How to Hike the John Muir Trail

How to Hike the John Muir TrailJohn Muir, pictured on the 2005 California quarter, explored the Sierra Nevada Mountains and wrote essays, letters and books telling of his adventures in the wild and expanding his vision of preserving nature. His activism helped secure Yosemite's designation as a national park, and he founded the Sierra Club in 1892. There is a 211-mile trail filled with spectacular views constructed in his honor (it was started in 1916, a year after Muir died, and completed in 1938) that starts in Yosemite Valley and goes all the way to Mt. Whitney. To actually get back to civilization and down from Mt. Whitney, a hiker must go another 11 miles, making the entire trip 222 miles. It's a popular, if challenging, hike, but by following these tips, you can do it in three weeks.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Train. The good news is you won't summit Mt. Whitney (14,497 feet) until the very end of the hike, so you'll get acclimatized and heart-fit for it while on the John Muir Trail. But to start the hike, you do need to be able to hike 10 miles a day with a full pack on, so several weeks ahead of time, hike a couple of times a week. Aerobic exercise at the gym helps, too, but it won't build up calluses.
Step 2
Break in your boots. Building up calluses on your feet is the absolute number one thing to do. Infected blisters are a common sight for hikers on the trail.
Step 3
Figure out how long you'd like to spend on the trail. To do it in three weeks, you have to average about 11 miles a day. Fast packers do it in less than two weeks (they're closer to trail runners) and even an aggressive average hiker would take two weeks. If you've got the time, there's no rush, though.
Step 4
Seriously consider getting a buddy. It helps immensely when it comes to food. With at least two people, you have two bear canisters. Also you'll be splitting up the carrying of other things like a tent and stove.
Step 5
Figure out where your food drops will be. Because you can't carry all of your food for three weeks, you'll be mailing yourself food and supply packages ahead of time. You can mail food to Tuolomne Meadows, which is about two days hike from the start of the trip. Other food drop locations include Red's Meadows Resort, Vermilion Valley Resort at Edison Lake and Muir Trail Ranch. You can also schedule meetups along the way. Have a friend hike up Kearsarge Pass and meet you at Vidette Meadow with food.
Step 6
There are 137 bear boxes located throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains that you can use to stash food overnight while camping.
Step 7
Get a permit, available on-line through the U.S. Forest Service. Here's good news: 40 percent of the permits are reserved for walkups. Make sure you get it stamped for exiting in the Whitney Zone, with an approximate date of your exit. Pad your estimate by a couple of days just in case you get delayed.
Step 8
Figure out your car exit strategy. You can park a car at the overflow parking at Whitney Portal (at the end of the trail), but make sure you empty anything with a scent. Bears are numerous at Whitney Portal and your car must be emptied of soda cans, mints, gum, food wrappers and so on. From there, have a friend drive you up to Yosemite via Tioga Pass to begin the hike (you can spend a night in Independence, CA, along the way).
Step 9
Begin hiking at Happy Isles in Yosemite (you'll stroll down the asphalt road to get to the trail head). Enjoy the views. Take pictures. Meet your fellow hikers along the way.
Step 10
Camping spots are easy to find along the Muir trail. Many are marked on the Harrison maps. Set up camp in the late afternoon while the sun is still out and it's warm--you don't want to be cooking dinner and washing up when it's cold and dark out.
Step 11
Consider washing your hair and washing out laundry (hanging it outside your pack to dry) at lunch so it can dry while you hike.
Step 12
Take a break at Vermilion Resort. Enjoy a few hot meals, take a shower, do laundry, make phone calls, get more fuel for your stove, pick up your food supply you mailed yourself ahead of time. You can bail out there if you want, as there is a road, but you'll be on the west side of the mountain range.
Step 13
After bagging Whitney, consider returning to your car rather than camping another night--a hot meal can be had at the Whitney Portal store. Enjoy it and celebrate your amazing feat (and feet)!

Tips & Warnings

The trail is very well-marked, but you should still buy the Tom Harrison map pack. It has numbered maps of the whole trail.
If you can't do the whole trail, do a shorter section. Lyell Canyon just out of Tuolumne Meadows is breath-taking.
Take your boots and socks off at lunch and let your feet air out.
Try out all of your equipment before you leave--especially in the rain. At the very least turn a hose on the stuff that's supposed to be waterproof and see if it really is.
Practice cooking with your stove, and make sure your food fits in the bowl your bringing. Mashed potatoes, jerky, oatmeal, energy bars and powdered pudding are good foods to consider.
In your small notebook, keep a journal of your trip. It's also a great place to write emergency phone numbers and a calendar so you can keep track of your days.
The streams and lakes are too cold to bathe in, but that's why you're bringing a collapsible bucket. Do not dump your soapy water in the stream; spread it on the ground.
This is a summer hike. Snow makes it impossible the rest of the year.
You MUST have a bear canister. People are occasionally mauled by bears in the middle of the night on the John Muir Trail. Minimize your risks and get the largest bear canister possible. Do not try to hang your food from a tree.
Cook and store food 200 feet away from your tent so if a bear comes sniffing along, he or she will go for the food area and not your sleeping bag. Do not leave your garbage out--it must be stored in a bear canister or bear locker as well.
Do not have anything scented in your tent--toothpaste included.
At the first sign of a hotspot on your foot, IMMEDIATELY put a band- aid on it--you do not want to be plagued with blisters for weeks, it will ruin your trip.
Do not get your hiking boots wet in the stream crossings--bring along water moccasins or crocks of some sort (not sandals, they leave your toes vulnerable).

Article Written By eHow


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