John Muir Trail Backpacking Trip

Trip Report

August 20 - September 7, 2011

210 miles
Elevation Ascent: 55,000 ft

JMT sign

A Dream realized and a Goal accomplished...


I outlined the mental journey that led me to attempting to hike the full John Muir Trail in my 2010 journal, so I won't repeat it here. 2011 was the year everything came together and I was able to attempt, and complete, the 210 mile hike!

Tuolumne Meadows
210 miles --->
Mt Whitney
Tuolumne Meadows

Top of Mt Whitney

Since I had started at Happy Isle in 2010, and I was limited to 20 days on the trail this year, I started at Tuolumne Meadows. I was fortunate to have my father in law Vic join me for the first 4 days of hiking. It was nice to get a chance to hike with him again. Most of my gear was the same as my 2010 trip, with a few adjustments.

My plan was to do the hike in 20 days, with one zero day (a rest day with no hiking miles). I also planned a couple of short days at Rae Lakes and Charlotte Lake, since I have been telling myself that 'next time' I would take time to enjoy these spectacular areas.  In 2009 we had planned to stay a day in this area but the mosquitoes had a different plan for us.  Doing the trail in 18 or 19 days means doing on average 12 mile days. This was pushing it a bit for me, especially since I started the hike with 8-10 mile days, but I knew it was do-able.

As it turned out, I did take the zero day, and the short days, and still completed the hike in 19 rather than 20 days. By the end of the trip, doing 10 mile days was MUCH easier than doing 10 mile days at the start! And it wasn't because the trail got easier, since the opposite is certainly true. If you do the JMT southbound, the peaks and elevation changes get progressively more difficult the farther south you get. The difference was just that I was acclimated to the elevation and my body was 'trail hardened' after 10 days or so.

Still, just because you CAN do 15 mile days, does not mean you necessarily should. My one regret is that I didn't have more time to just stop and enjoy the moment, explore side trails, and soak in the scenery and beauty. I highly recommend that you do LESS miles per day if this is your first time hiking the JMT. Enjoy it and take it slow!

This trip was the most fun, the most rewarding, the most challenging, and the most beautiful backpacking trip I have ever done.

JMT 2011 Trip prep