MTS’ exclusive, ultimate challenge hiking expedition along the spine of the famous Sierra Nevadas
Of our two itineraries along the John Muir Trail, MTS veterans have claimed this award-winning, exclusive trekking expedition to be the most challenging of our entire catalog! Set in the high Sierra Nevada, it covers the southern half of the 212-mile-long John Muir Trail, stretching from Lake Florence southward to the great Mount Whitney (14,505’), the highest peak in the continental United States. This trip is nothing short of epic, which is undoubtedly why 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!” Unlike most trekking expeditions in the Sierra, ours was designed to ease the burden of a heavy backpack with the support of a professional packer and a team of mules to transport your belongings and move camp, plus the 24-7 expertise of our professional mountaineer guides who know these parts like the back of their hands! You’ll camp along mountain lakes, traverse mountain passes, and see spectacular meadows of wildflowers. Once you’ve hiked the southern part of the trail, you may even be inspired to come back to tackle the northern half!
If you are interested in the slightly less strenuous “Northbound” half that ends at Yosemite National Park's Tuolumne Meadows, see The John Muir Trail - Northbound.
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, and arrive at the Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel adjacent to the Fresno air terminal by 5:00pm. At 6:00 p.m., the guides will have a welcome dinner and orientation talk; we’ll do a final gear check and discuss the details of the trip.
Day 2 : South Fork of the San Joaquin
Meet at 7:00 a.m. after a hotel breakfast on your own. We then drive about three hours to Florence Lake where we’ll meet the horse-packer and mules to off load our gear. We’ll then begin the first leg of the trip, which starts with a ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325'). Today’s hike will be a mild 6.3 mile acclimatizing hike passing through lush meadows and following the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. There is a 500-foot elevation along our way to camp on the San Joaquin River.
Day 3 : Piute Creek–Goddard Canyon
Our second day on the trail. We’ll continue the acclimatization process with another “easy” day. From Piute Creek we’ll hike 6.2 miles of relatively flat terrain to the junction of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River and Goddard Canyon. We’ll get a good night’s sleep here in preparation for the ascent into the famous Evolution Canyon.
Day 4 : Evolution Lake
Today’s hike is approximately seven miles with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet into what some call the most spectacular portion of the trail. After a climb out of the river canyon we will enter Evolution and then McClure Meadows. In this section the trail parallels Evolution Creek, which teems with golden trout. We’ll camp at spectacular Evolution Lake (10,852'), a gorgeous deep blue lake that’s one of the prettiest spots in the Sierra.
Day 5 : LeConte Canyon
From our camp at the very edge of tree line, we’ll climb over Muir Pass (11,955'), taking a rest at the 75-year-old stone hut at the crest of the pass. We then descend on rocky terrain into LeConte Canyon (8,735'), with its impressive vertical walls of granite. Here we’ll meet our first food drop. (11.5 miles hiking)
Day 6 : Palisades Lakes
As we travel out of LeConte canyon, we’ll pass through Grouse Meadow and follow the Middle Fork of the Kings River. At the junction with Palisades Creek, we turn east and begin our climb toward Mather Pass (12,100'). After tackling the Golden Staircase, we’ll camp short of the pass at Palisades Lakes (10, 600') after approximately 9.5 miles.
Day 7 : Kings River
From Palisades Lakes we’ll tackle Mather Pass (12,100') and then descend through the Upper Basin, losing some 2,000 feet before reaching the South Fork of the Kings River. We stay on the Kings River, enjoying the sounds of the gurgling river. Today’s mileage is 10 miles.
Day 8 : Crater Mountain plateau
Today we hike up to the Marjorie Lakes area, a glacier-scoured basin of stark beauty. We’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery of pristine mountain lakes before tackling Pinchot Pass (12,130'). We then descend to the Crater Mountain plateau for the night. Seven miles hiking.
Day 9 : Arrowhead Lake
Today takes us down into the Woods Creek basin (8,500'), across the “Golden Gate of the Sierra” suspension bridge, and then back up to Arrowhead Lake (10,300'), where we’ll camp after hiking 10 miles.
Day 10 : Center Basin
We’ll continue our journey by passing through the Rae Lakes Basin. We then ascend the rocky switchbacks of Glenn Pass (11,978'), followed by a descent to Vidette Meadow where we meet our second food drop. We continue to Center Basin, hiking amidst the stark beauty of huge precipitous ridges. Ten miles hiking.
Day 11 : Forester Pass
At first light, we’ll head up the highest pass on the JMT (as well as the entire Pacific Crest Trail, for that matter), which is Forester Pass at 13,180'. From Forester we’ll descend to Tyndall Creek, passing the Diamond Mesa on our way. We'll make camp below the awesome Mount Whitney Massif. This day is 10 miles.
Day 12 : Wallace Creek
A shorter day today as we hike five miles from Tyndall Creek to Wallace Creek, where we can enjoy a lazy afternoon resting in a meadow and playing in the creek.
Day 13 : Guitar Lake
Hike past Crabtree Meadow before ascending gradually to our campsite at Guitar Lake below the Mount Whitney Massif. Six miles hiking.
Day 14 : Mount Whitney
Today we’ll take off early (4:00 a.m.) for the “high” point of our trip: a walk-up attempt of the summit of Mount Whitney (14,495'), the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. The day’s hike is 13 miles roundtrip back to Lower Crabtree Meadow.
Day 15 : Rock Creek
A leisurely day in terms of terrain: we’ll lose 2,000 feet in elevation and then gain 1,900 feet (net gain of only 100 feet) as we meander through Crabtree Meadows on our way to the last night’s camp at Rock Creek. (10 miles hiking)
Day 16 : Ancient Foxtail Pines of the Golden Trout Wilderness to trailhead. End Trek
Our last day on the trail is a long one as we head up from Rock Creek over Cottonwood Pass (11,200'). We’ll have a snack around Chicken Spring Lake as we leave the Sequoia National Park for our last few miles home through the Golden Trout Wilderness. It’s 10 miles to the trailhead where our shuttle will meet us for a picnic lunch and take us on the short drive to the nearby Eastern Sierra town of Lone Pine, California, where we’ll spend the night. After a well-deserved shower, we’ll rendezvous for a final dinner.
Day 17 : Travel home
After a good night’s rest and breakfast on your own, we’ll depart early with our private shuttle back around the Sierra, a five- to six-hour drive to our starting point, the Fresno Airport. To build in any unforeseen road delays we recommend planning your flights for the early afternoon starting after 3:00 p.m.
DATES: Best time to go: August Departures: Jul 31, 2015 - Aug 16, 2015 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.