John Muir Trail
The John Muir Trail stretches from Yosemite National Park through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, and King’s Canyon National Park, before ending at 14,496 feet atop Mount Whitney — the highest peak in the Lower 48. The majority of this trail through the High Sierra backcountry lies above 8,000 feet, making for spectacular views throughout. “This is the crown jewel of them all,” says LaRuffa. “It’s one of the top trails to hike in the U.S. due to the resounding beauty of the Sierras and the sweeping granite. For people looking for the experience of a long distance hike, this is the one to start off with.”
Jennifer Pharr Davis agrees. “If you’re only going to do one end-to-end trail ever, do this one.” Permits for the JMT can take a few years, so apply early.
Time to Complete: 2-3 weeks
Terrain: Rugged, high-elevation trail that crosses six mountain passes for a total elevation loss and gain of 84,000 feet.
Best Segment You Can Do In a Day: Agnew Meadows Trailhead to Ediza Lake (12 miles round-trip). This spectacular hike in Ansel Adams Wilderness hits two lakes, multiple river crossings, views of Shadow Creek Falls, and ample mountain vistas.
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