Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail is a 18.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Lone Pine, California that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until November.
cross country skiing
This the big daddy, an 18 mile out-and-back trek that summits Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The trail averages 550' of elevation gain per mile and features two designated campsites along the way, the generally uncrowded Outpost Camp (10,360'), which is situated in a nicely sheltered meadow beside some running streams, and the much more popular Trail Camp (12,039'), an exposed, rocky field at the base of the infamous "97 switchbacks." At 6 miles from the trailhead and the highest possible place to camp, Trail Camp is considered the best site to acclimate to the altitude for overnight hikers. It is also popular to hike Mt. Whitney out-and-back in one day, but given the rigor and the length of the trail, a very early start from about 2-4am is recommended, as well as some prior training. From May-Oct., the trail is permit-only (apply by Feb. 15), and it is common to be denied a permit the first year one applies. Dogs are actually allowed on this trail up to Trail Crest (13,777'), but they may not be your best friend after the 97 switchbacks! Hiking poles are strongly recommended, as are multiple layers with at least one being wind- and waterproof, and definitely be prepared to purify or filter water along the way. The hike is strenuous, long, and the effects of the altitude can become intense, but the rewards are a panoramic, jaw-dropping view that stretches as far as the eye can see, as well as the joy of having achieved a true hiking milestone. As far as trails go in the lower 48, this is the ultimate natural high. Note: Dogs on leash are only allowed until the top of the 97 switchbacks, 2.5 mi from the summit.
This was our second attempt at summiting Mt. Whitney. The first was in July 2012, and we turned around at 2nd camp.
This time, we started on Oct 2, 2016. Weather was much, much colder and with high winds. We camped at Outpost Camp (10,000 ft.) The hike to 2nd camp seemed much longer than I had remembered. By the time we got to the last 3 miles of trail before the Summit, winds were so cold and so strong, I had to wear a neoprene face mask. I almost gave up a mile below summit, but my wife pushed me forward; I'm so glad she did!
Temperatures were supposed to drop to 18° that night. On the way back down, the water in my Nalgene bottles was beginning to freeze. There was a sheet of ice under the lid which I had to break through with the handle of my hiking pole in order to drink.
This was a long and grueling hike, yet very rewarding. I would not recommend it to the faint of heart at this time of year.
I'm planning to do this magnificent tour to Mt. Whitney this summer with my friend... But we failed to get permit for this, and this site says this... "For day hikes you can self register at the trailhead sign in station." Anyone please let me know if we can hike for just one day, can we still just do "self register" at the station?
Hard but fulfilling
amazing views from the top climbed to the top when I hiked the PCT July 2016
What a beautiful hike! I did this one on October 6th. The rangers warned of high wind and snow, but it was actually low wind and 60 degrees/sunny when I got to the top! So pretty. Views on views on views.
I did the single day hike and it was very obtainable. If you are in good shape, you will be able to day hike it no problem. I started at about 8am, hit summit around noon, and was down just after 3.
~7 hours total. I'm pretty fast, but not a racer.
Again, so pretty. Definitely do this one! I bet everyone who complained about it being super hard wasn't prepared - I saw a lot of that on the trail.
Check out my photos of the trip on Instagram: ahaler1
Loved every minute of our 1 day hike. Toughest at 12,000 plus. Up there for a long time - 10 miles out of the 22. Must be prepared. Best part was starting at 3:30 am. So surreal.
Great hike! Like others have said, train up if you plan on making this a day hike and start very early. Amazing views throughout!
An Amazing Adventure and Challenge! - Mt Whitney was just "off my radar" for a long time, as I traveled the world, produced my art and did other adventures. When I discovered the tallest mountain in the U.S. was less than 4 hours drive from me, it quickly became on obsession.
There it was... just sitting there, being all tall... just asking to be climbed!
- We passed on getting more acclimated to the altitude and opted for a mellow first night camping at Lake Dias. Next morning hiked only 3.5 miles up to Outpost Camp. Again passing on more acclimation... but mostly passing on more cold. Up at 4 am to hike the remaining 7.5 miles to the summit, where we hung out awhile then hiked all the way back down to the trail head.
My usual curiosity kicked in and I wanted to know if "99 Switchbacks" was just a colorful, term to describe a hell'a lot of switchbacks?...
So, I counted. I may have lost track a bit but when they ended, I was at exactly 99! I'm sure the Park Service knows the count, as they maintain them. We did 18.5 miles in a day! Averaging one mile an hour on the way up.
For everyone preparing for the first time... all the basic advice you read is the real deal. GET ACCLIMATED, GET IN SHAPE. Know the Weather, Permits, Pack Light, Stay Warm and Prepare in general. Diamox can help a bit for Acclimation but is not a substitute for Endurance Training.
I did the day hike and it's quite the accomplishment to go in one day. Not a relaxing hike at all it's very physical and mentally challenging. I am glad I did this once but will probably never do this hike again.
My brother and I hiked to the summit of Mount Whitney in September 2016 as a two-day backpacking trip. The description here is slightly off. The actual distance is 22 miles round-trip from Whitney Portal. I'll try to break up my description of the trail into sections:
Section 1 (Trailhead-to-John-Muir-Wilderness): There is a small general store at the trailhead, but since it is the only option in the area, the prices are outrageous. Plan ahead, and avoid purchasing anything at the general store. The first mile of the trail is a gradual incline. When you reach a sign stating that you're now entering the John Muir Wilderness, you've completed the first mile.
Section 2 (John-Muir-Wilderness-to-Mirror-Lake): After the first mile of gradual incline, you'll hit your first set of switchbacks. These switchbacks will continue for nearly three miles, to a meadow just outside Outpost Camp. Another short set of switchbacks will pick up right after Outpost Camp and will take you to Mirror Lake, about a third of a mile away. Mirror Lake is roughly halfway to the other two campsites, Consultation Lake and Trail Camp, so it's a good place to stop and rest before pushing on.
Section 3 (Mirror-Lake-to-Trail-Camp): After Mirror Lake is another set of switchbacks, these ones ascending a series of ridges overlooking Mirror Lake, Lone Pine Lake, and the meadow outside Outpost Camp. Once the switchbacks end, you'll see a large lake on your left. This is Consultation Lake. Trail Camp is just another quarter-mile ahead.
If you want quiet and serenity, find a place to camp at Consultation Lake and avoid Trail Camp. Trail Camp is busy, and people will be coming and going at all hours of day and night.
Section 4 (Trail-Camp-to-Summit): From Trail Camp, it's four miles to the summit. The first two miles are up a series of 99 switchbacks, so get some rest, drink some water, have something to eat, and get ready. Once you crest the saddle at the top of the switchbacks, you'll be rewarded with an awesome view of the east side of Sequoia National Park and King's Canyon National Park. You'll drop down a bit in elevation, swing around the west side of the summit, and then ascend from the west. I actually thought the last two miles were tougher than the switchbacks, but that might have been on account of the elevation and sun exposure.
Once you hit the summit - CONGRATULATIONS! You're standing at the highest point in the contiguous 48 states.
Well, I'm far from being an avid hiker but I decided to take on the challenge of going up Mount Whitney with a great group of ex-coworkers who I like to call friends. Amidst weather and physical challenges, we managed to stick together and make it to the summit and back in a long 19-hour day. For those that are looking for one of most challenging hikes in the USA without any extravagant gear and extremely rewarding views and scenery, I'd recommend this trek!!! But try to do it in 2 days so you enjoy the views more... :)
First time I did it...it was a day hike. Started at a little after 9 am and got back down at 7 pm. We missed the thunderstorm and had no weather problems. Just gray and cool. Of course doing it as a day hike you don't get to acclimate and your feet grow very tired. The last two miles back down were the worst because you know you're almost down but you just keep doing down switchbacks.
Second time we camped at base camp then hiked in and camped at trail camp. Had to set up camp during the storm. it was really cold and windy. There was an intense hail storm too. Then we did the last 5 miles the next day. It was nice. We got down before the storm got bad. Its an intense hike with lots of switchback sections that are all different. You can really get a feel for were you are if you remember all the switchbacks and estimate how much more time it will take you.
5 stars for the tallest mountain in contagious US. hike started at 1 am and got done by 8 pm. 22 miles of round trip with amazing vistas. super good. awesome feeling to be on top of the mountain.
8-21-16. Started 12:15am, summited at 9am with an awesome couple who helped me at 3am when I got confused near Trailside Meadow 11,400', completed it at 4:45pm with the same couple (from VA + WV.) I packed too much food and not enough liquid. I had 148 ounces, but probably needed 170+. I took one Tums at Trail Crest 13,600', but never really felt any effects of altitude sickness. Coming down between Consultation Lake + Trailside Meadow I started overheating and had to take off 2 layers. As stated the trail is exceptionally marked, great for night hikers. I did a 4 mile hike Saturday 8-20-16 at Whitney Portal, to acclimate and spent the night down at Lone Pine 3700' elevation. For day hikers, though it got cold 45 degrees and some wind gusts, I would highly suggest at least getting 1/2 up the 99 switchbacks before the sun comes up. Meaning start this hike before 1am. We made it to Trail Crest 13,600' just as the sun came up. Note that although the water is cold at the 23rd switchback, I'd still lean towards filtering it. I drank some but would filter it if I ever came back to Whitney. Also the view from the top down to Lone Pine was smoky, due to fires, but the air you breathe along the trail was not. My GPS showed 23 miles.
I did the main trail with a few friends over two days in August 2016. 22 miles and high elevation make this one tough. We spent a day and a half hiking/camping in Onion Valley to adjust to the elevation. Before I get into my (verbose) full experience, I must say the main trail is one of the best designed, built, and maintained trails I have ever been on; the craftsmanship was very impressive.
We drove up to Whitney Portal and hit the trail by 8:30 in the morning. Climbing up the initial switchbacks, things got hot quick despite the trees. We found ourselves dipping our hats in the cold streams to beat the heat. Shorts would have been the way to go, as mosquitoes were absent.
Mirror Lake turned out to be a great place to stop for lunch and filter some water, as it sits just below the tree line. After refueling, we pushed on to Trail Camp to search for a spot for the night. Luckily, it was early afternoon and most sites were empty. At one point, we were the only ones there. We chose a couple sites on the elevated rock outcropping just to the north. Many of the best spots had discarded WAG bags (shame on those people!), but we found a sandy spot with some protection from the wind and sun. After setting up camp, we make a short side-hike to the lakes that flow into the tarn at Trail Camp.
Tired from the 6 miles uphill and wanting to get an early start, we hit the sack just after the sun went behind the wall. Sleep was difficult at 12,000 from the cold, as my face was exposed in my bag/bivy combo (which also led to a 1AM bloody nose, fun). My two friends who shared a tent said they were nice and toasty.
We got up in the dark and started up the 99 switchbacks (which people were coming down all thought the night) around 5AM. About an hour before sunrise, we were able to travel without headlamps. There was still water (and black ice) crossing the switchbacks. We didn't quite make it to trail crest by sunrise, but it was still spectacular from the east-facing switchbacks. The intense power of the sun at this elevation had us stripping off our jackets shortly after sunrise.
At the trail crest, the wind picked up a little, which made me glad I brought gloves. After a short downhill section (which means uphill on the way back), the rocky trail climbs “gently” all the way to the summit. The “windows” you pass aren’t really scary (which means something coming from me); the trail is plenty wide. Just try not to stumble while you take in the view like I did. There was one small section of well-trampled snow/ice which was easily traversed. As you turn right toward the summit, the trail gets steep again, but I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the hut came into view.
We summited around 9AM and stayed about 45 minutes, as winds were light (but still cold). While coming back across the massif, we noticed that a new boulder (4ft diameter) had fallen onto the trail, yikes! Half the group scrambled up Mt. Muir (I abstained, not being fond of sheer drop-offs); I was able to see their small figures standing on the summit from trail crest. The 99 switchbacks seem to take much longer on the way back down, but we finally made it to camp.
After lunch and foot bandaging at camp, we packed up our gear, filled our water and headed down. Coming down later in the day than we went up really made me wish I had packed shorts. Even getting below the tree line seemed not to make much of a difference. We hustled down the mountain, but the final switchbacks seemed to take forever. Even when we could see the road or the parking lot, we still had a ways to go. Then, finally around 5PM, we were down! High-fives were given and WAG bags were disposed of. All that was left to do was put on shorts and flip-flops and hit the store for a bacon cheeseburger.
Feet rested up, we hobbled to the car and headed down to lone pine campground (unbearably hot until the sun goes behind the sierras) where we had celebratory (and muscle relaxing) libations and stargazed. Great end to a great trip.