If you’re looking for an escape, the John Muir Trail is your ticket away.
This iconic trail in California stretches over 200 miles of the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains and passes through some of the most beautiful landscapes in America.
From stunning vistas to diverse wildlife, something on this trail will make any person happy.
Even though planning a thru-hike can be a challenge, here are 13 valid ways that make all of the planning worth it.
So go ahead and grab some coffee (or a drink) and follow along!
What Are The Reasons To Hike The John Muir Trail?
Hiking the John Muir Trail is an unforgettable adventure that offers something for everyone.
This 211-mile-long trail takes travelers through 3 National parks, hot springs, the highest Mountain in the Continental U.S. along with many other extraordinary stops that will make it worth your while.
Let’s walk through a few of these honorable mentions!
You Will Experience 3 National Parks
These are some of the most breathtaking places on earth with breathtaking visuals, stunning wildlife, and a diverse group of people that travel from around the world.
Yosemite offers worldly famous views like half dome; you can actually apply for a permit which grants you access to hike to the top.
You Get To Bathe In Hot Springs And Alpine Lakes
Before hiking the John Muir Trail, I had never experienced a mineral-rich, naturally-heated bath.
One thing I know is that after a long day of hiking, there aren’t many things better than relaxing in a hot spring.
If you choose to hit up Muir Trail Ranch (a common resupply point), then you will be rewarded by an undeveloped hot spring that requires a minor ford across a stream.
In addition to the hot springs, you can also find stunning alpine lakes to enjoy.
One of my most memorable days on the trail was a zero-day (meaning zero miles of hiking) spent with four people I met, jumping off a cliff and into the water.Tanner
It was a lot of fun with people who were strangers to me just days prior.
Because of all the snow runoff and lack of plants due to the high altitude, much of the water is nearly transparent, allowing you to see fish swimming around you.
It’s simultaneously eerie and awesome.
Summit The Highest Mountain In The Continental United States
So, you finish the trail and gain lifetime memories. You already have one amazing story to tell…now multiply that by two.
You not only get the amazing adventure of backpacking the entire trail, but you also get to summit Mount Whitney, which is the HIGHEST mountain in the continental United States.
If you’re ready for a challenge, many hikers attempt to reach the mountain summit before sunrise. I personally began my hike at midnight and reached the summit by 4:30 am.
Throughout busier times of the year, the summit can become quite jam-packed.
I observed that the first group of hikers reached the summit around 5:30 am, which was during the busy time of year.
Master The Basics Of Thru-Hiking/Backpacking
Hiking the John Muir Trail provides a great opportunity to improve your backpacking and thru-hiking skills beyond just a weekend trip.
You will create a thru-hiking gear list, learn how to plan for resupply, create lightweight meal plans, manage your water consumption and hygiene needs, prepare for emergencies, and much more.
While the trail is beautiful and majestic, it still comes with risk. Some of these basics should be covered before you head out on the trail.
In fact, there were multiple people I witnessed that needed evacuations (both due to broken ankles).
So it is very important to be self-sufficient and prepared, especially if you are solo camping.
Sample The Infamous Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most iconic trails in the world. The PCT is 2,653 miles of pristine beauty and wilderness stretching across 3 states.
The John Muir Trail follows the PCT for approximately 170 miles of (arguably) the best part of the PCT.
It would be pretty cool to sample the best part of an iconic long-distance trail, wouldn’t it?
During one of my resupply points on the John Muir Trail, I was hitchhiking back to the trailhead and got picked up by 3 hikers from the class of 2016 PCT thru-hikers.
What did we talk about? Well, I asked them what their favorite parts of the PCT were and they answered, “We are taking you there right now” as we drove to about mile 150 of the John Muir Trail.
You Don’t Need To Quit Your Job
What do people do who want to thru-hike but aren’t a “content creator” or are employed full time and have minimal time off?
This can be one of the biggest drawbacks of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, or Continental Divide Trail.
Not all of us have the ability to hike the triple crown and the reality is that you either need to be homeless for a bit, retired, in between jobs, financially free, or need to make money online in order to do so.
With the John Muir Trail, however, you can take 3 or 4 weeks off, and get the opportunity to create one of the most incredible adventures of your lifetime.
You get to worry less about quitting your job and more about finding that hot spring we were talking about. Can you imagine that being your biggest worry?
Experience High Elevation And Endless Views
What could be better than hiking through high alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, across mountain passes, and up to the highest peak in the continental USA?
You don’t even have to imagine it because you get to experience it firsthand on the John Muir Trail.
This trail regularly takes you to elevations beyond 9,000 feet, and you get to see some amazing ridgeline vistas.
Plus, on a clear day, you can see the Sierra Nevada mountain range extending to (what seems like) infinity.
It’s an experience that will stay with you forever!
It’s A Bucket List Adventure
Backpacking the John Muir Trail will be an unforgettable adventure. You’ll witness incredible scenery, connect with authentic people, try new things, and challenge yourself to overcome obstacles.
I believe that challenging ourselves by trying new things is important. This trail will help you do that, and you will gain what you seek from it, whether that’s a mental, physical, or emotional challenge.
I now have memories, friendships, and stories that will last a lifetime. I could not be more thankful for all of them and you will be sure to feel this way too.
Kindness Surrounds The Trail
Another added bonus of the John Muir Trail is that it gives off “Big Hike Vibes” similar to the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.
What this means is that you will find yourself surrounded by kind, helpful people who are more than willing to offer advice or help out if needed.
I often received rides from strangers, offers for free meals and snacks, a cabin to sleep in one night, and even had people give me free gear when I was in need – all on the John Muir Trail!
Meet A Hiker Community Of Different Cultures
The JMT brings in people from all around the world, and in my case, I was able to meet people from Iceland, Australia, and China.
One of my favorite memories was when a man from China (who was a teacher and spoke very little English) taught me how to fly fish while communicating through just our body language!
He had no idea what I was saying, and vice versa – but none of that mattered because…
Everyone becomes friends on the trail!
Fly Fishing For Rare Species
With the right permit, you can have the chance to catch California Golden Trout, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout.
Don’t worry about carrying a lot of tackle and heavy fishing rods/reels. To keep gear lightweight, many people carried Tenkara extendable fishing rods, and a few people even carried ice fishing rods.
You will be spending a lot of time camping next to alpine lakes, and I would say that I certainly missed out on the opportunity to catch a ton of fish.
Although I didn’t get the memo, many people did, and I spent a few nights watching people catch fish after fish.
Next time, I am certainly going to pack a rod! However, it is important to note that you will probably meet some people who can give you a couple of casts.
It Is A Real Challenge
You may be thinking, why is this a reason to hike the John Muir Trail? Well, you aren’t going to walk away from this adventure of a lifetime without feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
You will be tackling some of the harshest terrain that the United States has to offer.
Overall, the trail comes close to an total change of 80,000 feet of elevation. Don’t worry too much though, as it is 1,000% worth every step.
Just make sure you train for it and understand how your body will react to the different elevations and rough terrain.
The adventure goes beyond the time you spend on the trail and actually begins months before through planning, training, and gathering gear!
It Is Pure Fun
Lastly, to put it simply, it is FUN! Type 2 is fun at times but worth every sore step. If you don’t have time to hike the entire PCT or AT, but still want a fun thru-hike, the JMT just might be your best option.
What Is The John Muir Trail?
The John Muir Trail spans 211 miles and can be found in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, United States.
It runs from Yosemite Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney, taking hikers through some of the country’s most stunning and well-known landscapes.
The trail named after the renowned naturalist John Muir offers stunning views of mountain passes, scenic lakes, and green meadows.
You’ll come across popular landmarks like Mount Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48 states), Half Dome, and Muir Hut.
The John Muir Trail is an incredible journey for any hiker looking for a trail that features some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States.
From towering mountain passes and scenic lakes to friendly strangers and unique cultures, it’s no wonder why so many people apply for a permit to thru-hike each year.
With its stunning views, diverse wildlife, and memorable experiences, a hike on the trail will be one that you’ll never forget and truly can be a truly life-changing adventure.