The final section of the John Muir Trail is not for the weak of heart, literally or figuratively. With two significant mountain passes to climb, and the conquering of the contiguous United State’s highest peak thrown in, this is where hikers earn their bragging rights. However, this 51-mile journey is not just for peak-bagging glory hounds; it also includes some of the most spectacular alpine scenery that the Sierras have to offer. Those who love their vistas wide can have their fill of expansive hiking above treeline—open meadows, stark lakes, and the cold embrace of ringing mountains nearly everywhere. Begin with a hefty 2,600-foot climb up to Kearsarge Pass (11,823 feet), where the trail descends to Vidette Meadow before it’s time to hoof it up foreboding Forester Pass (13,120 feet). Catch your breath descending to Tyndall Creek before another scenic traverse up to Guitar Lake. Lastly, conquer the inimitable Mount Whitney, a giant granite dome hulking over the Owens Valley. Like a benevolent mother, she lures the minions to join her in the heavens. That is, until you get halfway up and she begins to feel like a deceptively wicked and cruel illusionist, ever farther away. Until, finally, you reach the seeming top of the world. Outstanding features: Gilbert Lake, Kearsarge Pass, Vidette Meadow, Forester Pass, Guitar Lake, Mount Whitney
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