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ActivitiesJohn Muir Wilderness


John Muir Wilderness The John Muir Wilderness encompasses more then one-half million acres within the Sierra and Inyo National Forests is the largest wilderness in California. It extends almost 100 miles along the crest of the prime Sierra Nevada in Central California and is the most visited wilderness in the state. Elevations range from 5,000 to 14,495 feet on Mt. Whitney. Deep canyons, meadow, snow-capped mountains and hundreds if alpine streams and lakes characterize the John Muir Wilderness. This wilderness was named after John Muir, an environmentalist and protector of the area. He often referred to the Sierra Nevada as "the most beautiful of all the mountain chains".

HIGHEST ELEVATION - 14,495 at Mt. Whitney
TRAIL DIFFICULTY - Strenuous. Altitude sickness warnings.
SEASON - Prepare for thunderstorms, snow and dropping temperatures at night.

Popular John Muir Trails

The John Muir Wilderness contains hundreds of miles of trails. Three of the more well known are the Pacific Crest, John Muir and Mt. Whitney trails. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) extends 2,620 miles from Canada to Mexico. The John Muir Trail (JMT) extends 212 miles from Mt. Whitney on the south to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley on the north. The JMT and the PCT follow the same route in most places within John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. The 10.7-mile Mt. Whitney Trail begins at Whitney Portal, near Lone Pine, and leads to the highest peak in the Lower 48 states.

TRAVEL METHODS: Wilderness travel is by foot or horseback only. Wheelchairs may be used in wilderness, but all other mechanical travel, including bicycles, are prohibited. Winter offers an entirely different experience. Skis and snowshoes become the mode of transportation. Pets are not permitted in National Park wilderness and are under some restriction in National Forest wilderness.

PERMIT REQUIREMENTS: Wilderness visitor permits are required winter and summer, for entry into the John Muir and adjoining Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, National Forest and National Parks wilderness areas for overnight or longer trips. Permits are available at the Forest or Park Service Ranger Station closest to the trailhead entry location. They will have the definitive advice and guidance. Quotas are designed to protect the resources and preserve the solitude of the visitor. If the daily quota has been filled for the trailhead desired, options include picking another available entrance point or starting on a different day.

Summer days can be warm at lower elevations; temperatures at higher elevations will be much cooler. Nighttime temperatures often drop to freezing or below even in summer. Afternoon and evening thunderstorms are common. Snow can occur anytime of the year, especially in late spring and early fall. Rain gear, good boots, and warm clothes are essential. Sunglasses, sunscreen (factor of 10 or more), a hat or visor and mosquito repellent are advisable.

STREAM CROSSINGS: Stream flows can be high and swift during snow melt runoff periods and during periods of heavy rain. Do not underestimate the power of rushing water. When fording a stream unbuckle your pack waist strap, and use a long stick for stability. Local Ranger Stations will have information on current conditions and hazardous crossings

California Bighorn Sheep

California Bighorn SheepThe California Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area is located within the John Muir Wilderness, was established by the Inyo National Forest to minimize human disturbance in key sheep areas. SPECIAL RESTRICTIONS apply to entry into the Zoological Area. Please contact the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station concerning these restrictions including no pets.

SAFETY TIPS: The backcountry is beautiful, but remember, it is also primitive and you will be on your own! Before going, check with the local ranger station for the latest weather conditions and possible hazards, such as swollen creeks and snow. Be certain to take clothing that will prepare you for possible weather changes. Sudden shifts in weather are one of the backcountry's greatest dangers.

MAPS FOR YOUR TRIP: You will want detailed maps for your trip. The Inyo National Forest Recreation map and the John Muir Wilderness topographical map are available on our site. Updated maps are available at the ranger stations.

LEAVE NO TRACE: The John Muir Wilderness is a heavily visited area. Over the years thousands of people have enjoyed, and in some instances, damaged the resources. By practicing these techniques, you will make it hard for others to know you were there.

For Detailed Information
Inyo National Forest
Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center & Ranger Station
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546


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