My 19 day John Muir Trail itinerary

I began my JMT thru- hike with a basic itinerary, based on the expectation that I’d take around 23 days to complete the trail; 20 days walking, one day for Half Dome and probably two rest days. I included only my resupply points, the breakdown of mileage between them and my anticipated end date.

I was quite happy with this as I was flexible in how long I could take and liked the idea of seeing how I felt each day. I usually planned where I would camp two or three nights ahead, considering things like:

  • Not falling too far short of my average mileage, or setting myself up for too long a walk on subsequent days.
  • Camping near the passes so I could do them the next morning, with more energy for the climb and plenty of light.
  • Finding a good camp spot (ideally by a lake – love those alpine lakes!). Generally you can camp every mile or two, but there are some longer stretches where you can’t, due to things like restricted areas.
  • Being able to cross large river and creek crossings in the morning.
  • How much food I had left.

Many people had more detailed itineraries than me, although everybody seemed to be making some changes along the way, whether to daily mileage, or something more significant, like losing or adding a day.

In the end, I took a total of 21 days to complete the JMT; 19 days hiking (just under 12 mile per day average) and two rest days. The difference in days from my original plan came from not climbing Half Dome and cancelling my final resupply.

Resupply planning.

I would not make any major changes to what I actually did, although I have made a couple of notes about potential alternatives, along with information about each spot.

DayCampsiteApprox mileage NotesAlternative?
0Backpackers campsite0Rubbish bins, bear bins. I saw a bear!
1Little Yosemite Valley 5.5m (including walk to trailhead)Compost toilets, quite large, bear bins, signs about cougar sighting!
2Sunrise High Sierra Camp9Great views, bear bins, compost toilets
3Tuolome Meadows11Very big, bear bins, shop, restaurant, post office, toilets, running water
4Lyell Bridge10.5Great views for sunset, lots of different spots
5Garnet Lake 13Beautiful spot near the lake. Hard ground. Ruby Lake was very pretty and quiet (you pass it on the way). Lots of people also camp at Thousand Island Lakes, but this would have meant a long walk to Red’s the next day.
6Reds Meadow Campsite 12$26 a pitch which can be split by up to 6 people. There is one large pitch that lots of backpackers can use and split the cost by more people. Shop, restaurant, showers, post, shuttle to Mammoth, washing machines.
7Zero day: Hiker Hut0Proper bed, little porch, lush!
8Purple Lake13.5Very pretty, bit damp. Campsites a little hard to find and you can’t camp near the lake outlet – head up
9Mono Creek12Large campsite with great view across the valleyAbout half a mile from water where I was, although you can camp nearer (too many mossies when I was there)
10Marie Lake 15Absolutely beautiful – one of my favouritesSo glad that I stayed here, but it was a long day. Some people stop along Bear Creek.
11Muir Trail Ranch – Hiker Hut8Book as far ahead as possible if you want to stay. It’s pricey but felt worth it!
12Zero day: Muir Trail Ranch – Hiker Hut0I was glad to have the rest day, but could have carried on if I was short of time.
13About a mile beyond Colby Meadow12Quite buggy spot near a creek
14Somewhere along Upper Le Conte Canyon12Nice spot in the trees and uphill from a beautiful creek.
15Lower Palisade Lake12Absolutely stunning! Lots of options.
16Lake Marjorie13One of my favourites – the bluest of blue lakes. Popular – I was lucky to get a spot!
17Lower Rae Lake14.5Lots of spots near the different lakes. Bear bins at some sites.
18Bubbs Creek 11Lovely campsite with bear bins alongside the creek, before the crossing. Hard ground. Good for Forrester Pass the next day.
19About a mile before Wallace Creek Crossing13OK campsite, bit buggy. We could have carried on but were done for the day. I’d initially planned to hike out for my resupply over Kearsage Pass, which we passed on day 19. In my original plan I would have needed to arrive here by day 18, which was too quick for me.
20Guitar Lake 10We carried on along the trail and up a ridge about a mile or so from the lake. It was a beautiful spot with an amazing sunset. Best camp spot of the whole trip.Friends dry camped further up.
21Whitney Portal 17Switchback Hell Some people camped on the way down but real food was a – calling!

Need more information?

There are plenty of other resources available to help you look at this in more detail:

  • Many itineraries are available online.
  • You can look at topographical maps (ones that show the terrain) as part of your planning, and it’s a good idea to have one on the trail. I bought the Tom Harrison maps and the HalfMile maps are also highly recommended.
  • The National Geographic guide has a good sample 21 day itinerary (not including rest days) and topographical maps.
  • I found the ‘JMT Hiker’ app really useful, but other people also used Guthook’s and HalfMile. All include details about campsites, water sources and key features of the trail.
  • John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail  is good if you want a proper book. I found it a useful at home and as an introduction but it was too chunky to take with me.

Need more help with your planning? Check out my JMT planning posts here.

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