Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

HARD 499 reviews
#1 of 45 trails in

Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail is a 21.9 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 best used from April until October.

DISTANCE
21.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
6,715 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

camping

cross country skiing

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

skiing

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

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.

hiking
2 days ago

We hiked up to trail crest on 7/15 (13,400 feet), and didn't get to summit. There was no snow on the trails and conditions were completely clear that day. No bear sightings, but there were a couple marmots after the 97 switchbacks.

3 days ago

We summit on 7/9 starting at 2am and we were able to summit by 7am, beautiful view and beautiful sunrise and great group to do this hike with. This is my 2nd time I summited Mt Whitney. The first time I did it in 2004 and it’s as beautiful as I remember. 14 years later, I’m glad I can still do this hike.

hiking
10 days ago

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.

11 days ago

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.

11 days ago

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!!

backpacking
15 days ago

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

backpacking
16 days ago

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.

hiking
17 days ago

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

17 days ago

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.

19 days ago

Awesome

hiking
19 days ago

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.

20 days ago

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.

backpacking
23 days ago

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!

23 days ago

Beautiful trail!

hiking
27 days ago

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!

28 days ago

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!

backpacking
28 days ago

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.

hiking
29 days ago

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.

hiking
1 month ago

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.

hiking
1 month ago

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.

1 month ago

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

DO NOT do the chute without an ice axe and crampons or microspikes!!! Yesterday someone used trekking poles, got seriously injured, and took out two other hikers in the process! Just because people said they made it with trekking poles doesn’t mean you should do it too!

But the hike is beautiful and challenging! We camped at Whitney portal 6/8/18, hiked to trail camp the following day, then summited and came pack home on Sunday! We started the chute around 3 in the morning which is perfect because all the snow is iced over! I wouldn’t attempt doing it when the sun is out because the snow turns to slush!
Make sure you glissade down! It’s super fun and easy! Since the ice will be slush by the time you head down you won’t go too fast! DON’T try and climb the rocks down because you risk rocks coming loose and hitting someone at the bottom!
If you don’t know how to glissade, ask the guy that works at elevation! There is a right and wrong way to do it! But once you learn it’s super fun!

While we were climbing up the chute, my toes were freezing so maybe where an extra pair of socks or throw toe warmers in your shoes.
Once we got to the top, my hands were freezing because all the sweat in my gloves got cold! So I would look into getting a wool liner for your gloves or some kind of glove that wouldn’t freeze when you sweat!
If you don’t want wet feet, I would invest in some nice gaiters! I got the outdoor research verglas gaiters and they were perfect! Snow never got in my boots and they helped keep my lower legs warm!
MAKE SURE to wear sunglasses that are polarized!! I just wore cheap $10 ones from some random store and my eyeballs got sunburnt!

Marmots did get in our tent and go through our stuff, but didn’t ruin anything because we left our tent partially open and our packs unzipped!

Hopefully this info helps! Good luck on your hike!

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing hike. You need crampons and an ice axe for the Chute and don’t even think about the switchbacks for another week or two. I would recommend hitting the chute right as the sun comes up and bringing sunglasses for this section. This was my favorite part of the climb.

There are about 5 50-100 foot sections on the crest trail with a rock wall on your right 6 inches of ice to walk on and a 50 foot cliff on man your left. I would recommend not slipping here as it would be quite painful.

We left the trail head at 130 am at got back to the car at 530 pm. There is enough water on the trail where you can bring a single bottle and filter at every stream.

hiking
1 month ago

Received a pass to complete in a day. I’m very fit however did not take a day to acclimate, which forced me to come down from 13,000’ due to altitude sickness Overall, the hike is very fun and challenging. I’d highly recommend micro spikes and an ice axe (for on the way down).

hiking
1 month ago

Did it in a day (6/2/18) - left right at midnight from the portal - summited at 8:22am - got back to the car by 2:32pm. Used crampons only on the chute. Perfect conditions - no clouds, no wind, warm. Great views. Crowded.

hiking
1 month ago

There's a little bit of everything in a spring ascent here. Camped at trail camp and made the summit on 5/30. The chute was by far the most strenuous part of the hike, but also the most rewarding. Trail crest is among the better views, and on the way back after the sun had softened the snow, 1000+ ft of glissade is about as fun as it gets. The summit is awesome, and worth every step. So glad I made it out here. I've posted photos and more details on my adventure on my blog.
https://www.thejugglersworkshop.com/life/2018/6/3/mt-whitney

hiking
1 month ago

Such a great hike. It tested my limits. Altitude got me pretty hard but I summited. Met some great people along the way as well. This hike inspires me to try for all the 14rs in California.

1 month ago

Not enough can be said about the beauty of this mountain. I chose to do the ascent and descent in a day which was wild but worth it. My only tip if you do it is to leave the portal by 1 am. The switchbacks are all frozen over so ensure that you get to them before the snow starts to slush over.

1 month ago

We hiked Sunday May 27.We started at 2am .The hilly trail 1 mile from the chute is already covered with snow so we just use of microspikes.We arrived at the chute around 9am.Climbing the chute was brutal.Ice axe and crampons is a must. At this time.It took us two hrs just to climb the chute coz the snow is already slushy.Highly recommending climbing the chute early around 6am-7am once the snow is still hard,it’s easier to climb.It was brutal because every step you make you have to spike your ice axe in the snow to prevent your self from falling the steep chute.Once we climbed the chute the 2 Miles to the summit is covered with snow and we have to use crampons because the trail is covered with snow.There’s also snow,gusty wind and thunderstorms when we are approaching the summit.So we weren’t able to take great pictures .Going back the the glisade was so scary but all our fellow hikers are very helpful teaching us patiently about self arrest.If you decide to hike mount Whitney in Alpine condition make sure that you practice self arrest .Fir us we also use our ice ax to control are descend in the chute and use our hiking boots to use it as traction to descend from the use.May Sure you bring layers of clothes coz the weather change in an instant.Oversll the experience is once in a lifetime❤️

1 month ago

epic hike.

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