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: FresnoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Travel to Fresno, California
Travel to Fresno, California, gateway to the Sierra.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Day 13 : Guitar Lake
Hike past Crabtree Meadow and ascend to camp at Guitar Lake.
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.
DATES: Best time to go: August Departures: Aug 21, 2015 - Sep 6, 2015
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.
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 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.