Explore the most popular views trails in John Muir Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The views up to the lake are amazing. The hike up is fairly strenuous but you can take your time. The lake is beautiful and full of trout. Great day hike, have lunch at the lake and soak it in!

Whitney in May!! Summited May 23rd. I was 1 of 5 people to summit this day.
This was my first time doing Whitney. During my prep research I had a hard time finding info about early season conditions, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I learned.
Crampons and an ice axe are a must. We used them once before reaching trail camp, but you’re probably fine to only use them from Trail camp and beyond. This is where we camped and left for day two around 5:30. If I’d do it again, I’d leave even earlier, it’s light enough around 4:45 to set out without a headlamp. Biggest tip is reaching the summit by 11am! Both days I was on the mountain the clouds quickly rolled in after that. First off, it will obstruct your few on top of the lower 48, but also there’s risk of lightening, low visibility etc.
The notorious switchbacks your read about in every Whitney prep guide... they don’t exist this time of year. You take the snow/ice covered chute off to the right, which you go at with your crampons and ice axe. I recommend staying near the rock clusters, because avalanche risk is real this time of year (another reason you must hit the chute early).
After the chute you go around the backside of Mt. Muir and you traverse over/up to Whitney. The elevation gain isn’t much from this point and apparently it’s only 2 miles to the summit...but it’s a grueling “2 miles.” If there’s an area this time of year a life threatening accident would happen, this 2 mike stretch is it! It’s narrow and snow covered. What was sketch for us and turned 9/10 people back, is that the trail is completely snow covered so you’re trekking through thick snow, which is exhausting, but worse than that is that you don’t have a good place to stick your ice axe if you were to slip. With that said, if you’re thinking about your steps and not rushing it, anyone can do this.
Overall, great first Whitney experience. This is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Beside the cold and unpredictable weather, Whitney in May is where it’s at!! Felt like I had the mountain completely to myself during my summit push.

camped at blue lake last night it got 1-2 feet of snow overnight so be prepared. with prior accumulation there were some waist deep sections and snow shoes would help

hiking
4 days ago

Just hiked it on 5-20-18 with my dog. There is clear trail for about 1/4 mile if your lucky enough to find that section. After that it’s pretty much snowpack the whole way. Lots of postholing. Snowshoes recommended. Pretty much guessing where the trail was and made plenty wrong turns. Ended up following some ski tracks and made it to Barney. All the lakes were still frozen and made for some gorgeous views. Skelton from above was by far my favorite view. Mid thaw, valley down below, mountains to the right, beautiful! The snow made it tough but well worth the effort. Got to watch some backcountry skiers come down one of the mountains above Barney too. Awesome!

Did this last Sunday with great snow conditions above iceberg lake. The route provides a great mixture of scrambling, route finding, technical and highly technical sections. The 400 ft above the notch was turned into an exposed class 4 because of the fresh snow from the night before and icy rocks. Awesome route!

hiking
4 days ago

Went to the Third Lake only which was a pretty clear trail - some leftover snow. Heard that heading towards the Fourth Lake had more snow so we just turned around at the Third. I'm deducting one star because I had heard the Third Lake was more turquoise in color, and we were really disappointed it was not - maybe it was the time of year or the time of day?? Any tips on that would be appreciated.

We somehow took a wrong turn on the way up and the way back so we did almost 15 miles. It was a pretty strenuous hike and we both think we were battling slight altitude sickness. Overall it was an amazing experience. We were so glad we opted to stay at the Glacier Lodge the night before and the day of the hike.

Tip: bring sunscreen for the exposed areas; stay at the Glacier Lodge the night before so you get a good night's sleep and the day of the hike so you get a nice hot shower!

Whitney in May is totally where it's at. I climbed it on a Saturday with a group of 3 in one day and maybe 10-15 other folks made it to the top. The lack of crowds was fantastic and it was a load of fun. Be prepared for snow and ice and it's good to have crampons and an ice axe for going up (and glissading down) the chute. We left at 4am, summited at 11:30 and got back at 5pm and it was great but did make very good time. If you're somewhat less experienced, of recommend leaving an hour earlier but it's really not too bad of a hike. During be summer months, I think it's akin to San Gorgonio just shifted up a few thousand feet (which does make a big difference) and during the winter, it's a perfect place to work on beginner mountaineering skills. Overall, a fantastic mountain and the tallest in the lower 48!!!

Just finished this hike last Saturday. We camped at the Outpost camp Friday night and headed for the summit at 5am Saturday. We reached the summit around noon, with clouds rolling in, just in time to start heading down before the weather got bad.

Conditions were generally good, with snow cover starting around 11k feet.

Wonderful trail and beautiful lake.

It honestly lives up to hype with the sights to see. It is a challenge despite what other reviews might say. It’s continuously uphill and the altitude climb can really get to you (nausea, dizziness, and headaches). It takes about 2-3 hrs to get to the first lake depending on how many times you stop to rest. Bring lots of water/snacks and come prepared for a nice challenge. You’ll be sore but if you can push through it then it’s worth it. Lakes are beautiful blue green water and the views truly are breathtaking.

Just completed it today May 18.
Amazing view throughout the trail and not just the pass itself. Beautiful lakes and some at higher elevation were still frozen. Most snow has melted and it was very easy to see the trail. Less than a mile of the trail was still under the snow.
We also met some PCT thru hikers on the way to resupply at Independence. The trail just keeps going west and I would love to camp here one day and just keep going. But we still made a beautiful day hike out of it.
Saw a marmot , my first encounter.
It is not an easy trail, but if you are cardio prepared, the reward are the views and entire experience of being out there and going thru snow in May.

Hiked today. Not for the AAA Club hiker - which I am. Trail had lots of scree, snow, and eventually defeated at the cross over, where there once was a concrete bridge, due to the high level runoff.
Definitely bring water moccasins if you want to cross over and get to the first lake.
Regardless the scenery was spectacular and worth my 8 mile out-and-back.

One of my favorite hikes I did in this area (probably nr.1). It is definitely moderate to strenuous (I hike quite a bit) so be prepared for a steep hike. The gate was closed, so we had to park our car further down the street - which added an extra 2 miles one way to our hike. You can go higher up if you feel like it once you reach Flower like (which is the third lake. The first one is very small, the second one is also beautiful). When we went, in late April, the lakes were still frozen. There were some patches of snow along the way but no need for snowshoes if you only go up to Flower lake. You can go further if you want but would not recommend this time of the year without some experience and the proper gear.

There is lots of space around the lakes to camp at night if you feel like it. Will definitely do this hike again. I loved the views along the way and the frozen lake with the massive mountains in the back as a reward at the top are just majestic.

The highest of the five lakes is a jewel.

Did this monster hike in one day (July, 2013’) instead of backpacking it in.
This is definitely for experienced hikers...if you are prepared and if you are an avid hiker this trail is for you!

Gorgeous hike! Stunning vistas. When we started the gate wasn’t open, but it is now. Lucky hikers can park and start right at the trailhead!
We had hiking shoes and were fine, but micro spikes would have worked well today, -still large spots with snow, though melting quickly. Snowshoes as you get deeper would surely come in handy. We turned back 3 miles in (we started late) but I imagine our shoes would have taken us all the way. Just be careful as the snow is melting and it’s easier to fall through.

Attempt made on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, start time at approximately 11 a.m., (late start)! I'm giving it a 3 only because I completed about 1/4 of it. I lost the trail in the snow and no clear tracks to lead me anywhere. Without hiking experience or reliable GPS in the spotty vicinity, I turned around to a defeat. I would like to state that the little I was able to trek, absolutely stunning views and waterfalls. I will most certainly return to finish this, as it deserves! The only intimidating portion of this area, is the 20 minute drive back down in a sedan. My brakes felt every bit of that descent.

Beautiful!! the first and second lakes were frozen and the third was halfway melted. Not very hard but amazing views.

Went this past week...very beautiful!! A lot of snow and very deep but totally awesome!

It’s an incredible hike! Like some other recent posts, we only went to 2nd lake but the entire way had such beauty there was no boring aspect. The weather was perfect. The hike isn’t strenuous and can be taken quite leisurely. I had a knee issue recently and managed to complete this hike without much issue. And my Maltese/Pomeranian did too! According to my Suunto Traverse we did just under 10 miles round trip. Can’t wait to come back when the lakes have thawed. We hiked on 05/05/18

Hiked this trail with a group of 13 people in 5th grade in 2015. Took 8 days and was the most amazing experience of my life. I do not like the views from the day trip as it is way more difficult and not as beautiful. It is a brutal way to take in the elevation. I strongly suggest doing the full long trail. I will be going back this summer. It is a mind blowing experience and if a 5th grader can do it, you can too.

No, dogs are certainly NOT able to use this trail. Past Kearsarge Pass you are hiking in Kings Canyon National Park. National parks do NOT allow dogs on wilderness trails.

Mt Whitney in spring. Enough said.

on Big Pine Lakes Trail

hiking
25 days ago

Wow. Just wow. Spent all yesterday morning, from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. hiking up to the second lake (group felt that going up to the third would’ve been a little more dangerous considering we didn’t anticipate so much ice) and the views were absolutely breathtaking! It started to snow as we were making our way back down (which made the hike all the more better) and ran into many anticipated fishermen. Sadly for them the lakes were frozen over leaving only a small little area for them to fish. However, all in all, this was probably the best hike I’ve done so far this year and I would LOVE to go back when the weather gets warmer!

hiking
28 days ago

I completed this trail on 27April18. Up to lake 3 is a safe hike and is where the best views are, beyond that, there is nothing moderate about it, at least in the winter time. I decided to push myself and continued (I only had crampons, no snow shoes) but there is still so much snow that is actually dangerous. Is so deep in some areas that my whole leg would get buried on it, and I am a 6’1” tall guy. There are so many creeks that you can hear them under the snow so you wanna be careful. The other lakes are smaller and not so impressive like the first three. Since the snow was so deep I didn’t go around lake four and intercepted the trail in the other end, which btw is nowhere to be seen, I just followed my GPS. The snow was so unstable that I had to crawl, slide on my rear, etc. I lost part of my hiking pole, stuck somewhere in the deep of it, even I almost lose one of my boots in a similar scenario. I had to dig it out. About the course, is continuous uphill up to lake four. Lake 1 is at 10000 ft., highest point 10800 or so. The loop which is somewhere around 5 miles long starts after 4.5 from the parking lot. The uphill is moderate in general, strenuous at times. Weather was chilli but comfortable.

backpacking
1 month ago

Not sure if I need to add to the big review pile for this trail, but why not. It lives up to the hype and the access is easy. I would say this is an excellent trail for beginning backpackers who want to experience the Sierra Nevada at its best.

It is popular for a reason, but the presence of people dwindle the further up you go, and there are options to expand beyond this trail (such as Agassiz Col which I attempted but failed, a successful failure I must say).

Why does the summary on this trail's description say it "features a lake"? As a matter of fact, it features so many lakes the namers half-assedly named them numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...!

I hiked this trail 5 times as part of John Muir Trail and few other times just for Mount Whitney. I like it in winter or early spring. I always hike it in one day. I like the views from the Trail Crest, the Marmors and the summit. I don’t like the switchbacks when there are crowds.

Many times, in winter only, solo most times, once with friends

Load More