South Lake to Whitney Portal Trail

Aspendell, California 93513

South Lake to Whitney Portal Trail

South Lake to Whitney Portal Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Walk along the very crest of the Sierra on one of the finest hikes in the United States. Along the route you will scale six major passes, climb to dizzying heights and breathless views, and end your traverse by ascending to the highest point in the Lower 48 states. Your feet will follow a trail that crosses flower-covered meadows, skirts shores of crystalline lakes, passes bubbling cascades and thundering torrents, and scales cliffs of sparkling granidiorite, while your mind feasts on endless vistas and the enchanting aspects of the High Sierra. The main portion of the hike, from South Lake to Whitney Portal, follows the combined John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail (JMT/PCT). The trail is well maintained; however, you must be prepared to face numerous challenges along the route that require resourcefulness as well as considerable hiking experience. The major challenges include unbridged river crossings, snow and ice that may cover the trail at the passes for most of the summer, heavy packs, high elevations, and sudden storms. You must also be prepared for route finding, as trail signs are often not replaced for several years after they are stolen or damaged."

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Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Day & Section Hikes: John Muir Trail (Menasha Ridge Press)
Kathleen Dodge
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"This east-to-west section of the John Muir Trail is laden with high-altitude passes for hungry peak-baggers. With alpine lakes, craggy peaks, and flower-strewn meadows rewarding considerable effort, this is high drama, Kings Canyon–style. The journey begins at an already formidable altitude, so rugged above-treeline views are within grasp almost immediately. Crest Bishop Pass (11,972 feet) and soak in the silent grandeur of the peaks of the Inconsolable Range. Summit Mather Pass (12,100 feet) via cleverly camouflaged switchbacks up a seeming pile of rubble, and finally reach the highest prize of the section: Pinchot Pass (12,130 feet) where the thin air does not spoil a rich view. A long descent past meadows, aspen groves, and thundering waterfalls leads to end of the road at the namesake canyon of Kings Canyon National Park. Outstanding features: Bishop Pass, Dusy Basin, Le Conte Canyon, Golden Staircase, Palisade Lakes, Mather Pass, Lake Marjorie, Pinchot Pass, Castle Domes, Mist Falls"

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Trail Information

Nearby City
20,353 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
10–12 days
August through September
10,000 feet
Trailhead Elevation
14,495 feet
Top Elevation
John Muir Wilderness & Kings Canyon; White Mountain Ranger Station
Local Contacts
USFS John Muir Wilderness (Central and South Sections); USGS Mt. Thompson, North Palisade, Split Mtn., Mt. Pinchot, Mt. Clarence King, Mt. Brewer, Mt. Williamson, Mt. Kaweah, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Langley
Local Maps

Trail Log