• Hiking the John Muir Trail: Southbound to Mount Whitney

    MTS’ exclusive, ultimate challenge hiking expedition along the spine of the famous Sierra Nevadas

    Trek 146 miles along one of the most beautiful long-distance trails in the world. Hike along the spine of the famd Sierra Nevada, a ramge full of startling peaks, verdant meadows and huge granite walls.

    best times to go: August

    departures: 1 scheduled dateview departures

    pricing: from $6,295 see detailed pricing

    The Continental U.S., Hawaii & Canada

    Ultimate Challenge
Also great as a private trip. Call for details

MTS’ exclusive, ultimate challenge hiking expedition along the spine of the famous Sierra Nevadas

Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the longest contiguous mountain range in the continental United States, the John Muir Trail stands as a living monument to Yosemite National Park’s celebrated philosopher, advocate, and naturalist. With crystal clear mountain lakes, wildflower-strewn meadows, and large granite walls, it is no wonder that Travel + Leisure hailed it as one of the “50 Great American Adventures,” and National Geographic Adventure featured it on their list of “top ten trails on the planet,” calling it “one of the most beautiful trails in the world!”  We’ve split the trail into two separate, MTS-exclusive expeditions with two very different terrains to choose from—one northbound (a shorter but still strenuous trek) and the other southbound (a few days longer and considerably more challenging)—both of which were honored with Outside Magazine’s “North America Trip of the Year” Award.

While other hikers are burdened with large backpacks and heavy gear, MTS has designed this unique trek so that all you’ll carry is a day pack—a packer and a team of mules will travel separately from the group with your belongings to make sure they are waiting for you at camp when you arrive. To ensure that your meals are fresh and delicious—far beyond the average, boring camp fare—we’ve even had special panniers designed for the mules to carry coolers! MTS’ professional guides are true mountaineers. Not only will they enrich your days with detailed information on the flora and fauna (not to mention some juicy trailside legends), but they will also do all of the cooking! However deluxe, any expedition requires participation of the entire group, and you will be asked to set up your tent, solar showers, and to filter water.

On this trip we plan on hiking the southbound half of the trail, from Florence Lake in the John Muir Wilderness to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States at 14,505’! We’ll exit the southern tip of the Sierra via the famous Pacific Crest Trail along the seldom-traveled Golden Trout Wilderness—a total journey of 146 miles in one of the most scenic mountain ranges in the world. The scenery of 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks, countless lakes, huge granite walls, and rich meadows is unsurpassed. Longtime MTS veteran guests have told us this trip was the hardest trip in our catalog due to the vertical feet ascended and descended while hiking many passes over 12,000 feet—so, it is essential to be in excellent physical and mental shape for maximum enjoyment of this amazing adventure. But no real reward ever comes without a challenge, and you’ll find this to be one of your most memorable treks into the wild. Peppered with plenty of picture-perfect moments, you may decide to come back and try our northbound expedition!


15 days strenuous hiking (max. elev. 14,495')


  • Hike through the Sierra Nevada (with full mule support) on one of the world's most scenic wilderness trails on this exclusive MTS expedition, honored with Outside Magazine’s "North America Trip of the Year Award”
  • Take the ultimate challenge of the southbound itinerary—claimed by our clients to be the toughest expedition in our entire catalog
  • Enjoy views of stunning mountain peaks and verdant meadows filled with wildflowers—California's High Sierra at its finest
  • Finish in style summiting Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States at 14,505 feet!ican Adventures,” and on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “top ten trails on the planet!”
  • Learn trailside lore, flora, and fauna from your MTS professional mountaineer guides
  • Renew your spirit with over two continuous weeks in the wilderness!

Duration: 17 days Start Location: Fresno End Location: Fresno

Download Detailed Itinerary
  • Day 1 : Travel to Fresno, California

    Travel to Fresno, California, gateway to the Sierra.

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    Day 2 : South Fork of the San Joaquin

    Drive to Florence Lake and meet the horse-packer and mules. Ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325') and begin hiking to Evolution Lake (10,852'), a gorgeous deep blue lake that's one of the prettiest spots in the Sierra.

  • Day 3 : Piute Creek–Goddard Canyon

    Hike from Piute Creek to the junction of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River and Goddard Canyon, where we'll camp.

  • Evolutioneveningjayericson
    Day 4 : Evolution Lake

    Hike one of the most spectacular portions of the JMT through Evolution and McClure Meadows, ending at our camp at Evolution Lake—one of the prettiest spots in the entire Sierra Nevada!

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    Day 5 : LeConte Canyon

    Cross Muir Pass (11,955') and descend into LeConte Canyon (8,735'), with its impressive vertical granite walls. Meet the first food drop with supplies of fresh provisions.

  • Palisadescampjayericson
    Day 6 : Palisades Lakes

    Hike to Mather Pass (12,100'), descend to the South Fork of the Kings River, then up to the Marjorie Lakes area, a glacier-scoured basin of stark beauty.

  • Day 7 : Kings River

    Hike from Palisades Lake, descending to the South Fork of the Kings River.

  • Day 8 : Crater Mountain plateau

    Cross Pinchot Pass (12,130') and Glenn Pass (11,978'), descending to Charlotte Lake. Meet the second food drop.

  • Day 9 : Arrowhead Lake

    Hike into the Woods Creek basin (8,500') and ascend to camp at Arrowhead Lake (10,300').

  • Day 10 : Center Basin

    Continue hiking, first through the Rae Lakes Basin, crossing Glenn Pass (11,978'), and descending to Vidette Meadow to retrieve the second food drop. Continue on to camp in Center Basin.

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    Day 11 : Forester Pass

    Cross Forester Pass (13,180'), the highest pass on the entire John Muir Trail, en route to a campsite below the Mount Whitney Massif.

  • Day 12 : Wallace Creek

    A shorter day, hiking from Tyndall Creek to Wallace Creek, where we'll enjoy a lazy, restful afternoon.

  • Tstguitarlakecolbybrokvist
    Day 13 : Guitar Lake

    Hike past Crabtree Meadow and ascend to camp at Guitar Lake.

  • Whitneyjayericson
    Day 14 : Mount Whitney

    Optional walk-up attempt of the summit of Mount Whitney—the highest peak in the U.S. outside of Alaska—on an uncrowded route (not via the well-used Whitney Portal trail).

  • Day 15 : Rock Creek

    Make our way to the last night's camp at Rock Creek.

  • Day 16 : Ancient Foxtail Pines of the Golden Trout Wilderness to trailhead. End Trek

    The last days on the trail pass through the forests and meadows of the remote Golden Trout Wilderness. Overnight in Lone Pine.

  • Day 17 : Travel home

    Drive to Fresno and depart.

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: August Departures: Aug 21, 2015 - Sep 6, 2015


2015  prices
$6,295 (8-11 members)
$6,695 (6-7 members)
$450 single supplement

  • Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel

    A superb full service hotel for business and leisure travelers alike, Piccadilly Inn Airport offers a combination of comfort, convenience and style with 185 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites. Experience a refreshing change of pace in our outdoor pool, set in a lush tropical setting. Or work off some energy in our fitness center and then relax in our heated outdoor spa.

  • Best Western Frontier Motel

    Situated in Eastern California's beautiful Owens Valley, the Best Western Frontier Motel is ideal for guests traveling to Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as a centralized stopover between Los Angeles, Yosemite and Las Vegas. Enjoy either mountain or valley views in one of 73 well-appointed guest rooms, each featuring cable satellite television and high-speed Internet access. Guests are welcome to an expanded complimentary continental breakfast each morning before exploring Inyo County attractions. Other Lone Pine hotel amenities include an outdoor heated swimming pool, guest laundry, meeting facilities and a complimentary airport shuttle.

Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.

Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.

  • Laura Steinbach

    My first visit to the Sierra Nevada was back in 2002 on a three month backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails. Since that very trip, I have been infected with all that these mountains have to offer and, following that hike it took me only one year to find my way back to California on a more permanent basis. I'll be the first to acknowledge that it was the backpacking, climbing and horseback riding that drew me here, but what I find most intriguing is difficult to describe and certainly isn't apparent in photographs. It's the sound of the spring meltwater, the feel of the warm Sierran granite, and the haze that settles over the mountains just as dusk falls. These are the things that can only be realized by being here in the midst of it all. Throughout all of my travels, I've never found a better playground... or office.

  • Colby Brokvist

    Colby Brokvist hails originally from New England, a place where it is unusually difficult to commit to only one sport. Having a background in backpacking, mountaineering and rock climbing, he is a perfect fit for anything the Sierra has to offer. An enthusiastic naturalist, Colby also holds a degree in Environmental Sciences and finds his passion for guiding in providing interpretive and educational experiences for all of his clients. Describing his love for guiding, Colby wrote "It is both the serenity and excitement of the wilderness that compels me to it and I only hope to enjoy it with good friends". Colby can be found typically leading our longer backpacks such the John Muir Trail, Yosemite High Passes Loop, The Yosemite Grand Traverse and Trans-Sierra Trails. He has personally hiked the entire Appalachian Trail as well as most of the Pacific Crest Trail. When not in the Sierra high country, he can be found guiding interpertive trips in Polar Bear habitat as well as camp hosting in Namibia for adventure safaris.

photo credits: ©MTS Photo File


Itinerary for Hiking the John Muir Trail: Southbound to Mount Whitney

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Activity Ratings


Many activities are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding sea kayaking and river rafting trips with Class I-II rapids.


More active trips involving hiking over moderate terrain, usually - but not always - with vehicle support and at elevations less than 10,000 feet, or trips with long hiking days, multiple sea kayaking days, wilderness camping, or other invigorating activity. On many trips, you can elect to skip a day's activity, depending on logistics. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips and river rafting trips with Class III rapids.


Hiking and trekking over steeper or more rugged terrain or where elevations may exceed 10,000 feet - often several days in a row. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips (4-5 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

Ultimate Challenge!

Our most demanding trips: trekking over steep, rugged terrain at high elevations (no vehicle support) or with substantial altitude gains and losses; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips. Includes our most demanding sea kayaking (5-7 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.


Departure Dates

Aug 21, 2015 - Sep 6, 2015

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Emeryville, California 94608

Toll Free:1-888-831-7526