This six-day segment of the John Muir Trail takes us through some of the most beautiful portions of the JMT. This hike has a little of everything, a wide river valley, a high pass crossing, great views, stunningly beautiful lakes, and jagged peaks.
This trip can be made in either direction but we like to start from Mammoth Lakes, enabling you to spend the night before the trip in Mammoth and gain some acclimatization to the elevation. We hope to get to camp in the early afternoon each day, to allow time to sit by a lake in the sun and read a book, go fishing or take an afternoon hike without the overnight pack.
Price includes guiding, permits, tents, kitchen gear, shuttles, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and a resupply. We will leave vehicles in Mammoth Lakes during the trip. We will take the YARTS shuttle from Yosemite Valley, back to Mammoth, at the end of the trip. Shuttle is included in your trip price and is organized by SMC. Our meals are healthy and prepared by your guide before the trip. We use good quality dehydrated ingredients to make a variety of delicious, protein-packed meals. We rarely serve pre-packaged dehydrated meals. We will resupply you in Tuolumne Meadows on day 4, so that you only have to carry 3.5 days’ worth of food from the start of the trip!
Prior day hiking experience is required. No prior overnight experience is required but you need to be in good physical condition, able to walk 14 miles, and gain up to 2,000 feet daily while carrying a multi-day backpack.
Acclimatization & Physical Training
For proper acclimatization, we suggest spending at least one night at a moderate altitude, higher than 8,000 feet, just prior to the start of the journey. See our detailed tips on acclimatizing an physical training in the “Resources” tab.
We head up the rushing San Joaquin River from Agnew Meadows along the River Trail. Shortly after Olaine Lake, we head up and pass the beautiful Shadow Lake with fantastic views of the jagged Minarets and the blocky summits of Mounts Ritter and Banner. We plan to camp above Shadow Lake, close to Shadow Creek and to make this not too long a day.
Starting elevation: 8,314 feet
Ending elevation: 9,000 feet
Distance: 4.5 miles with 1,100 feet of gain and 420 feet of loss
We head north paralleling the San Joaquin river and pass by some of the Sierra’s most beautiful lakes all aptly named from precious gems: Ruby, Garnet, Emerald and finally to the incomparable Thousand Island Lake. We wander around the lake stopping to enjoy the scenery as we climb up and over the low and easy Island Pass. From here we descend into Rush Creek and stop near the forks of the creek to set up camp.
Starting elevation: 9,000 feet
Ending elevation: 9,650 feet
Distance: 8.o miles with 2,000 feet of gain and 1,500 feet of loss
Today is our biggest pass but the distance to the top is not too far. So we shoulder our ever lightening packs, head over Donahue Pass and drop into Lyell Canyon. Above us rises Mt Lyell, the high point of Yosemite National Park, and we start a steady drop into the wide glacially carved valley of Lyell Canyon. We plan to camp near the Tuolumne River in the base of Lyell Canyon.
Starting elevation: 9,650 feet
Ending elevation: 8,950 feet
Distance: 8.0 miles with 1,500 feet of gain and 2,200 feet of loss
All downhill now through Lyell Canyon until we meet our resupply in Tuolumne Meadows. As we walk, we pass the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River as it is lazily meandering its way to the Meadows. We take time to pick up a food resupply in Tuolumne Meadows (and maybe an ice cream at the store) before heading back out and along the JMT, climbing to camp near lovely Cathedral Lakes.
Starting elevation: 8,950 feet
Ending elevation: 9,600 feet
Distance: 13.75 miles with 1,600 feet of gain and 1,000 feet of loss
From Cathedral Lakes we head out along the JMT and past the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. From here we drop down to our last camp in the trees of Sunrise Creek.
Starting elevation: 9,600 feet
Ending elevation: 7,175 feet
Distance: 10.5 miles with 850 feet of gain and 3,300 feet of loss
The final day we get an early start to beat the heat and start the long descent into Yosemite Valley, taking the mist trail down past the Emerald Pool, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and finally to the bustle of Happy Isles and our pickup at Curry Village. After a stop at the market and store, we take the 3-hour shuttle back to Mammoth for some well earned rest.
Starting elevation: 7,175 feet
Ending elevation: 4,000 feet
Distance: 6.8 miles with 220 feet of gain and 3,400 feet of loss
Total Trip Mileage: 51.5 miles