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California John Muir Trail Southbound to Mt. Whitney Trek

An Exclusive Wilderness Adventure with Summit Challenge

 

Venture out on this exclusive trekking expedition set in the high Sierra Nevada, covering the southern half of the 212-mile-long John Muir Trail, from Lake Florence southward to Mount Whitney (14,505'), the highest peak in the continental United States. On this fully supported epic trip along what National Geographic claims as one of the "top ten trails on the planet," camp along mountain lakes, traverse mountain passes, and marvel at wildflower-dotted meadows. Once you've hiked the trail's southern part, be inspired to come back to tackle the northern half!

  • Hike through the Sierra Nevada most scenic wilderness trails on this exclusive MT Sobek expedition

  • Enjoy views of stunning mountain peaks and wildflower-dotted meadows -- California's High Sierra at its finest

  • Finish in style by summiting Mount Whitney, the continental United States' highest peak, at 14,505 feet

Arrive:

Fresno, California

Depart:

Fresno, California

Duration:

17 Days

Activity Level:

5

Departures:

See Dates

Price: from $10,495

  • Arrive in Fresno, California

    Day 1

    Arrive in Fresno, California, to check in at the DoubleTree by Hilton near the Fresno air terminal by 5pm. At 6pm, join the guides for a welcome dinner and orientation talk; do the final gear check and discuss the details of the trip.

    Accommodation: DoubleTree by Hilton

    Conveniently located in near a variety of entertainment and dining options, this DoubleTree is clean, modern, and offers all the amenities necessary to rest and recharge on an MT Sobek adventure. With several national parks within driving distance, the hotel boasts a fitness center, heated pool, atrium, in-house restaurant, bar, and café. Each room features a flat screen HDTV, comfortable bedding, electronics dock, and room service from 6am-10pm.

    Meals: Dinner

  • Follow the South Fork of the San Joaquin River

    Day 2

    Meet at 7am after breakfast, then drive about three hours to Florence Lake where you meet the horse-packer and mules to offload the gear. Then begin the first leg of the trip, which starts with a ferry ride across Florence Lake (7,325'). Today's mild acclimatizing hike goes 6.3 miles through lush meadows following the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. There is a 500-foot elevation gain along the way to the camp on the San Joaquin River.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 3-4 hours/6.3 miles hiking with 500' elevation gain

    Transportation: 3-hour private van transfer & ferry ride

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Hike from Piute Creek to Goddard Canyon

    Day 3

    Continue the acclimatization process with another "easy" day on the trail. From Piute Creek, hike 6.2 miles of relatively flat terrain to the junction of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River and Goddard Canyon. Get a good night's sleep here in preparation for the ascent into the famous Evolution Canyon.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 3-4 hours/6.2 miles hiking on flat terrain

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Reach Evolution Lake

    Day 4

    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, enter Evolution and then McClure Meadows. In this section the trail parallels Evolution Creek, which teems with golden trout. Camp at the spectacular Evolution Lake (10,852'), a gorgeous deep-blue lake that's one of the prettiest spots in the Sierra.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 4-5 hours/7 miles hiking with 2,400' elevation gain

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Descend into LeConte Canyon

    Day 5

    From your camp at the very edge of the tree line, climb over Muir Pass (11,955'), taking a rest at the 75-year-old stone hut at the crest of the pass. Then descend on rocky terrain into LeConte Canyon (8,735'), with its impressive vertical walls of granite. Here, meet the first food drop on the trip.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 6-7 hours/11.5 miles hiking to 11,955' with 3,220' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Head for Mather Pass & Camp at Palisades Lakes

    Day 6

    On the way out of LeConte canyon, pass through Grouse Meadow and follow the Middle Fork of the Kings River. At the junction with Palisades Creek, turn east and begin the climb toward Mather Pass (12,100'). After tackling the Golden Staircase, camp short of the pass at Palisades Lakes (10,600') after approximately 9.5 miles.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 5-6 hours/9.5 miles hiking to 12,100' with 1,500' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Climb Mather Pass & Reach South Fork of the Kings River

    Day 7

    From Palisades Lakes 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. Stay on the Kings River tonight, enjoying the sounds of the gurgling river.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 5-6 hours/10 miles hiking to 12,100' with 2,000' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Tackle Pinchot Pass & Descend to Crater Mountain Plateau

    Day 8

    Today hike up to the Marjorie Lakes area, a glacier-scoured basin of stark beauty. Enjoy the dazzling scenery of pristine mountain lakes before tackling Pinchot Pass (12,130'). Descend to the Crater Mountain plateau for the night.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 4 hours/7 miles hiking to 12,130' with 2,958' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Hike Up to Arrowhead Lake

    Day 9

    Today head 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 you camp.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 5-6 hours/10 miles hiking to 10,300' with 1,800' elevation gain

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Ascend Glenn Pass and Hike to Center Basin

    Day 10

    Continue the journey by passing through the Rae Lakes Basin. Next ascend the rocky switchbacks of Glenn Pass (11,978'), followed by a descent to Vidette Meadow where you meet the second food drop. Continue to Center Basin, hiking amidst the stark beauty of huge precipitous ridges.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 5-6 hours/10 miles hiking to 11,978' with 1,928 elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Face Forester Pass, the Highest On the JMT

    Day 11

    At first light, head up the highest pass on the JMT (as well as the entire Pacific Crest Trail, for that matter) - the Forester Pass at 13,180'. From Forester descend to Tyndall Creek, passing the Diamond Mesa on the way. Make camp below the awesome Mount Whitney Massif.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 7 hours/10 miles hiking to 13,180' with 1,680' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Hike to Wallace Creek

    Day 12

    Today is a shorter day, featuring a hike that goes 5 miles from Tyndall Creek to Wallace Creek. At this scenic spot, enjoy a lazy afternoon resting in a meadow and playing in the creek.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 2-3 hours/5 miles hiking to 10,405' with 524' elevation loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Ascend to Guitar Lake Camp

    Day 13

    Today hike past Crabtree Meadow before ascending gradually to the campsite at Guitar Lake below the Mount Whitney Massif. Once at Guitar Lake, you realize you are now truly at the base of the Eastern Sierra with Mt. Whitney looming over you. You are given ample time to prepare and relax for your summit bid early tomorrow morning.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 3 hours/6 miles hiking to 11,400' with 995' elevation gain

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Attempt the Summit of Mount Whitney

    Day 14

    Today take off early (at 4am) for the "high" point of the entire trip: a walk-up summit attempt of Mount Whitney (14,495'), the highest peak in the contiguous United States. You have worked hard to get on top, and now is the time to enjoy the 360 degree view that the highest peak in the Continental US affords you. The day's hike is 13 miles roundtrip back to Lower Crabtree Meadow.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 9-10 hours/13 miles hiking to 14,495' with 3,095' elevation gain/loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Meander Crabtree Meadows to Rock Creek

    Day 15

    Today is a leisurely day in terms of terrain: lose 2,000 feet in elevation and then gain 1,900 feet (net gain of only 100 feet) as you meander through Crabtree Meadows on the way to the last night's camp at Rock Creek.

    Accommodation: MT Sobek Camp-John Muir Trail Southbound

    We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. We encourage clients to bring their own sleeping bag, rated to 15 degrees in the 2-3 pound range. We encourage this because everyone sleeps differently, some need a really warm bag, others not so much thus having your own will ensure more comfort than renting. We also provide a crazy creek chair for every trip member. Previous camping experience is required for this trip! Guides will assist clients with their tents on the first night, but then it is up to the clients to set up their tents after that.

    Activity: 5 hours/10 miles hiking with 2,000' elevation loss & 1,900' elevation gain

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Pass Golden Trout Wilderness & Rest in Lone Pine

    Day 16

    The last day on the trail is a long one. Head up from Rock Creek over Cottonwood Pass (11,200'). Have a snack around Chicken Spring Lake on the way out of the Sequoia National Park for the last few miles through the Golden Trout Wilderness. It's 10 miles to the trailhead where picnic lunch awaits, as does the shuttle for a short drive to the nearby Eastern Sierra town of Lone Pine, California, home for the night. After a well-deserved shower, rendezvous for a final dinner.

    Accommodation: Best Western Frontier Motel

    Situated in eastern California's beautiful Owens Valley, the Best Western Frontier Motel features mountain or valley views from its well-appointed guest rooms, each equipped with cable TV and Wi-Fi. An expanded complimentary continental breakfast is served each morning. Other amenities include an outdoor heated swimming pool, guest laundry, and a complimentary airport shuttle.

    Activity: 5-6 hours/10 miles hiking to 11,200' with 7,470' elevation loss

    Transportation: 20-minute shuttle transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Travel Home

    Day 17

    After a good night's rest and breakfast on your own, depart early with the private shuttle back around the Sierra. The drive back to the starting point, Fresno airport, takes 5 to 6 hours. To build in any unforeseen road delays, plan your flights for the early afternoon, starting after 3pm.

    Accommodation:

    Transportation: 6-hour private van transfer

California John Muir Trail Southbound to Mt. Whitney Trek

Detailed Itinerary

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What to Expect

 

Why take this trip with us?

Reason #01

MT Sobek adventurers have claimed this trekking expedition to be the company's most challenging. It sells out every year!

Reason #02

This award-winning adventure features 24-hour expertise of professional mountaineer guides who teach you about trailside lore, flora and fauna.

Reason #03

Hikers traverse the Sierra with the support of a professional packer and mules that transport heavy backpacks and move camp.

Meet your guides

Fred Ackerman

Fred Ackerman

Fred enjoyed his first backpacking trip in college, walking 20+ miles in inappropriate footwear and spent a few cold nights in front of the fire without a sleeping bag, and caught the bug from there. Soon, he was spending most of his free time and some not-so-free time plotting and executing adventures to the endless wild places of California. Fred is now an EMT with a certification in wilderness medicine. He's hiked and climbed thousands of miles around the Sierra including a solo 200+ mile hike of the Sierra High Route. Fred's familiarity of the High Sierra and deep passion for the backcountry consistently endears him to MT Sobek hikers.

Sierra Zacks

Sierra Zacks

Sierra was born and raised on the entrance road to Joshua Tree National Park and spent her early years hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding in the park and the nearby high Sierra. She went on to graduate from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Ecology and Plant Biology. During this period, she worked UC Santa Cruz's Adventure Outings Department where she led climbing, backpacking, and river trips. She now spends her summers in the High Sierra leading trips and exploring the beautiful landscape. In her free time you can find her rock climbing, botanizing, or birdwatching in the mountains.

Alex Kendrall

Alex Kendrall

Alex grew up in Concord, New Hampshire exploring the mountains of New England. It was here that his spirit and passion for adventure began. Alex's passion for shared wilderness experiences has culminated in a degree in Outdoor Education and certifications from the American Mountain Guiding Association (AMGA). Moving to California was the culmination of a dream come true, where he is able to combine his passion for climbing with a career in guiding. He has a tremendous amount of experience in the backcountry and great leadership qualities which endear him to MT Sobek travelers.

Activities

Challenging hikes up to 13 miles per day on mountain trails with high ridges, rocky switchbacks, and spectacular scenery. Summit Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet!

Lodging

We supply all camping and commissary gear, including tents and sleeping pads. You are expected to set up your tent, filter water, etc. Well-appointed hotels bookend the trip.

Climate

Average daytime temperatures are 65-85°F and 15-35°F at night. Like many mountainous regions, storms that bring rain and snow can hit at any time.

FAQ

What do I have to carry on this trip?

You only carry your daypack the entire way. Mules & guides will carry 15 pounds of each client's gear and you are responsible for carrying any weight over this.

What section on the John Muir Trail do we hike?

You will hike the second "half" of the actual John Muir Trail, in what is considered the Southern Sierra. (The entire John Muir Trail runs from Yosemite down to Mt. Whitney).

What are the toilet and shower procedures?

We provide everything needed for a comfortable wilderness toilet experience. Certain "Leave No Trace" practices apply, and your guide will go over this as part of the camp orientation. One 5-gallon solar shower will provide some warm water for washing/showering up.

How is water treatment handled on this trip?

We supply water filters on this trip. Water in the Sierra is renowned for its cleanliness, but we still take precautions. As a trip participant you are responsible for filtering your own daily water.

What can I expect from my guide?

All our professional mountain guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level and are experienced backcountry folks. They are well versed in the natural and cultural history of the area, cook excellent food, and are fun, personable people to spend time with.

What are my duties while on this camping trip?

You are responsible for setting up and taking down your own tent, packing your personal gear, and filtering your own water. Our guides are always available to assist. Other camp chores such as cooking, cleaning, hauling water, etc. are left to the guides.

Can I use my loyalty discount for the trip?

Loyalty savings are not available for this trip.

What happens if the weather conditions are bad?

MT Sobek is proud to offer trips in protected wilderness settings.

As with any backcountry adventure, unforeseen natural events can impact your trip, including extreme weather conditions, snow levels and wildfires. As your health and safety are paramount, our expert guides and office staff will respond to these natural occurrences accordingly which may result in canceling, redirecting or shortening the trip.

  • 2021
  • Go Custom

2021

Scheduled Dates

Additional costs

  • $500 Single Supplement

Price Includes

  • Expert leadership from experienced adventure guides
  • Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • Meals as noted in the daily itinerary
  • Potable water and snacks throughout
  • All tips and gratuities for support staff with the exception of your lead adventure guide(s)
  • All necessary camping gear
  • All group entrance fees, activities, and ground transportation
  • Arrival airport transfer if staying at starting hotel and departure day group airport transfer

Price does not include

  • International airfare, any airport taxes, or excess baggage charges
  • Wine or beer
  • Optional tips to your lead adventure guides
  • Personal expenses such as medical immunizations, phone calls, laundry, or souvenirs
  • Airport transfer if departing outside of the group transfer
  • Optional travel protection

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