A Week on the John Muir Trail

Trail Details

This summer I spent a week backpacking through one of the most beautiful places on earth — the John Muir Trail — with my 15-year-old son. If you have kids, you can imagine how special this time was for me.

The trail spans 211 miles, which is much too long for us to do in just week, so we did an 102-mile section hike. We started at Tuolumne Meadows inside Yosemite National Park at mile 25, and headed off the JMT at mile 110. The elevation profile below is no exaggeration, it will either inspire you or scare you away!


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Trail Photos

We started out meandering through a beautiful meadow following Lyell Creek with little elevation gain. This was the easiest day of our journey, which was a nice way to begin our adventure. If you like fishing, this is an amazing place for some Tenkara fly fishing. That snowy covered mountain in the distance is a  sign of things to come.

This is black bear country, so bear canisters are required by the National Park Service. That's an added two pounds, which is a lot for a gram counter like me. Be sure to store all food, trash and anything with a scent inside your canister at night, and place it well away from your tent in an area where it won't roll down a hill if a nighttime visitor attempts to invade it.

Below is the scene we were treated to at Donahue Pass -- about three miles of snow. It was difficult, and amazing!

There are countless creek crossings along the way, probably half of them with log bridges like the one below. The other half you get wet crossing.

The scenery in the High Sierra never ceases to amaze, like this little lake at Island Pass.

My two favorite time of day is when the shadows are long, because the landscape just seems to illuminate, like this early morning shot at Lake Virginia.

The best places are also the most difficult to get to, such as Silver Pass, pictured below with a frozen Chief Lake in foreground.

Some portions of the trail were extremely difficult, and the going was much slower than we were used to.

What started as a slow-moving Silver Pass Creek turned into this amazing waterfall half way down a steep descent of switchbacks.

Marie Lake sits just below the 12,000-foot Selden Pass.  The views just never get old.

This is the Piute Pass Trail, which leads off the JMT and PCT heading east some 17 miles to a trailhead, leaving you about 20 miles from the nearest town. More diverse and beautiful scenery, and we were treated to a day of hiking in the rain.

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Author of MountainUltraLight.com, UltraLight Backpacking Fanatic, UL Gear Maker, Amateur Photographer, Blessed Husband/Father/Grandfather...writing about trips, gear, and inspiration in the Western United States.

  • That looks incredible. Great job! I love the Sierras.

    • Anonymous

      I want to go back. Now!

  • Kind of makes me want to jump on the next flight from the east coast to your neck of the woods. Excellent photos and review – feel free to share more. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Joe. It’s one of those places that once you go, you’ll be back. I feel like I just barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait until next time!

  • Marina Gaínza Lein

    Hi John! This looks absolutely amazing. I’m planning on doing this trail next summer, but I would only have about 7-9 days. If starting in Yosemite, where would it be a good point to leave the trail? I see that you had family waiting for you with a car, is there a way of leaving the trail after a week or so without a car? From either Red’s Meadows or Piute Pass Trail? Thank you!