Mount Whitney Trail

Sequoia National Park, California 93262

Distance8.0mi
Elevation Gain7,264ft
Trailhead Elevation8,327ft
Top13,673ft
Elevation Min/Max8327/13673ft
Elevation Start/End8327/8327ft

Mount Whitney Trail

Mount Whitney Trail is a hiking trail in Tulare County and Inyo County, California. It is within John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, and Inyo National Forest. It is 8.0 miles long and begins at 8,327 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 16.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 7,264 feet. Near the trailhead there are parkings. The Mirror Lake water can be seen along the trail. There are also meadows and a wetland along the trail. Near the end of the trail is a camp site. This trail connects with the following: John Muir Trail, Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route and Mirror Lake Connector.

Mount Whitney Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Norman Clyde described the attractive eastern facade of Mt. Whitney, “It is from the seldom-visited vantage points that Mt. Whitney is most imposing . . . spectacular to a degree that would surprise those that have only seen it from the usual viewpoints.” Scanning Mt. Whitney’s east face on the evening before the first ascent of the east face of the peak, Glen Dawson and Jules Eichorn expressed their desire to tackle the more attractive east buttress. However, Clyde and Underhill held firm to their chosen line to the left of the buttress. Dawson returned to the east buttress of Mt. Whitney in 1937 with another group of Sierra Club climbers. Taking the lead, he was impressed as the line continually opened before him. Every time a difficult impasse blocked his way, a short detour off the prow led to easier ground. Nearing the top, they passed a huge, distinctive looking block, which they dubbed the “Pee Wee Pillar.” A year later, the route was repeated by another Sierra Club group including Ruth Dyar Mendenhall, who modestly noted the “Pee Wee Route is now more decorously referred to as the East Buttress.” The East Buttress became Dawson’s favorite climb in the High Sierra, and he was to repeat it many times. Dawson was one of the finest rock climbers in the country in his day, and his first ascent of the Mechanics Route (5.8) at Tahquitz Rock was considered one of the hardest climbs done prior to World War II. Many climbers name this as their choice for the single best route in the Sierra. Long-time Sierra climber Bob Rockwell agreed, stating, “As I think back on my past mountain experiences, this has to be my favorite Sierra climb. After 3 pitches, the rope was still in the pack and I told my partner, ‘I think the hardest part is behind us.’ We kept going and the rope stayed where it was for the remainder of the climb. We didn’t expect to climb the route solo, we just did.”"

"Mt. Whitney has the distinction of being the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. With typical audacity, the peak was named by Clarence King in honor of Josiah Dwight Whitney, professor of geology at Harvard from 1865 to 1896 and the State Geologist of California from 1860 to 1874. The first ascent of the east face of the peak was made during Dr. Robert Underhill’s historic visit to the High Sierra in the summer of 1931. Underhill was an experienced climber who had made a number of ascents in the Tetons and Canadian Rockies. Upon arriving at the camp in the Ritter Range, he began instructing the Sierra Club climbers in the use of roped belays. “The route we followed was exactly that which we had mapped out originally. The rock work was not really difficult; there is, I should say, less than a thousand feet of it from the roping up to the unroping place. The beauty of the climb in general lies chiefly in its unexpected possibility, up the apparent precipice, and in the intimate contact it affords with the features that lend Mt. Whitney its real impressiveness.” A key feature on the climb is the very exposed “Fresh Air Traverse.” Clyde recounted the crux moves. “The traverse proved to be one requiring considerable steadiness, as the ledges were narrow and there was a thousand feet of fresh air below.”"

"A worthwhile side trip from the Mount Whitney Trail, giving you a sneak preview of the vertigo-inducing views to be savored on top of Whitney. Mount Muir is often climbed by those collecting ascents of 14,000-foot mountains. Mount Muir is another 14,000-foot mountain along the Mount Whitney ridge. It is most often done as an add-on to a Whitney ascent day."

"The entire Sierra Crest in the Mt. Whitney area is named the “Muir Crest” in honor of John Muir. This summit also carries his name. However, many climbers would have preferred that Muir had received the honor of the highest peak in the range instead of his philosophical adversary, Josiah Whitney. In his classic 1976 guidebook to the High Sierra, author Steve Roper summed up this opinion “One can’t help but feel that a more worthy mountain could have been chosen to carry the name of one of the Sierra’s greatest figures.” All Sierra climbers bear a debt to John Muir for his vision and efforts at preserving the wilderness of the High Sierra so that we can enjoy it in its pristine state. Muir’s writings brought the High Sierra, and especially Yosemite Valley, into the nation’s consciousness. Although his style may seem dated today, we can still share his enthusiasm for the range. “I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best the Lord has built, and rejoicing in its glory, I gratefully, hopefully pray that I may see it again.” The attractive eastern facade of the Muir Crest caught the attention of pioneering Sierra climber John Mendenhall. He made the first ascent of the east buttress of Mt. Muir with fellow Sierra climber Nelson Nies in 1935. Mendenhall was well known in Sierra climber circles for his deliberate climbing pace that often led to unplanned bivouacs. Mendenhall often preferred to climb solo or in the company of his own group of friends, but his most frequent partner was his wife, Ruth, with whom he pioneered many difficult routes in the Sierra."

"At 14,491 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states. Because of that claim—and the fact that the mountain is accessible and offers unparalleled views over the southern Sierra and the Owens Valley—Whitney is also the Sierra’s most popular peak. This trip describes the easiest way to backpack the Mt. Whitney Trail."

Mount Whitney Trail Reviews

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9/13/2009
The hardest part of this trail is getting the permit (for a weekend in Jul-Sep). I absolutely have no luck with lotteries and had given up. But then on a Thursday in Sep I called up the visitor center for a permit. I was in luck and was able to get a day-hike permit for Sunday. There are almost always cancellations just couple of days ahead. So its always possible to get a weekend permit. But one has to call every Thurs or Fri and be prepared to leave at a short notice. Plus its much easier to get 1-2 permits than for a big group. A day hike of 22 miles and elevation gain from 8300 to 14500 is a serious challenge. But it is worth the effort - - you bag the highest peak in continental US - fantastic views of high Sierras and the valleys and deserts to the east - sense of accomplishment. Some of my serious mountaineer friends sneered at this trail - for being a class I well maintained trail that offers no challenge and plus being crowded - but in my opinion this is a must do.
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9/6/2009
This hike is a mental battle to overcome fatigue but it's a great physical challenge to do in one day.
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8/16/2009
absolutely stunning - tough but worth the effort, took a few days to acclimate to altitude with an overnight at Outpost & Trail Camp - then went summit and packed all the way out to the Portal parking lot. A Great Experience!
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8/20/2008
It's a long slog, but worth it in the end. I did this hike in one day and summited in about 4 and a half hours, although talking to others at the top, 7 hours seemed more common. I overpacked, bringing more clothing and liquid than I needed, but better safe than sorry on a mountain this high. The hike is much longer than it is steep, only gaining an average of about 550' per mile. But the altitude can get you, and drinking and eating plenty along the way is important. I did it on a crystal clear day and the visibility was unlimited. It was rather crowded at the top for a Wednesday, with people ranging in age from 7 to 71. I drove down from Seattle and didn't have a permit. But I stopped in to the interagency office just south of Lone Pine the day before and was able to get one no problem. No-shows and cancellations mean that some walk-up permits become available, but you have to get to the office the day before you plan to hike. Also, if you're staying overnight or hiking on the weekend, getting a walk-up permit will be tougher. And be careful not to leave any food or food residue in your car, even for a day hike because bears will break into your vehicle. Either rent a bear canister or leave your stuff at the Whitney Portal hostel in Lone Pine. The trail is well-maintained and at times beautiful. You pass several tarns and once along the crest trail, you get peeks through the spires toward Lone Pine. You'll earn your buffalo burger at the Mt. Whitney restaurant after this one.
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7/26/2008
Not nearly as hard as some make it out to be. It was definately not easy though. I started at 230am and finished at 4pm. I thought the hike down was much more difficult than the way up. the 97 switchback part is not bad if you keep a nice slow and steady pace, it took us 1.45 hrs. there are much better trails in the seirras than this. it is very crowded if you get a late start. I would say the elevation about Trail Crest is the hardest part of the up hill leg. I would do this hike again but either at the end of doing JMT or just from the CrabTree Meadow side/JMT side as a multi day trek. I would recommend it to any good backpacker.
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7/19/2006
Crazy monsoon weather. We took too much stuff to prepare for rain or hail. It didn't happen but we wanted to make sure we make it. There were a couple of hairy moments with snow and ice towards the top of the switchbacks (I don't like exposure) but otherwise, the two of us thought the ascent was good. WE filtered plenty of water up to Trail Camp. Thiry minutes before reaching the summit it was clear but we faced heavy clouds. Later, it rained and in the evening it was clear. The humid weather is supposed to end on Thursday. It was my 60th birthday present and it was much easier than I thought. We made it in 11 1/2 hours up and down with only minor soreness. Paul F
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6/26/2006
The information contained in the literature was not up-to-date which meant that we could not submit due to the fact that it was an unusually snowy winter and the last 4 miles to the Whitney peak were snow and ice... imposible and unsafe to do without grampons and ice picks(which we did not consider after reading about the mild summer temperatures, easy ascent... one of the trails reviews actually noted that sneakers were ok!!!). CALL THE VISITOR CENTER FIRST AND ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS!!
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8/19/2004
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5/5/2004
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8/5/1972
Obviously this was a long time ago but I remember it clearly. We went in early August and it was extremely cold on the peak. I was 12 at the time and the only reason me and my younger buddy's made it and the older guys got sick and had to turn back was because we camped at 12,000 and did the summit the next day. I remember we got in a snowball fight and got splitting headaches but that acclimated us well enough for the summit attempt the next day. At least get up past the tree line and spend the night. Move around some to acclimate yourself. This made all the difference. Oh and the wind through the pillars will make you want to crawl on your knees. 5' of trail and shear either side (almost). 100+ switchbacks up a 2,000' face to get to the ridge on the summit trail. You'd better be in good hiking shape to attempt this. An experience of a lifetime for sure. Also, I'd take one day to get from Whitney Portal to 10,000 or 12,000 feet then camp. Next day make the summit and go down to the tree line and spend the night. Hike out the next day. We did it in two days and were hiking at night on the way home. That was brutal. Take three days. It'll be more enjoyable.
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Trail Information

Sequoia National Park
Nearby City
Sequoia National Park
Parks
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Snowboarding
Additional Use
Sequoia National Park
Local Contacts
USGS’s Mount Whitney
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Sep 2018