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The John Muir Trail

Karen and I just got back from walking the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, USA. The John Muir Trail is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world and is regarded as the most scenic in the United States. The trail begins in Yosemite National Park and continues 211 miles (340km) through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon National Park. The trail ends on the summit of Mt Whitney (14,496ft or 4418m), the highest peak in continental United States. Of course this means you still have to descend off the top of Mt Whitney to the trail-head at Whitney Portal, which adds up to about 355km in total (not including any side trips). We spent 24 continuous days on the trail, which is a little more than the average walker takes to complete it. Most hikers we met were doing the walk in about 21 days but some were planning on ticking it in as little as 15 days. We had a rest day at Vermillion Valley Resort on day 10 so we averaged about 15.5km per day, which we found comfortable. Most days we were on the trail at 7.30am and were finished walking by around 1 to 2pm. This meant we avoided the worst heat of the day and had plenty of time to explore the area surrounding our campsite.

There are six passes over 11,000ft (3,400m), the highest of which is Forester Pass at 13,153ft (4009m). Most walkers walk north to south as this will allow you to gain altitude slowly and prepare you physically for the most difficult section of the walk which occurs at the far southern end of the trail. Karen and I climbed a total of 46,000ft (14,000m) and descended a total of 38,000ft (12,000m). All walkers on the John Muir Trail require a permit. Obtaining a permit is not straightforward and trail-heads at Yosemite, Tuolomne Meadows and Whitney Portal are subject to a lottery system. You’ll also need to carry a bear cannister. All of your food and toiletries must be carried inside a cannister to prevent bears from having a free picnic.

The John Muir Trail was everything we had hoped. Fabulous mountain views, wonderful campsites and loads of furry animal life along the way. Even the weather stayed perfect, day after day. Over the next month or so I’ll be uploading hi-res images of the walk to our SmugMug site. I’ll let you know when they are up. I’ll also create a few more posts about the John Muir Trail and the adventures we had along the way.

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