John Muir Trail, USA

By Justin Walker and Lauren Smith 27 April 2015
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Sweeping vistas, pristine wilderness, varied terrain and iconic sights

NAMED FOR NATURALIST John Muir, this famed high trail follows the backbone of the mighty Sierra Nevadas, stretching from the Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park to the summit of Mt Whitney through the Seqouia National Park.

One of the most renowned scenic treks in the world, walking the JMT will take you past lakes, chiselled peaks and steep mountain passes as you trek up and down (and up and down some more) through designated wilderness areas at an elevation that rarely dips below 2400m.

Usually tackled between July and September, when the weather is mild, most hikers trek north-south, saving the Mt Whitney ascent, at 4418m the highest point in the lower 48 states, for the last portion of the hike. Starting in Yosemite NP, the trail passes iconic sites like Vernal and Nevada falls, as well as Half Dome and Cathedral Peak, as it traverses the High Sierra Range.

As you leave Yosemite NP, crossing Donohue Pass into Ansel Adams Wilderness, the trail reveals a sweeping view of the Sierras Nevada range. After Ansel Adams Wilderness, the trail winds its way through John Muir Wilderness area and Kings Canyon NP before reaching Sequoia NP.

The JMT is hugely popular; you will need to organise a permit at least six months in advance, and coordinate food drops – the trail doesn’t cross any roads, and doesn’t cut close to any towns.

You’ll never feel crowded on the JMT. It’s impossible to feel crowded in the midst of all these green meadows, soaring granite peaks and sweeping mountain ranges.