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Hiking the John Muir Trail: Southbound to Mount Whitney

From $6,295

  • 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
  • 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

Read about the John Muir Trail in Outside

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.

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.

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel

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.

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:MTS Private Mobile Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Best Western Frontier Motel

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.

Aug 21, 2015 - Sep 06, 2015

Aug 19, 2016 - Sep 04, 2016

pricing

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

2016  prices
$6,395 (8-11 members)
$6,895 (6-7 members)
$500 single supplement

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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.

Camp

MTS Private Mobile Camp


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.

  • 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
  • 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

Read about the John Muir Trail in Outside

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.

DAILY 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.

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Piccadilly Inn Airport Hotel

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.

  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:MTS Private Mobile Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Camp

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.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Best Western Frontier Motel

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.

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.

Camp

MTS Private Mobile Camp


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.

Dates and Pricing

Aug 21, 2015 - Sep 06, 2015

Aug 19, 2016 - Sep 04, 2016

pricing

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

2016  prices
$6,395 (8-11 members)
$6,895 (6-7 members)
$500 single supplement

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Award-winning journeys recognized by Travel +Leisure

Award-winning journeys recognized by Travel +Leisure