pass for lunch at the beautiful Rae Lakes and on to our camp by Arrowhead Lake.

Upper Rae Lake at mile 5.5 is the first reliable water source.

Day 10 Baxter Meadow to Twin Lakes Arrowhead Lake to Twin Lakes
9.1 miles, 2,100’ gain, 1,850’ loss
We will spend the first half of the day walking 4.6 miles down a pleasant trail through forest and occasional meadows to Woods Creek. We can keep an eye out for one of Shorty’s cabins off to the right just before we reach the creek. Crossing a suspension bridge at 8,492’, we turn right and start back up through mostly forested slopes to 10,600’ in almost four miles. This is a quiet day after the excitement of Mount Whitney, Forester Pass, and Glen Pass, but the views and sounds of cascading creeks surrounded by rocky canyon walls make this a great day of hiking.

There are several creek crossings along Woods Creek with reliable water.

Day 11 Twin Lakes over Pinchot Pass to the South Fork of the Kings River
7.5 miles, 1,550’ gain, 2,150’ loss
The hike starts near tree line, so most of this day will be hiking in open alpine meadows and rocky slopes surrounded by multicolored rock walls along the way to 12,130’ Pinchot Pass. The easy descent down the north side has a series of lakes before entering the forested area above the South Fork Kings River. The Lake Marjorie shoreline, at about mile 4.6, and the stream crossing in another Ό mile are two great lunch spots. A side trip just before the drop to the Kings River to beautiful Bench Lake is worth the 250’ drop and gain over 3.4 miles.

As the trail approaches camp, it first crosses a fast creek coming from Taboose Pass and then comes to the Kings River Ό mile later. The camp is between the two streams and to the left, at the 10,000’ level.

There are some seasonal creeks along the trail, but Lake Marjorie is the first reliable water after leaving camp.

Day 12 South Fork of the Kings River over Mather Pass to Lower Palisade Lake
9.3 miles, 2,200’ gain, 1,550’ loss
The trail soon leaves the forest to a series of lovely alpine meadows and finally into a barren rocky landscape with some scattered ponds at the base of the massive wall that hides Mather Pass. A series of switchbacks take us up the last of the climb to the 12,100’ pass at mile 5.5 to enjoy expansive views of the trail behind and the basin ahead. The trail drops steeply with large steps and lose rubble forcing us to tear our eyes away from the classic glacial walls of the Palisade drainage. The trail turns to dirt below the switchback around mile seven as it aims steadily toward the Palisade Lakes below you. Be sure to stop at the creek running into the east side of the upper lake to enjoy a small waterfall, wildflowers, and a great foot soak. Camp is at the far end of the lower lake.
There are several creek crossings approaching and leaving Mather Pass for water.

Day 13 Camp Lower Palisades down the Golden Staircase to Big Pete Meadow
11.9 miles, 1,400 gain, 2,800 loss
The day starts down the much- talked- about Golden Staircase, a steep set of well-designed, tight switchbacks dropping over 1,500’ in about two miles. Southbound JMT hikers usually climb this and then Mather Pass on the same day, often in blazing sun. We go down in the morning shade. The trail remains in the forest much of the day as it follows first Palisade Creek and then turns up the Middle Fork of the Kings River. Grouse Meadow is the perfect place for a quick dip and a wonderful view of spectacular Le Conte Canyon. This is a long day, but the path from the bottom of the staircase drops only 1,100’ in 4.5 miles, before climbing 1300’ in five miles.

Day 14 Layover Day
This is a comfortable camp along the Middle Fork of the Kings River. The river's many pools are deep enough for a good dunking and there are plenty of bushes to dry your laundry. It’s worth exploring around camp to observe the meadow's peat layer and carnivorous plant.

Segment 3: Big Pete Meadow to Quail Meadow
Overview: The California Sierra has so much to offer. Granite cliffs, flower strewn meadows, thundering waterfalls, pristine lakes and deep calm rivers. Some days in the Sierra are magical. This section of the John Muir Trail journeys through Kings Canyon National Park and the John Muir Wilderness of Sierra National Forest treating you to more wonder per mile than any other section of the trail.

Day 15 Big Pete Meadow over Muir Pass to Evolution Lake
12 miles, 3,000’ gain, 1,400’ loss
The trail follows the Kings River past meadows and cascades before leaving the trees after ascending 1,600’ in 3.4 miles. The barren, daunting landscape ahead can only be described as majestic, with the Black Divide to the west and the Goddard Divide to the north. We climb another 1,200’ in 2.7 miles to Muir Pass, passing several lakes, including large Helen Lake. The top of 11,976’ Muir Pass has the only structure on the John Muir Trail between Tuolumne Meadow and Mount Whitney, a small stone hut. The views from the pass are simply tremendous. The trail drops down into Evolution Basin with glacial cut walls and shelves with tarns and lakes. We will camp near the outlet of Evolution Lake, enjoying the view up-canyon as the afternoon light turns the rocky peaks golden.

Day 16 Evolution Lake to Evolution Meadow
6.1 miles, 100’ gain, 1,700’ loss
This is as close as one can get to easy day hiking in the Sierras. We will leave our perch on the edge of Evolution Basin, to drop 900’ in 1.4 miles on a loamy trail to a series of meadows, first Colby, then McClure, and finally, our destination, Evolution Meadow. The meadows and trees seem greener in comparison to the rocky, barren landscape of Muir Pass.

Day 17 Evolution Meadow to Senger Creek
11 miles, 2,150’ gain, 1,650’ loss
This is a day to enjoy the sight and sound of rushing water as the trail follows Evolution Creek and then the San Joaquin River. The day starts with a wade across Evolution Creek and then following its south bank before veering away to switchback down through forest to a bridge crossing of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River at mile 1.9, crossing on another bridge at mile 2.8. The trail continues to follow the energetic San Joaquin River to a bridged crossing of Piute Creek as the John Muir Trail leaves Kings Canyon Nation Park and enters the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest. Our second day of downhill hiking ends at mile 7.2 as the trail begins the climb to Seldon Pass, first through forest and then through mixed forest and manzanita before reentering the forest. We will ascend 1,900 feet in 3.8 miles to the meadow above the Senger Creek crossing.

Water is abundant.

Day 18 Senger Creek over Seldon Pass to Bear Creek
7.6 miles, 1,350’ gain, 1,450’ loss
Our climb to Senger Creek the previous day gave us a head start on the pass. The trail climbs 600’ in two miles to the beautiful Sallie Keyes Lakes, around pretty Heart Lake, and finally topping out at 10,910’ Seldon Pass in four miles. The view Marie Lake from the pass is breathtaking. This is an easy pass compared to those behind us with an easy walk of only ½ mile and less than 400’ to the shores of Marie Lake. Our path today takes us past Rosemarie Meadow to our camp at Upper Bear Creek Meadow.

Day 19 Layover at Bear Creek
There are excellent day hikes out of the Bear Creek camp including:

  • Ruby Lake
  • Seven Gables Lake
  • Sandpiper, Medly, and Three Island Lakes via Lou Beverly Lake
  • Orchid Lake

Day 20 Bear Creek to Quail Meadow
9.8 miles, 1,100’ gain, 2,900’ loss
The trail follows Bear Creek for three miles through forest. After dropping about 600’, the trail leaves Bear Creek and starts to climb toward Bear Ridge, climbing 1,000’ in 2.5 miles, mostly forested with some lovely views. The trail then drops over 2,100’ down the forested north side of Bear Ridge, finally crossing over Mono Creek on a bridge to meet the trail to Edison Lake in four miles. Follow the sign to Edison Lake, walking Ό mile to our campsite at Quail Meadow.

There is reliable water along Bear Creek and then at Mono Creek.

Segment 4: Quail Meadow to Tuolumne Meadow
Overview: You have now summited Mount Whitney, walked over eight passes, descended the Golden Staircase, and experienced over 150 miles of Sierra wilderness few people will ever see. Now it is time to experience the grandeur of the Ansel Adams Wilderness with the Minaret Spires and the Ritter Range escarpment towering over green meadows and alpine lakes. Enjoy the unique columnar basalt and the beautiful Rainbow Falls of Devils Postpile National Monument. Climb over Donahue Pass to follow the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River before ascending one more time past Cathedral Lakes before the long descent to Yosemite Valley. A four-mile side trip on the last day takes you off the John Muir Trail to the top of Half Dome for breathtaking views of Yosemite from this remarkable granite dome.

Day 21 Quail Meadow to Silver Pass Lake
5.7 miles, 2,600’ gain, 50’ loss
This is a day of rushing water and granite slabs. Walk the Ό mile back to the John Muir Trail and turn north toward Silver Pass. The trail soon crosses the North Fork of Mono Creek and climbs 400’ to the Mono Pass Trail junction. The trail follows the east bank of the creek for 1.4 miles to Pocket Meadow and the junction to Mott Lake. Crossing the creek, the trail steepens on forested switchbacks, passing Silver Pass Meadow before climbing to Silver Pass Lake at mile 5.7.

Day 22 Silver Pass Lake over Silver Pass to Virginia Lake
7.6 miles, 1,850’ gain, 1,900’ loss
It is only a short walk of 0.7 miles to 10,779’ Silver Pass. Plan to spend some time at Silver Pass as the views are absolutely stunning. You can see the Minarets, Ritter, and Banner in the distance; peaks you will pass in a few days. The trail descends through alpine lakes surrounded by granite cirques and meadows peppered across the stone slabs, eventually dropping through thick forest to the Cascade Valley Junction at mile 4.2. The trail follows cascading Fish Creek to Tully Hole before climbing up exposed switchbacks to beautiful Lake Virginia. The wonderful views south provide an excellent excuse to catch your breath.

Be prepared for numerous stream crossings.

Day 23 Virginia Lake to Deer Creek
9.3 miles, 1,150’ gain, 2,400’ loss
The trail climbs briefly over a low ridge before dropping to Purple Lake at mile 1.7. After a brief climb, the trail contours along south facing hillsides, crossing the outlet from Duck Lake, before finally descending on a dusty trail to Deer Creek at mile 9.3.

Be sure to fill up your water bottles at Duck Creek, as there is no reliable water between Duck Creek and Deer Creek.

Day 24 Deer Creek to Johnston Lake
9.2 miles, 950’ gain, 1,900’ loss
The trail leaves Deer Creek, contouring along the hillside before descending slowly to the Mammoth Pass junction at mile 2.2. Continuing north, the trail drops another 1,300’ in 3.4 miles through forest, portions recovering from a 1992 lightning strike, as it approaches Reds Meadow. Follow the John Muir Trail to the fascinating basalt columns of the Devils Postpile, with a possible side trip to Rainbow Falls. Be careful at trail junctions in the Devils Postpile area as this is where the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail separate for a day. Be sure to follow the signs to the John Muir Trail and our camp on Johnston Lake.

Backpackers rejoice at this section of the trail as it affords them the opportunity to pick up fresh food at the general store and eat a hot meal at the cafι. You haven’t been eating freeze-dried food and your daypack already contains a lunch including a sandwich, cookies, fresh fruit, nuts, and a candy bar. You can bypass civilization and continue to enjoy the Sierra wilderness at you walk toward the beautiful Minarets.

Be sure to leave Deer Creek with a full water bottle.

Day 25 Johnston Lake to Clarice Lake
8.4 miles, 2,900’ gain, 1,150’ loss
The next three days take you through the heart of the Minarets area, with wonderful views of the Ritter Range and dozens of beautiful lakes. The trail climbs 1,000’ in two miles to a saddle above Trinity Lakes and then continues to climb another 500’ to arrive at Gladys Lake at mile 3.8. If you are ready for a break, walk around to the east side of Gladys Lake for a great view across the deep canyon of the San Joaquin River. The trail now drops 800’ past Rosalie Lake to the junction at Shadow Lake. If you are full of energy, go left for a side trip to pretty Ediza Lake at mile 6.9, otherwise follow the John Muir Trail up toward the saddle above Garnet Lake. Camp will be at 9,903’ Clarice Lake, a small lake about 0.2 miles to the right of the trail. If you reach the saddle above Garnet Lake, you have passed Clarice Lake by a half mile.

Numerous lakes and creeks provide ample drinking water.

Day 26 Clarice Lake to Rush Creek
7.6 miles, 1,650’ gain, 1,450’ loss
Plan to spend time enjoying the beauty of the many lakes you will pass today with the Ritter Range always looming to the west. Return to the 0.2 miles to the John Muir Trail and walk a half mile to the ridge overlooking Garnet Lake. Drop down 300’ on easy switchbacks and then parallel the eastern bank, crossing the outlet at mile 1.6. Walk along the north shore for 1/3 mile before working your way over the 400’ ridge to rejoin the Pacific Crest Trail at the outlet of Thousand Island Lake at mile 3.8. An easy 400’ walk up to Island Pass before dropping down to follow Rush Creek up to camp.

Frequent water crossings provide ample drinking water.

Day 27 Rush Creek to Lyle Fork
6.9 miles, 1,100’ gain, 2,250’ loss
The trail follows a creek through high alpine meadows before climbing more steeply to 11,056’ Donohue Pass at mile 2.7, the last pass before Tuolumne Meadow. Take one last look at the Ansel Adams Wilderness before stepping into Yosemite National Park. The trail drops 2,200’ over the next 3.6 miles through beautiful scenery of creeks, small lakes, and huge slabs of granite, crossing a number of streams, before reaching the meadows of Lyell Canyon. Follow the trail another half mile to a pleasant camp between the trail and the river.

Frequent water crossings provide ample drinking water.

Day 28 Layover

Day 29 Lyle Canyon to Cathedral Lakes
14.0 miles, 1,450’ gain, 900’ loss
We have spent weeks climbing thousands of feet out of canyons up to views of stark granite mountains. The first 11 miles are an easy walk along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, moving in and out of the forest with the meandering river to our right. There is a junction to Ireland Lake and Vogelsang High Sierra Camp at mile 2.3 and then another junction after the bridge crossing of Rafferty Creek at mile 6.3. The trail is approaching the campground, stores, visitor center, etc. of Tuolumne Meadow. The trail avoids much of the crowd by swinging out into the meadow. Don’t let the shock of the crowds keep you from spending time enjoying the spectacular views from the meadow.

Follow the JMT/PCT to the right, signed for Tuolumne Lodge, to cross the Tuolumne River on two bridges. Go left at the Gaylor Lakes junction at mile 7.6, crossing the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River on a bridge at mile 7.7 and then immediately turn left to follow the trail along the river. Cross Highway 120, your first road in 215 miles of Sierra trails, and follow the dirt road passing through the gate at mile 9.1. The John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail once again diverge, this time for good, at mile 9.4 where you will go left past Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge to follow the trail back across Tuolumne Meadow, crossing Highway 120 again at mile 9.8. The trail tees into the Tuolumne-Tenaya trail in 0.1 miles where you will turn right. The JMT turns left onto the Cathedral Lakes trail in one mile. You will climb 1,000’ in three miles to camp to the left of the junction to the Lower Cathedral Lake.

Day 30 Cathedral Lakes to Sunrise Creek
10.8miles, 950’ gain, 3,250’ loss
The trail starts out in forest before opening up into the meadow surrounding the upper Cathedral Lake surrounded by Cathedral, Echo and Tresidder Peaks. A short climb to 9,700’ Cathedral Pass before dropping down to Long Meadow to pass the Echo Creek junction at mile 3.6 and the Sunrise High Sierra Camp at mile 4.4. The trail climbs 400’ over the shoulder of Sunrise Mountain before dropping steadily for 2,500’ to camp just short of the Clouds Rest trail junction.

Day 31 Sunrise Creek to Half Dome to Happy Isles
11.2 miles, 2,050’ gain, 5,200’ loss
The Half Dome trail is 0.5 miles past the Clouds Rest trail junction. While Half Dome is not part of the John Muir Trail, this is a great opportunity to enjoy the magnificent views from the top. The last part of the two-mile ascent is over very steep, smooth granite with cables erected for safety, but is not for those with a fear of heights. Returning to the JMT, the trail drops to Little Yosemite Valley where we turn right at mile 6.1 to follow the Merced River down to Yosemite Valley.

The crowds will start as you approach Nevada Fall at mile 7.5. Suppress the urge to take the shorter Mist Trail and stay on the John Muir Trail. Cross over the river on the wooden bridge to enjoy a break at the top of the fall before starting down the trail on a series of long switchbacks on the west side of the Merced River. The trail connects with the bottom of the Mist Trail at mile 10.2 and then crosses the river on a wooden bridge with great views of Vernal Fall before dropping down the last 0.7 miles to the northern end of the John Muir Trail at Happy Isles.

You have just walked 243 miles through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world. Trip of a lifetime? You bet.

Hop on the shuttle or walk the mile to Half Dome (Curry) Village to meet your ride outside the tent cabin check-in counter.


Location Daily
Horseshoe Meadow 0.0 9,938
Cottonwood Pass 3.8 11,084
Chicken Spring Lake Camp 4.5 4.5 11,266
Siberian Pass Trail Junction 8.4 11,064
Army Pass Trail Junction 12.9 9,975
Lower Rock Creek Camp 9.9 14.4 9,602
Guyot Pass 16.5 10,918
Crabtree Meadow Junction 19.9 10,349
John Muir Trail Junction 21.0 10,654
Guitar Lake Camp 9.8 24.2 11,587
Trail Junction 27.0 13,557
Mount Whitney 28.8 14,467
Trail Junction 30.6 13,557
Guitar Lake Camp 9.2 33.4 11,587
Crabtree Meadow Trail Junction 36.0 10,655
Pacific Crest Trail Junction 36.8 10,691
High Sierra Trail Junction 40.1 10,406
Tyndall Creek Frog Pond Camp 10.6 44.0 11,050
Tyndall Creek Junction 44.5 10,887
Upper Kern Cut-Off 44.8 11,091
Forester Pass 49.4 13,020
Golden Bear Lakes Trail Junction 54.1 10,673
Upper Bubbs Creek Camp 11.9 55.9 10,000
Lower Vidette Meadow Junction 57.2 9,519
Bullfrog Lake Junction 58.4 10,582
Charlotte Lake Junction 58.8 10,746
Charlotte Lake Camp 4.2 60.1 10,424
Charlotte Lake Junction 61.6 10,747
Kearsarge Pass Junction 61.8 10,859
Glen Pass 63.8 11,946
Sixty Lakes Basin Junction 65.7 10,545
Rae Lakes Ranger Station 66.5 10,593
Arrowhead Lake Camp 7.7 67.8 10,339
Baxter Pass Junction 68.7 10,219
Woods Creek Junction 72.5 8,550
Woods Basin Junction 76.1 10,370
Twin Lakes Camp 9.1 76.9 10,692
Pinchot Pass 80.0 12,006
Bench Lake Junction 82.9 10,823
Taboose Pass Junction 83.1 10,802
South Fork of Kings River Camp7.5 84.4 10,000
Taboose Pass Trail Junction 84.8 10,193
Mather Pass 90.0 12,080
Lower Palisade Lake Camp 9.3 93.7 10,612
Simpson Meadow Junction 100.5 8,082
Dusy Basin Junction 104.1 8,742
Big Pete Meadow Camp 11.9 105.6 9,265
Muir Pass 111.8 11,976
Sapphire Lake Outlet 115.6 10,968
Evolution Lake Outlet 12.0 117.6 10,862
McClure Meadow 121.3 9,650
Evolution Meadow Camp 6.1 123.7 9,236
Goddard Canyon Trail Junction 125.4 8,484
Piute Creek Trail Junction 129.1 8,081
Muir Trail Ranch Junction 130.9 7,896
Senger Creek Camp 11.0 134.7 9,761
Seldon Pass 138.7 10,886
Rose Lake Junction 141.1 10,045
Lou Beverly Lake Junction 141.3 10,031
Upper Bear Creak Meadows Camp7.6 142.3 9,582
Lake Italy Junction 143.6 9,357
Bear Creek Trail Junction 145.58,993
Bear Ridge Trail Junction 147.5 9,895
Lake Edison Junction 151.8 7,893
Quail Meadows Camp 9.8 152.1 7,843
Mono Pass Junction 153.7 8,409
Mott Lake Trail Junction 155.1 9,024
Silver Pass Meadow Camp 5.7 157.8 10,428
Silver Pass 158.5 10,779
Lake of Lone Indian Junction 159.6 10,539
Cascade Canyon Junction 162.0 9,200
McGee Pass Junction 163.1 9,548
Lake Virginia Camp 7.6 165.4 10,407
Purple Lake Outlet 167.1 9,931
Duck Lake Junction 169.3 10,174
Deer Creek Junction 9.3 174.79,111
Mammoth Pass Junction 176.9 8,921
Reds Meadow Junction 180.3 7,652
Fern Lake Junction 181.9 7,719
JMT/PCT Split 182.6 7,685
Superior Lake Junction 183.4 8,103
Johnston Lake 9.2 183.9 8,123
Minaret Lake Junction 184.0 8,126
Shadow Lake Junction 190.2 8,764
Ediza Lake Junction 190.8 8,992
Clarice Lake 8.4 192.3 9,900
Garnet Lake Junction 193.9 9,707
Thousand Island Lake Junction 195.9 9,846
Island Pass 197.6 10,225
Davis Lakes Junction 198.6 9,699
Waugh Lake Junction 198.9 9,645
Marie Lakes Junction 7.6 199.9 10,070
Donohue Pass 202.6 11,074
Lyell Canyon Camp 6.9 206.8 8,990
Ireland Creek Junction 14.0 209.0 8,888
Rafferty Creek Junction 213.1 8,724
Junction to Tuolumne Lodge 213.7 8,669
Junction to Gaylor Lakes 214.4 8,714
Junction for Tuolumne Lodge 214.7 8,680
Highway 120 215.5 8,599
Gate 215.9 8,593
JMT/PCT Split 216.2 8,670
Highway 120 216.6 8,600
Tenaya-Tuolumne Trail Junction 216.7 8,630
Cathedral Lake Junction 217.8 8,580
Cathedral Lake Camp 220.8 9,500
Cathedral Pass 10.8 221.9 9,700
Echo Creek Trail Junction 224.4 9,320
Sunrise Lakes Junction 225.3 9,320
Merced Lake High Trail 229.8 7,900
Sunrise Creek Stock Camp 231.6 7,180
Clouds Rest Trail Junction 11.2 231.7 7,210
Half Dome Junction 232.2 7,020
Half Dome 234.28,836
Half Dome Junction 236.2 7,020
Merced Lake Trail Junction 237.7 6,140
Shortcut Trail Junction 238.1 6,100
Mist Trail Junction 239.1 5,980
Panorama Trail Junction 239.5 6,010
Clark Point Trail Junction 239.5 5,520
Mist Trail Junction 241.8 4,450
Happy Isles 242.8 4,035

McClure Meadow Rainbow
From Top Of Selden Pass

Looking from Top of
Selden Pass to Marie Lake
Mt Banner

Looking at Mount Banner
across Thousand Isands Lake
Mather Pass

Looking At Mather Pass in the Sunset Light
Evolution Lake

Evolution Lake
Gladys Lake

Gladys Lake
trail to Mather Pass

Brooke on trail to Mather Pass

Backside of Mt. Whitney

Backside of Mt. Whitney
Fat Marmot

Marmot posing.
What you need to know…for hikers
For pack stock supported hiking trips (HWPS)

Dunnage limit is 30 lbs. per person (this includes sleeping bags, fishing equipment, liquor, etc.)

You may bring your own tent up to 10 pounds that is in addition. The PCT 28 day trip allows 35 pounds of duffel.


Bring belongings in stout canvas or nylon duffels; side zipper recommended, ideal size approximately 14" x 32". It is a good idea to use a large plastic bag INSIDE of the duffle to protect contents from external moisture.

Sleeping bags can be in separate duffels --again, line the inside of the duffle against rain. Place all cosmetics, soaps, medications, etc into small plastic containers with close-fitting caps, THEN into sturdy resealable plastic storage bags. If anything breaks or bursts from altitude changes, the plastic bag contains the spill. When possible, it is a good idea to transfer alcoholic beverages to sturdy plastic bottles with well fitting caps - it will save weight and protect against breakage.


  • Footwear. For this trips a medium-weight pair of hiking boots. We do not recommend lightweight hikers or tennies since they give little ankle support and the soles are often thin.
  • Camp Shoes. A lightweight pair of tennies or Tevas to wear in camp. This will reduce vegetation damage at our campsites.
  • A day pack. It should be large enough to take water, extra clothing, rainwear, camera, etc during the days.
  • Sleeping Bag. Most summer trips are warm and a bag rated to about 25°F will be plenty warm enough. We much prefer down bags, and good quality ones at that. Your bag should weigh in around 3 pounds.
  • Sleeping pad. A 3/4 or full length closed cell foam or Thermarest. If you bring a Thermarest also bring a repair kit to fix pesky holes!
  • Coffee mug (plastic for camp)


  • 2 pair synthetic liner socks.
  • 2 pair heavier synthetic or wool blend socks.
  • Long underwear top. Capilene, some other synthetic or the new pure Merino wool types.
  • Long underwear bottom.
  • Warm pants. Tights or Expedition Weight Capilene.
  • Warm shirt. Synchilla or R2 weight works well.
  • Another fuzzy sweater top or pile jacket of some sort
  • GoreTex Jacket and Pants. A lightweight set is sufficient and heavy bulky clothing is unnecessary. Side zips on the pants should be long enough to slide over boots. Jacket must have a hood. Do not skimp on your rain gear. Nylon ponchos are not acceptable.
  • Shorts for on the trail
  • Tee shirt for on the trail
  • Lightweight capilene or similar gloves.
  • Warm hat. Synthetic or wool.
  • Sunhat


  • Sun glasses.
  • Water Bottles. Two quart (1 liter) wide mouth bottles and/or a hydration system holding up to 50oz. (2 liters). Don’t bring bike bottles or any bottle that doesn’t have a wide opening.
  • Headlamp. --and a spare set of batteries!
  • Pocket knife. Swiss army style.
  • Personal toiletries. It is not necessary to smell like a rose each day so do not over do it.
  • Ear plugs are great to have in a noisy tent.
  • Personal Medical Kit. The guide will carry a large kit so yours will predominately consist of foot repair items, mild pain killer such as Advil and bandaids.
  • Sunscreen and lip screen. SPF 30+. A 1oz. bottle will be enough. Make sure the lip stuff actually contains a sunscreen.
  • Bug repellent.
  • Camera. A spare battery and card are good backups
  • Ski/trekking poles. These are not essential, but can be handy on the trail. It is your choice, but they do save wear on the knees.
  • Plastic trash bag. Handy for keeping gear in outside the tent should it rain.
  • Optional reading material, etc. OPTIONAL ITEMS:
    • Small notepad and pencil
    • Collapsible plastic wash basin (optional)
    • Solar shower (optional)
    • Water filtering pump (optional)
    • Liquor (be sure to check in with the packers to see that your liquor is packed safely)
    • Fishing equipment (optional)
      • CALIFORNIA FISHING LICENSE. Please note that fishing licenses are NOT available at or near the pack station. Be sure to get one BEFORE you arrive for your adventure. You can find information on California fishing licenses and online purchase at TakeMeFishing.org. You can purchase them at a Bishop sporting goods store, as well.
      • Rod/reel/line (a rod that breaks down into 3 or more pieces is recommended)
      • Compact metal rod case to carry on saddle
      • Canvas creel (no tackle boxes)
      • Leader material (1-3 lb.)
      • Flies: black gnat, mosquito, grey hackle, brown hackle, & royal coachman (No. 12-14 hooks)
      • Bait: worms & Pautzke red eggs
      • Egg hooks, worm hooks (No. 10-14)
      • Split shot
      • Lures (personal choice)
      • Pliers

You can purchase quality topo maps at TOM HARRISON MAPS.

If you don't have the time or desire to hike the entire JMT in one trip can provide all inclusive custom trips that cover segments. Cottonwood to Onion Valley, Onion Valley to Bishop Pass, Bishop Pass to Red’s Meadow or Red’s Meadow to Yosemite are segments available to you. The Halfmile's PCT Maps offer a free map of the John Muir Trail. Look at the "California Section H" map. It covers Cottonwood to Tuolumne.


  • Tom Harrison Maps (some can also be downloaded onto an tablet or smart phone):
    • John Muir Trail and Mt. Whitney High Country
    • Mt. Whitney High Country
    • Kings Canyon High Country
    • Mono Divide High Country
    • Mammoth High Country
    • Yosemite High Country
  • National Geographic Maps: John Muir Trail
  • Halfmile PCT Maps California Sections G and H. Download free from https://www.pctmap.net
    Apps for Smartphone/Tablet:
    • Guthook’s Hiking Guides, PCT Hiker
    • National Geographic National Park Maps, download HD map
    • Gaia GPS, download area we will cover