Mount Whitney Trail

Sequoia National Park, California

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7 Reviews
5 out of 5
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.
Distance: mi Elevation: ft
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.
Activity Type: Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding, Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Trail Running, Walking
Nearby City: Sequoia National Park
Distance: 8.0
Elevation Gain: 7,264 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 8,327 feet
Top Elevation: 13,673 feet
Additional Use: Snowboarding
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Whitney Trail
Parks: Sequoia National Park
Elevation Min/Max: 8327/13673 ft
Elevation Start/End: 8327/8327 ft

Mount Whitney Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"People come from all over the world to hike to the top of the highest peak in the continental United States. The scenery from the trail and 14,495-foot summit of Mount Whitney bring people back to do this hike time and again. Before your feet ever touch the trail, you must work your way through the preparation process. The first step in the process is to obtain an overnight or a day hiking permit. The process can be frustrating (put your sense of humor into high gear, then take a look at Case 6). Once you have your permit, the next step is to physically prepare yourself for the challenge. For most hikers, the length of the hike as well as the starting and ending elevations require a minimum of one night spent at the trailhead to acclimate and one or more nights spent on the trail."

"This expedition takes you to the top of the highest peak in the contiguous United States, and to unparalleled views."

"Mt. Whitney is one of the most impressive mountains in North America with a classic east face presenting a towering and dramatic alpine profile to rival any peak in the West. Not only is the view of the mountain exceptional, but the vista from the summit is even more extraordinary, a commensurate reward for the diligence required to reach the climax of the Sierra. Standing atop the 14,494-foot summit remains a crowning achievement for many recreationists."

"Anna Mills, the first woman to climb Mount Whitney in 1878, wrote of her journey, “I can candidly say that I have never seen, nor do I expect to see, a picture so varied, so sublime, so awe-inspiring, as that seen from the summit of Mount Whitney.” (Mount Whitney Club Journal, 1902). Indeed, Mount Whitney is a perch that inspires the use of superlatives. Less intimidating than most peaks, Mount Whitney welcomes hikers to her gently sloped top with a winding path that requires no technical experience. As 14,000-foot mountains go, Mount Whitney is a relatively easy one to climb. But relative is the key word. Hiking to the top of the highest peak in the lower 48 states (second in the continental United States only to Alaska’s Mount McKinley), is still a feat to be admired. Thin air, winding switchbacks, endless sun, and wind exposure can all take their toll, and this is not a task to be taken lightly. Preparation— both mental and physical—is the key to success. From trailhead to summit requires more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain over 11 miles. The fittest of trail runners accomplish the feat in less than three hours. But your average hiker will need anywhere from 12 to 16 hours to make the journey. Outstanding features: Mirror Lake, Trail Crest, Mount Whitney"

"The Mount Whitney “freeway” is definitely a classic hike in the truest sense of the word. The tallest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states has long been a life-list destination for hikers. Even from the Portal Road, its spires and obelisk-like profiles give Whitney an ethereal appearance as it commands the skyline from its lofty perch behind several towering summits that are formidable in their own right. The way in is long and tough, though many make the journey every day. Atop the highest point in the Lower 48, the views are commanding, though it is nearly impossible to get a full 360-degree, because the summit is so angular, and there is much of the bulk of the mountain behind you when you are on top."

"With a dramatic, towering, and vertical east face that cuts a familiar alpine profile as seen from the town of Lone Pine, more than 10,750 feet below, Mount Whitney is one of North America’s most impressive mountains.

Not only is the view of the mountain quite exceptional, but the vista from the summit is equally impressive, a reward commensurate with the diligence required to reach the climax of the Sierra. To stand on top of the 14,494-foot summit is an extraordinary accomplishment."

"The Mountaineers Route is the distinctive couloir on the northeast face and shoulder of Mount Whitney. It is readily seen from Highway 395 and the town of Lone Pine. In the winter and spring it is a challenging 30- to 35-degree snow couloir. In the summer and fall it is scaled by hundreds of rock climbers each year. This challenging route was first skied by Galen Rowell in 1974."

"Highest summit in the contiguous United States."

"Perched on a shelf with awesome views down a heavily glaciated canyon that gives name to Whitney Portal, Lone Pine Lake makes an excellent consolation prize for the hiker who does not have a permit to climb Mount Whitney."

"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.”"

"Highpoint rank by height: 2nd. The East Face rock climb (a.k.a. Mountaineers Route) from Iceberg Lake offers the more adventurous climber an alternative to the hikers' Mt. Whitney trail. Don't attempt these routes if you don't have prior rock climbing experience. Avoid Altitude Sickness: A note of caution is in order here. It is unwise to sleep in Lone Pine, elevation 3,700 feet (1,128 m), the night before you try to hike up to Trail Camp or to make a one-day summit attempt. Going from Lone Pine to the summit involves ascending 10,794 feet (3,290 m). Going from Lone Pine to Trail Camp involves ascending 8,300 feet (2,530 m) in a single day. Such large altitude gains in a single day can easily lead to pulmonary or cerebral edema, both of which can be fatal. Instead, consider camping at Whitney Portal, elevation 8,110 feet (2,472 m) the night before you begin your hike up Mt. Whitney. Advance campground reservations are strongly recommended."

"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."

Recent Trail Reviews


This hike is a mental battle to overcome fatigue but it's a great physical challenge to do in one day.


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.


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


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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