The pinnacle of our Women’s Backpacking trips, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the continental United States. This mule-supported trip includes long days and high mileages at altitude, but the mules carry most of your weight, making the trip more feasible.

At 14,495 feet Mount Whitney is the high point of the lower forty-eight states and the goal of many. The Trail Route is the standard trip but obtaining a permit can be problematic and you need to get an application in by March. The Mountaineer’s Route requires the ability to travel off trail as well as rope work and belayed climbing on the upper section.

The route from Cottonwood crosses over the Sierra Crest at Cottonwood Pass, eventually drops west to the Kern River and then loops east to Guitar Lake below the western slopes of the peak.
We like this route for a number of reasons:

  • It is beautiful with high alpine lakes and expansive views.
  • There are far fewer people than on the regular Whitney Trail.
  • This route offers a fine hike in its own right and the summit as a bonus.
  • We utilize the services of Cottonwood Pack Station to carry equipment while we hike with a day-pack making for a truly relaxing trip. This also enables us to take along a few extra luxuries and make a complete vacation.

Yes, it does take a little longer to climb this way, but then we believe that it is the journey that is important rather than the goal and this offers a very fine journey indeed. Rather than a rush to the summit this route offers a fine hike in it’s own right and the summit as a bonus.

Special Notes

For maps look at the Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley and Cirque Peak 7.5 minute maps.
We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000’) just prior to the trip. 80% of our unsuccessful attempts fail due to problems with altitude. (And the balance due to weather). We suggest camping at the Cottonwood campground the night before the trip. This is at nearly 10,000 feet of elevation and definitely gives you an edge on acclimatization and in letting the body adapt to the elevation. Cottonwood Lakes offers a walk-in campground (100’ from your car) and reservations are not necessary here.
Bears are a problem at the Cottonwood Trailhead. Do not leave food, scented items (deodorant, soap etc.) in your vehicle. There is limited food locker storage so do not bring extra items with you to the trailhead. Clean up all trash prior to your trip. Failure to take precautions can cause the vehicle to be ripped apart by a bear and the added insult of a fine from the Forest Service. If possible, please car pool up to the trailhead, leaving unnecessary vehicles at the Forest Service Offices in Lone Pine.


We have GPS as accurately as we can the route so you know what you are getting into.

Day Out Destination Mileage Elevation Gain Hiking Time
Day 1 Chicken Springs Lake 5.3 miles 1405 3 hours 35 minutes
Day 2 Rock Creek Crossing 10.5 miles 620 6 hours 43 minutes
Day 3 Guitar Lake 10.3 miles 2985 7 hours 10 minutes
Day 4 Mount Whitney then back to Crabtree Meadows 14.4 miles 3405 12 hours 5 minutes
Day 5 Rock Creek Lake 11.3 miles 2020 7 hours 10 minutes
Day 6 back to pack station 11.4 miles 1435 7 hours

Getting to the top of Whitney: 32.2 miles

Total 63.2 miles Total Elevation Gain 11,870

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