Explore the most popular waterfall 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.

I saw a sign with madlock on it but no flower lake sign. It was a moderate but beautiful hike for me

The wildflowers along the trail were spectacular and swimming in second lake was very, very wonderful.

Loved this hike! We went to the second lake and back from big pine campground- was about 5 miles there and 5 back. It was a hot day but that glacial lake was WORTH IT. The second lake is a 5 minute walk from the first- make sure you go to at least that:)

Hiked it on Sunday 7/8. Beautiful views. Harder than expected. There is still a long section to go after the 97 switchbacks. Started at 3:20am, took us about 16 hours total. Got to summit at 12:45pm. We got stuck in some rain and hail coming down around 1:30 or so. Some of the river crossings got a little hairy with the added water from the rain. Snow/ice wasn’t an issue going up.

Great hike! Pictures don’t do the view justice at all! It was hot and there were a ton of mosquitoes past the waterfall so be prepared! Definitely would recommend!!

Hiked with a group of 7 on 7/5/18. We left at 2:45am and arrived at the summit shortly before noon. Trail was in great shape and no snow remaining across the trail itself, though a few places on the switchbacks that have water runoff were icy on the way up due to the morning timing. No ice on the way down as it was around 60 degrees by then.
We stayed at the top for about 40 minutes to enjoy the spectacular view and pleasant weather plus get some rest. Started back down around 12:40 and arrived back to Whitney Portal around 7:30pm.
Our group had 2 people in their 60’s, 3 in their 50’s and 2 under 30. Everyone made it. We were surprised to see dozens of people still climbing when we were on our way down even passed Trail Crest. Would have been very late arrival for those groups back at Whitney Portal.

Probably better for backpackers, but we hiked it in one day. Went all the way to the third lake and it was incredible. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

Beautiful breathtaking views! It was great to hike next to the creek in order for us and the dogs to stay cool. Only reason I’m giving only 4 stars is because there are several mini detour trails that do no have proper signs and we got lost towards the end. Took us an extra 3.5-4 miles to get out.

Hiked on 7/5/18. Set off at 3am with my GF and at her pace reached Trail Crest until Noon. Trail Crest to the summit is about 1.9miles but this also took longer than expected due to her fear of heights and some sketchy rock areas. She pushed through and we reached the summit. Absolutely perfect conditions. No wind at the summit and a nice warm air. We hiked back in the dark 45mins after passing Trail Camp. Headlamps are a must for this hike. Pack enough food as your body will certainly need it. Grueling yet very rewarding experience as a day hike. It’s beautiful at the higher elevations so the allure of camping overnight is definitely justified. There are several points to refill before Trail Camp, 3-4L should get you by if you refill. Take more if you’re like me and like to avoid stopping for water. Never experienced AMS but our pace was very manageable. If you’re day hiking, you can camp at the sites next to the Portal trailhead for one night and just leave your stuff in your car and bear boxes in the parking lot. Truly amazing experience!!

Twice attempted to summit and didn’t because of members of the group getting AMS. Got to the saddle, which was beautiful.

Fabulous view of the first and second lakes with temple Craig in the backdrop. Highly recommending Take a detour between lake 1 and 2 to find the perfect spot for lunch break right by the waterfall before heading back down!

The beast of all beast. This trail is a rollercoaster of emotions. Awesome views, alpine lakes, abundant forest critters, relaxing meadows, killer switchbacks and lastly high chance of AMS.

This is and will rank as such a incredible hike to hike to the tallest mountain in the contiguous USA is wonderful it’s also the variety and it’s a opportunity to camp if you get a permit if not get your day hike permit it’s such a wonderful day meeting people all over the world. The trail on 7/1/18 was in excellent shape switch backs are open and the views are stunning.. pacers win the day and it’s awesome it’s a uphill hike.. it’s a real treat

Awesome trail. Did it in 2 days by camping overnight at trail camp. Met many people from all over the world. Make sure you are in decent shape and acclimated to such altitudes.

backpacking
16 days ago

Nice hike, but is very hot this time of year. It is approximately 5.5 miles to the third lake. Also, mosquitos are brutal right now so hiking in the early AM is a must! Overall, great views and nice trail.

I completed the full Whitney Portal Trail as a solo day hike on Thursday, June 28th, 2018. I started at the trail head at 3:15am and reached the summit at 9:30am. To acclimate I arrived at Whitney Portal Campground two days prior, on Tuesday 6/26/18. After setting up camp I drove up to Cottonwood Lake Trail - since it has an elevation of just over 10,000 feet - and spent a few hours exploring the trails there. I chose to do that rather than hike up to Lone Pine Lake at the recommendation of Doug from the Whitney Portal Store. His advice was that if you're about to run a marathon, you don't go out and run 10 miles the day before... instead you hydrate and eat to build up energy reserves. That advice and other suggestions from someone who has reached the summit more times than I can imagine was invaluable. He also recommended that I take it slow and easy up through to Trail Crest, if I'm then inclined I can pick up the pace from there to the summit (small steps are still steps forward). Better to do that than possibly burn out by going too quickly up to Trail Crest. A third suggestion required a conscious change of behavior... deep breathing. Shallow breathing does not get enough oxygen into the system. I tried to maintain deep breathing throughout the hike, but at various times I reverted back to my usual shallower breathing... I quickly felt the difference. For example, toward the summit I reverted to shallow breathing - likely due to fatigue and drop in temperatures, it was very very cold once past Trail Crest, with the temps dropping as I got closer to the summit - with the shallower breathing I began to lose coordination and balance. At one point I was literally stumbling along like a drunk in a B-movie. I stopped, ate something to get some energy, and changed my breathing from shallow to deep breaths. The stumbling did not resume and I made it the final 1/2 mile or so to the summit. Second note on temperature, I recommend that you be prepared with at least another outer layer and head cover, possibly even gloves (the latter as my fingers went from numb, to feeling like plastic, to stiff and no feeling at all).

In regard to trail conditions... having been in camp for two days and talking with others who were returning to Whitney Portal from their own hikes, I opted to leave my microspikes and ice axe in camp. I only used my trekking poles. They were sufficient for the icy sections of trail. I only encountered intermittent sections of ice along the switchbacks as the water that flows across or down those switchbacks freezes overnight into layers of ice. However there are rocks and gravel to either or both sides so it is relatively easy to pick a creative path and get past the ice without trouble (trekking poles were very helpful on those occasions when I did slip). The section of trail with the poles and cable was a bit challenging early in the morning but I was able to break ice off of the narrow stone pathway between the snow bank and the poles/cable. Note that just a few hours later this section of trail was much different, the snow bank was pushed back by nearly 2 feet (someone may have done so manually with their ice axe for the benefit of all). Also all ice along the switchbacks was melted by that time, those areas were just shallow flows of water.

Last bit of advice... watch for falling rock. As I was making my way down the switchbacks a large boulder came hurtling down from above and smashed into the trail between myself and a lady who was about 20 feet ahead of me. She, her hiking partner, and myself immediately made haste to get out of that area.

My total hike time was just under 13 hours (finished at 4:11pm), I took a bit longer coming down than going up for the mere fact that I know that I can be clumsy. I wanted to finish without injury, it wasn't a race for time, for me it was a major test of self and a significant bucket list achievement.

An excellent way to spend the day with my son. Leaving @ 3:00am was a good decision. Starting our hike under the light of a full moon was awesome! I highly recommend it.

Made it from Whitney Portal to Whitney Trail Camp on Sunday June 24th. Just one snow patch before Trail Camp, nothing complicated, shoes totally fine.
Half the group made it to the Summit. Used micro spikes for confidence, snow melting fast so earlier aka night time to summit is better.
While camping at Trail Camp, saw hikers stuck after the 99 switchbacks to the summit because the snow melted so bad they couldn’t cross (probably fine if you have done this before or have mountaineering skills aka ice axe). Ice axe was not used by most people when crossing early.
Enjoy!

Spectacular hike up to a 10K elevation lake. Had a wonderful swim after a long climb up to the lake. Water was a still bit chilly towards the last week in June, but definitely not too cold to enjoy close to shore. Closer to freezing temperature as I got to deeper water. Got an instant headache the first time I went under. Stay close to shore and you will be fine. Relaxing, beautiful hike back down to Mount Whitney Portal.

Incredible hike!!
My boyfriend and I summited on 6/20/18 and we didn’t need any of the snow gear we had rented. There was some snow along the cables and a bit further at the crest but nothing you couldn’t cross without some poles to help with balance. As we were descending, a lot of the snow was melting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s mostly gone in the next few days.
We did this as a day hike so we took a good amount of rest stops and packed lots of food. If you’re doing this in a day, remember to get lots of rest, wake up early, stay hydrated (bring electrolytes!) and eat plenty of food! We took Tylenol around 12,000 to help with elevation sickness Which I would highly recommend!

Good luck and happy trails everyone!

The Switchbacks are now open!

We started the day bright and early at 2am to not only escape the sun as much as possible, but also to hit the mountain before the snow had become too slushy.

We had come into the day prepared for anything, knowing the uncertainty of the switchbacks and conditions of the chute (which had been reported to be somewhat dangerous coming down). Lucky for us, the switchbacks were in great condition and our group of 10 summited and descended via the switchbacks!

There were several patches of ice that still remained heading up the switchbacks, maybe 4 at most, but ALL could be easily navigated with micro spikes and Trekking Poles. To my memory, these were at the cables, and also heading up to trailcrest. I will say that if you summit later in the day, these patches will become quite slushy and could potentially lead to some nervous crossings, but we had 5-6 newbies to any sort of climbing like this and they all successfully crossed without any issue.

That being said, it looked like the chute was slushy enough that people had to propel themselves down the mountain opposed to the usual report of it being too icy and people sliding out of control.. I would just caution that as the rocks become exposed, you run the risk of sliding into something that may not have been exposed that morning. Still, I didn’t see or hear of any issues coming off the mountain today.

Be safe, have fun, and pick up your wag bag please!

Great trail, and an unforgettable experience. My review is my own opinion but I wanted to share my experience and observations.

Myself and my wife did this hike 3/17-3/19 and boy was this hard. We took three days. Day one we started at 5am and hiked from the trailhead to trail camp and it took us about 11 hours. We took our time and took in the sights. We also live at 4,700 feet in SLC, UT so even tho we aren’t at sea level the elevation was something we knew was going to effect us.

Please be aware we saw lot of day hikers turn back before the summit and even some overnighters at trail camp changed their minds and went back. Also, If you aren’t a high level hiker with a lot of elevation experience and you decide to day hike this trail this will be a very hard hike to complete. Most day hikers we spoke to started between midnight and 4 am and they were starting the 99 switchbacks around 4-7 am. They were moving fast. Anyone that arrived later than that struggled. We only meant to do the hike in 2 days and added an extra night because there was no way we were going to make it back down on the second day.

Day 2 took us about 12-13 hours and we started at 7:30 am. Now we were definitely one of the weaker hikers on the trail but we made it. We took more than 3 liters of water each and ran out just after the summit and came down fairly dehydrated. The 99 switchbacks were fairly simple/straightforward and I wouldn’t do them without at least having micro spikes. However I believe that an ice axe is complete overkill and hardly needed. Unless you’re trying to look like a badass on the trail. There’s only one spot that that’s a little scary. It’s pretty crazy and lasts about 10 feet. Just walk slowly and don’t be stupid. Don’t buy an ice axe just for this hike. I saw some people do the hike even without micro spikes. Crazy, but they did it. The backside of the mountain was long, took us forever because the elevation killed us. Also, bring sunscreen or a really good hat. We made it back off the mountain switchbacks to camp just before dark and there were still plenty of day hikers coming back down. They still had about 8 miles in the complete dark to get back down. We also saw someone in a emergency blanket camp out overnight.

Day 3 was easy, we made it down in 4 hours and had a meal at the trail cafe which is just after the trailhead. I would also highly recommend that you don’t bring younger kids on the trail. This is pretty hard and we saw a couple groups turn back that had an 11 and 14 year old with them.

Day hiked and summited 6/15/18. The trail up to trail camp is straight forward. i used the chute going up and the switchbacks coming down. Hopefully the snow conditions are getting better by the day.

We did this hike on 6/14/18. We lucked out and got a walk in overnight permit. We stayed one night at Lone Pine Lake and one night at Trail Camp in order to acclimate. We left our tents from Trail Camp at 330am and got to the top of the chute using Crampons and an ice axe at 9am (we took a lot of breaks....). We hiked the longest 2 miles of my life from Trail Crest to the summit and summited at 12pm. We were terrified of glissading down as we had never done so before and of the 8 people we were with by the time we reached the chute, no one had ever done it before. So after 5 minutes of writing our wills and exchanging goodbyes we started down. It was so much fun and very intuitive. Watch a YouTube video or two, know how to hold the ice axe, know how to properly self arrest and be smart about speed on the way down and you should be good to go. A very physically challenging hike but so very worth it. I would recommend spending as many nights out there as possible to help break it up. We wished we had had another night to stay instead of doing 16 miles the last day. Also the water crossings and glissading will soak your shoes. Would recommend gaiters and water proof boots or shoes to cross creeks in.

We did Mt. Whitney on 6/15. Instead of taking chute, we took infamous 96 switchbacks. Crampons and ice axe helped us to navigate few challenging spots. But I saw few folks did the complete hike with micro spikes as well. It was tough but memorable hike. Best wishes.

totally worth the hike. My dog and I hiked to second lake, it was breath taking. also make sure you drink plenty of water with high altitude. if you have a dog the ground gets very hot so make sure to check their paws.

Summited at 1:30 after a chute climb. We hit the summit in a fair time, but our descent was challenging.

As of yesterday, the "chute" was very technical and moderately dangerous. The chute section pretty much requires you to use an ice axe and crampons or spikes to climb up the snow that covers the chute to the right of the switchbacks. There is exposed rocks, mixed ice, snow, and slush with more water run off in the day light. Try to get to the chute as early as you can for better conditions.

Yesterday alone I witnessed at least 4 falls, with one person having multiple hand lacerations and body contusions after sliding down from the top snow into rocks below. Many hikers bailed and justly so. It's pretty nerve tracking if you haven't done something like this before. You can practice ice axe techniques on the safe snow patch below the switchbacks to the left of the chute.

I was hiking with 2 others, and one didn't have an ice axe and the other was a novice. I am more more experienced and gave my axe to my friend and scrambled up the chute with a trek pole.

We finally got over the chute and headed to the summit. Our weather was great, but we would have been in a lot of trouble if there was wind or thunderstorms coming in.

Aside from ascending, the descent is also fairly dangerous to green ice axe and crampon users. You'll have to glissade down on the right side of the snow (you'll see tracks in the snow) after scrambling down the top of the snow pack directly above a rock field.

Great hike, and even better with friends.

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