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ActivitiesPacifc Crest Trail

PACIFIC CREST National Scenic Trail

Pacific Crest Trail sign post The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) stretches 2,620 miles from the Mexico border to Canada. It passes through 24 National Forests, 7 National Parks, 33 Wildernesses, 5 state parks, county land, and private land. The John Muir Trail (JMT) extends 212 miles from Mt. Whitney on the south to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley on the north.

The PCT on the Inyo National Forest starts at Donohue Pass and extends southward to Silver Pass. It then re-enters near Siberian Pass and continues south to the South Fork of the Kern River. History Conception and construction of the PCT began in the 1920's. Several stretches of the trail were built during the 30's. They included trails in Washington (Cascade Crest Trail), Oregon (Oregon Skyline Trail), and California (John Muir Trail.) These trail segments were established as an initial component of the National System of Recreational and Scenic Trails by the National Trails System Act of 1968. The JMT and the PCT follow the same route in most places within John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks.

The John Muir Trail begins at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park and stretches south 212 miles to the summit of Mt. Whitney. It follows the PCT for the majority of its length. It breaks off from the PCT leading up to the summit of Mt. Whitney and in the Devils Postpile area.

Wilderness travel is by foot or horseback only. Wheelchairs may be used in wilderness, but all other mechanical travel, including bicycles, is prohibited. Winter offers an entirely different experience. Skis and snowshoes become the mode of transportation. We recommend working with a guide for extended trips.

TRAILHEAD ELEVATION - 10,000 ft. at Yosemite, 8,635 ft. at Whitney Portal
HIGHEST ELEVATION - 14,496 at Mt. Whitney
TRAIL DIFFICULTY - Moderate to Strenuous
SEASON - Snow conditions in the Sierra Nevada change from year to year making it difficult to predict what the conditions will be like. Snow banks are usually still present along the ridges and passes when the summer season starts. Occasional thunderstorms occur during the summer, but summer days are typically warm with nights being comfortably cool. Be prepared for rapid changes in weather . Snow will usually cover the trails in November. PCT Foot travel on the southern part of the forest can be possible by early June, with stock travel by July 1. Higher passes may not open until as much as a month later.


The John Muir Trail can usually be passable from July through October. Most of the trail is above 7,000 feet with some places over 13,000 feet. Wilderness permits are needed when you plan to stay overnight in any National Park backcountry or Wilderness area. To obtain a permit write to the Forest or National Park that administers your point of entry. The permit is good for one continuous trip along the John Muir Trail or PCT, from California to Washington. Remember that during the summer season many trailheads have daily quotas limiting the number of people allowed into the backcountry. Quotas help to minimize backcountry impacts and provide a quality wilderness experience for all visitors.


Beginning in 1996 the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park will be managing Mt. Whitney and its access trails as a special zone. A wilderness permit and special permit will be required for backpackers who enter the zone. Special permits will be required for all visitors who enter the special zone, including day hikers and hikers coming in from other trails. For more information contact the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station or Sequoia National Park.

Make sure to LEAVE NO TRACE of your site and make it look as if no one has camped there. This helps to enhance your wilderness experience and others as well.

Surface water is common along the PCT and John Muir Trail. Open water is easily contaminated and should be treated before drinking. Bringing the water to a full boil, filtering it through a 2 micron or smaller filter, or treating it with iodine, are all effective methods of treating your water.

Bears and other wildlife are a fact of life when hiking in the backcountry. Make sure that you hang your food when at your campsite. A 50 foot rope should be carried for hanging your food. Bear-resistant canisters should be used in areas where hanging your food is not possible. The canisters have been effective in deterring bears, since they have no way of opening them when properly sealed.

Pets are not permitted in National Park wilderness and are under some restriction in National Forest wilderness

Contact the appropriate Ranger Station or Park Service office for information on wilderness permits, guide books on the PCT or JMT, and any special regulations that are in effect.

Inyo National Forest
Mt. Whitney Ranger Station
Lone Pine, CA 93545


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