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 Mount Whitney (14,505'), the highest peak in the continental United States. On this fully supported epic trip along what National Geographic Adventure 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MT Sobek adventurers have claimed this trekking expedition to be the company's most challenging. It sells out every year!
This award-winning adventure features 24-hour expertise of professional mountaineer guides who teach you about trailside lore, flora and fauna.
Hikers traverse the Sierra with the support of a professional packer and mules that transport heavy backpacks and move camp.
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"This was the most challenging hike I have ever experienced. I was not sure if I could do it once we were on the trail, but the guides kept us going and encouraged us when needed."
MT Sobek Guest, John Muir Trail: Southbound to Mount Whitney
"I've been on quite a number of long high altitude hikes on 5 continents. This was the best equipped, best organized, best provisioned and best led of all of them."
MT Sobek Guest, John Muir Trail: Southbound to Mount Whitney