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Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

HARD 689 reviews
#1 of 55 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

rock climbing

snowshoeing

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

This the big daddy, a long and strenuous 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 significant prior training for the long day. From May-Oct., the trail is permit-only (apply to the lottery by Feb. 15) and requests far exceed available permits. Alternatively, try the daily lottery at the Lone Pine ranger station for last minute openings. 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 (spend time acclimating before heading to the trail and be sure to eat / drink consistently throughout the day), 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 one for the books! Note: In Spring and into early Summer, expect snow and ice on the trail which can make for more technical conditions often requiring microspikes and potentially crampons and ice axes (with knowledge of how to use them.)

rocky
28 days ago

A beautiful trail and hike. My husband and I came from below sea level, Florida. We were not well prepared. We're both runners and in decent shape. We got up to 13,000 before turning back, because of the altitude. We also tried to climb up in one day. We should've camped and attempted the next day. I don't recommend doing it in one day unless you've acclimated or come from higher altitude places and have trained. Despite the level of difficulty, It was a beautiful hike. We went in October and the weather was gorgeous. It was cold at night and in the morning, but midday was nice and cool. There was hardly any ice on the trail.

hiking
1 month ago

Could not have had a better experience. The views at all points are stunning. I trained a LOT of elevation in my home state of Arizona so it made this day hike totally manageable and enjoyable for me. We had great weather, zero wind at the summit (odd) and so much fun along the way. Hope to get permits again!

1 month ago

Went in mid May and there was way more snow and ice then we planned for. Went most way up the switchbacks(which were completely snowed over) before having to come back down. Amazing views not too busy. Definitely recommend doing it in 2 days if you can that way you can enjoy it more than just pushing to get up and back in a reasonable amount of time. Definitely planning to go again probably closer to August though ;)

hiking
1 month ago

What an amazing and epic hike this is. Truly tests your willpower, lungs, and quads. Altitude can be an issue even for the most fit, so please make sure to practice altitude hikes before your trip and acclimate if at all possible! Will never forget this hike!

hiking
2 months ago

This is a good hike,but be prepared. we hiked yesterday (8/1/18). We started at 1am and I would recommend starting between 12-1am (especially if you are planning on hiking at a 10 hour or slower pace!). The views are amazing and hiking with the moon is really cool. The way the weather is I would recommend leaving the top by 10. The 3.5 miles on the crest take a while and is dangerous when the storm starts. The last water is on switch back 23ish. It's good clean water right from a spring. If it rains the trail rivals any major water park. The trail will become a river. It rained while we were on the switch backs and you will get wet. The puddles are unavoidable. I had fun hiking and splashing on the way down in the rain. I loved this hike and would do it again.
This mountain is not a joke, if you are hiking do research, train before you go, and bring all the proper gear (a good rain coat) Be Safe and have fun.

hiking
3 months ago

Hello all,
I am planning to do that trail on next Saturday (the 22nd), weather looks good to do it. I will drive down from Santa Cruz on Friday and start the hike on Saturday. I still do not know if I want to do it in one day or two days and sleeping at Trail Camp. I am looking for people to join me. Open to suggestion. Thanks. PM @ theoche_83@hotmail.com

3 months ago

We did it on October 19th 2018, there was snow on the trail so we had to use spikes. Since it was my first high altitude hike did the telescope peak in death valley day before to get acclimated. Trail is beautiful but you won't have lot of time to enjoy the views if u want to finish the hike on time. Started hike at 3:30am summited around 1 PM and finished it around 8:30pm. I carried 4 litter of water but hardly used 2 liters since I don't drink that much water on my hikes but would recommend carrying 4 liters. One of hiker from our team ran out of water ended up headind back since he couldn't find water on the trail.

4 months ago

Wow. Did this a while back. Stayed the night at the trail head to acclimate, hit the trail the next morning. Setup camp at 10k feet or so and had terrible elevation sickness. Migraine from 3pm till the end of the next day (bottom of the mountain). Day 2 we hiked from 10k to summit and then all the way down. Though it was the worst hike ever, it was one of the best hikes ever! With so little light pollution, the stars at night are freaking amazing!

hiking
4 months ago

I did this with two friends on October 26, 2018. We are all in our mid thirties. It was a bluebird day with not a cloud in the sky, and I think it was probably averaged around 40-45 degrees for the entire day. The summit was above freezing for sure when we summited at noon.

Timing:
We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Lone Pine the night before and the night after the hike. We got on the trail at 3 a.m. and summited right around noon. We started our decent at 1 p.m. and got back to the trailhead at 8 p.m. So that’s 9 hours up and 7 hours down.

Dealing with Altitude:
I live in Salt Lake City, so I have access to some elevation and did a bunch of training hikes to 11,000 feet on the weekends to get used to the altitude. The two other guys live at sea level but did their best to hike as much as they could before our attempt. We all ended up getting prescriptions for acetazolamide and starting cycling on that and 400-600 milligrams of ibuprofen every six hours starting about 12 hours before we started out. For two of us, we really had no symptoms of altitude sickness beyond very mild headaches at the top. The other guy got a pretty decent headache that subsided during our decent.

Food:
I think we all ate much less food than I thought we would. I ate two sleeves of Clif Bar Shot Bloks and took a caffeine pill on the way up (which might have contributed to an upset stomach). And I also ate 4-5 Clif Bars, some beef jerky, a pretty good-sized bag of gummy bears, and some nuts. I brought I peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I never even ate, but the other two guys ate their PB & J at the summit.

Water:
I brought four liters of liquid with me. Three liters of water and one liter of Gatorade. My doctor told me to drink a sports drink with the acetazolamide. I ended up drinking 2 liters of the water and the Gatorade and gave the rest of the water to my hiking buddies on the way down. We actually got back to the parking lot with nothing to drink between us all, which is probably not the smartest play. I did bring a filter with me though just in case things got real out there.

Gear:
We all used adjustable hiking poles. We have backup batteries for our headlamps since a good amount of the hike was in the dark. Sun lotion. I had a wide-brimmed hat for the sun. I had four layers on the top and three on my legs and was overdressed for most of the day. I was prepared for the day to be 10 degrees colder than it was. We all had microspikes, but I think I was the only one who used them.

Overall:
The 99 switchbacks might get you down, but once you top out after those, you are pretty golden. That where the trail gets super interesting and the views are ridiculous. The only thing I might do different if I did this again was to try to move a bit faster to get down before dark since spirits were running low for the last couple miles of the decent. Reach out to me if you have any questions about the hike. I’d be happy to talk about it.

hiking
4 months ago

If you can break this up into two days do it. We day hiked it, left at 2am and back by 6pm. Super long day. Camped at Alabama Hills on the way out.

hiking
4 months ago

enjoyed this climb a lot! An plan on doing it again soon for better time now that I know the trail. pretty well beaten path, and when I went there was a good bit of water on the trail, early August, but totally with it 12hr up an down ... I can get that into the single digits though ;)

hiking
4 months ago

This hike is amazing. Completed back in August, make sure to leave early, because thunderstorms, snow, etc are big issues. Hiked in a group of 6, and we had such a blast. 7.5 hours up, 5.5 hours down. Beautiful trail, and so many good photo moments. Sunrise, etc.

backpacking
4 months ago

Amazing... Simply AMAZING

hiking
4 months ago

Dayhike: 10/27/2018

This was such a huge accomplishment. We had beautiful weather and I was able to hike in a long sleeve and long pants the entire time. I would recommend a brimmed hat and something to cover your mouth and nose for the occasional winds. Once we got to the summit, I put on my down jacket. Going down I was really glad I packed microspikes. It gave me piece of mind sailing down the icy patches, otherwise, it would have been slow moving on those parts due to safety concerns.

We started at 4:30am and summited at 2pm. Made it back to the car by 7pm. The last 1.9 miles to the summit was torturous with many thoughts on what I’m doing with my life, why am I doing this to myself and just turning back around. But once you get closer to the skyline and you see the top of the shelter/building, it’s all worth it! You made it to the top!

Final notes:
- I only drank 1.5 liters of the 3 liters packed.
- Walking poles really helped my knees and I’m not as sore as I was expecting after 2 days.
- Trail is very well defined and maintained.
- Better to have an early start so you’re not rushed on time. We had a few people not able to summit due to the late start time and it would have been dangerous for them to go down the icy areas without microspikes in the dark.
- Lastly have fun and be safe! It’s such an great experience!

hiking
4 months ago

10/24/2018 -- Day Hike Summited 9:15 , departed 3am from Whitney Portal, Summit 9:15am, returned to portal 3:45pm.

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
Base weather low 40s, no wind, bright full moon; Summit weather low 40s, sunny, no wind. Trail camp was coldest at dawn in low 30s, slight wind. Packed snow on the 97 switchbacks. A few patches of ice around trail crest. Yaktrax were used only on the descent starting at the snowy section of the 97 switchbacks.

GEAR
Pack was about 12lbs with 48 oz of water, about 2.5 lbs of food. Hiking poles & boots were used. I wore pants, long sleeve, base layer, wind breaker plus a buff and a sun hat. I brought a down jacket and full gloves for emergency--neither were used. Navigation was mostly using BackCountry Navigator app, also had paper map and compass (which helped when I missed a turn on the ascent)

WATER
Started with 48oz in 2 bike bottles. Refilled water upon descent at Trail Pond using a squeeze filter. In hindsight I should have also refilled during the ascent.

HIGHLIGHTS
The full moon made the hike up clear and majestic. Sunrise at Trail Camp was breathtaking. The ascent of the 97 switchbacks was pleasant due to the snow leveling the grade--it felt like walking up a treadmill. The ascent felt quick and painless, but the descent mentally dragged on -- mostly due to foot pain and sun exposure. Nothing unbearable, just less pleasant than the ascent. The sign at the bottom warning that "the summit is only half way" is right on.

OTHER TIPS
* Bring spare socks and rotate every 3 hours. Hang the sweaty ones on your pack to dry and disinfect while hiking. No blisters! Dry socks also improve morale.
* 3/4 of this hike is exposed. Sun protection is a must -- wide-brimmed or desert hat will help both with sunburn and improve morale.
* Buff helps you manage quick temp fluctuations -- cold ears, lips, nose etc
* Hiking with a red lamp will preserve your night vision and let you see farther at night
* 80g / hr is a good rough estimate for food quantity.

Also want to give a shout out to hikingguy.com -- his guide made the trek up really predictable -- every thing you need including trail features and turns are there.

https://hikingguy.com/hiking-trails/best-la-hikes/mt-whitney-hike/

4 months ago

Summited 10/22/2018
Most difficult and rewarding hike I’ve ever done! This was my 2nd try. Trail camp was very cold the first night and there was snow up half the 99 switchbacks. Camelback valves froze in the morning. Still not bad for late October. Altitude and grade are the hardest parts of this hike. Best to acclimate yourself as much as you can before hand and try it in 2 or 3 days like I did. Go slow and breath.

backpacking
4 months ago

I have holes this 1.5 times and loved it. It is a little steep and there is some elevation gain but it's worth it. My first attempt wasn't successful because a thunderstorm rolled in just after sunrise coming from the East. We were just about to trail crest when it hit. The thunder and lighting were almost instantaneous and then it started to hail. It was scary and a great reminder of the power of nature.

hiking
5 months ago

Hiked: 10/20/18

It was great, at the top of the switch backs is when the altitude starts to set in. Just take it easy, it was freezing the majority of the trail, we started at 2:30 and I summited at 2.

It is a very enjoyable hike up, take your time! I descended in only 5 hours so it came out to about a 16 hour trip. My camel back valve froze so bring some warm water and thermals.

It was really icy, if you do not have micro-spikes then take the infamous switchbacks slow!! Have fun and goodluck!

5 months ago

The hike itself isn’t too crazy it’s the elevation gain. I did a day hike in 16 hours but I would suggest acclimation to make it more enjoyable

hiking
5 months ago

Complete 10-19-18. Most challenging and rewarding hike I’ve ever done.

We started at 430am, summited 11 hours later at 330pm, sat up there for 30 min, headed back down at 4pm & got back to the car at 1030pm so it was an awesome 18 hour day on trail.

It was definitely hard to breath once we got to about 10k ft. Luckily neither of us got altitude sickness or vertigo. We were glad we had micro spikes for the descent. Wear as many pairs of gloves you can fit and the warmest ones you can find. Only thing I wish I’d brought was a buff or any other kind of face covering.

Brought 3 liters of water & a filtration system. Only drank 2 liters, never checked to see if my sawyer squeeze froze but I heard other people’s systems did. Mostly brought proteins to eat, wish I’d brought more carbs.

Check out www.whitneyzone.com before you go!

hiking
5 months ago

Completed in one day on the 19th. We started at 3am. There were no online reservations available for camping at Whitney Portal but we drove up anyways to see. There were plenty of walk in sites available as well as one-night only camping next to the overnight parking which was perfect. Make sure you bring tags for anything you leave in the bear boxes.

Hiking in the dark on the trail was incredibly easy and fun. You look up and see a line of headlights but can’t see anything else. It’s nice to not be able to see the elevation you have to climb up and made it go by quicker but at the same time I know we were missing the beautiful scenery.

Once we hit trail camp, it got COLD. Like the other posts, our camelback straws froze and so did our filtration system so we were very appreciate of the people that lent us their help. We kept one straw in our jackets to keep it warm and switched straws out when the other froze. We used micro spikes on the way up and down when there was snow. It made us feel comfortable and it I didn’t have them, we would have turned around. In fact, we passed multiple people who turned around because they didn’t have micro spikes but we all may be just a novice group of hikers.

The last 2 miles were the hardest. It took us 3 hours due to putting on and taking off microspikes and scrambling up parts of the trail.

Overall, a great hike! Completely doable, you just need to be prepared for the worst and want it enough.

hiking
5 months ago

Completed same day on October 17th. Started at 0315 Took 11.5 hours. Great conditions - no winds the entire time. Incredibly cold in early morning while dark - camelbak froze many times. Required lots of layers. Once the sun same out a t-shirt was fine. Snow / ice at top of switchbacks and to summit. We wore microspikes down but wasn’t needed on way up. Could have been done entirely without spikes. Long day but rewarding.

backpacking
5 months ago

Did this hike on October 6 2018. It snowed before, during, and after. We lucked out and got clear skys at the summit. Summited around 11:00am passed tons of people that turned around because it was too sketchy as it was icy and cold. I didn't have spikes or crampons so was super bummed as I didn't think I had a prayer to make it. The trail was icy and slippery but it wasn't like you were going to fall to your death if you slipped and fell. It was easy to spot the icy areas and I just used the trekking poles and took my time.

hiking
5 months ago

Mount Whitney Trail
03 OCT 2018, Wednesday

I hiked from Whitney Portal Trailhead to within three-quarters of a mile of the Summit and back--about 20 miles. I did not reach the Summit, unfortunately. I opted to turn back and descend, due to a sudden snow and lightning storm. Lots of wind and falling snow (corn snow?) made footing a challenge, especially between Keeler Needle and Trail Crest.

Started my hike at 3:30am under a clear sky. Lots of stars in the sky, those first three hours. Beautiful sunrise and fantastic views. It was sunny and pleasant when ascending the 97 switchbacks. That morning, the trail was clear of ice most of the way, with some ice present on the highest one-third of the switchbacks. I put "yak traks" on my boots and found them helpful.

Clouds started to build just before noon. By 12:30pm the sky darkened and snow began to fall, so I decided to turn back. At 12:45pm, snow and wind were intense as I descended from Keeler Needle to Trail Crest and then down the 97 switchbacks. Snow continued to fall as I hiked through Trail Camp, through Outpost Camp and halfway to Lone Pine Lake. This storm was a remnant of Hurricane Rosa, I later found out.

Lightning all around. While descending from Trail Crest and through the 97 switchbacks, clearly visible lighting bolts crossed the sky. I hiked through heavy snowfall, instantaneous thunder and much too close views of lightning veins for the hour it took to descend the switchbacks. I dove to the ground a couple of times, out of some kind of instinctive survival reaction. There's no place safe to take shelter from lightning anywhere between the base of the 97 switchbacks and the Summit. Keep in mind, the air is very thin above 13,000 feet and it will take you longer than you think to get from point A, to point B and then to C.

I carried a very heavy day-pack containing extra all-weather clothing, wool head coverings, food and water, headlamp and batteries, etc... My body temperature remained warm, I was hydrated and had the energy to remove myself from a "not good" situation. A memorable journey.

5 months ago

Oct 2, 2018, windy and snow storm above 3800m.
I lost my way off the trail before 99 switches simply following other two climbers ahead. It is extremely dangerous to climb short-cut of the switches, because the stone slope up to the top is too loosen to fall in a snowy day together with stones! It took me two extra hours to cut back to the switches safely using All Trail map, but fail to the summit before deadline for closed time.
I will come back to Mt Whitney because The Mountain is there!
Thanks a lot to my son and daughter in law, and my wife for their understanding and support.

hiking
5 months ago

My. Whitney, CA
20 September 2018

Success!!!

Our group of 10 met up in Lone Pine, CA on September 18th. We came from Virginia, Texas, Pennslyvania, Kentucky, Tennessee & Arizona. Two were related, some were old friends, some were new friends, and some had never met. Barry from Orange County join our group last, at 2:00am on the 20th, and we were stronger for his company.

I had been invited at the last minute, to fill a vacancy. 53 years old, not a hiker, and certainly not in pristine shape, but the mind was willing. We’d find out if the body could keep up.

Obersvations: 1 - Spectacular scenery and views. 2 - I overestimated my ability, and underestimated the mountain. 3 - The lack of Oxygen is real. 4 - The 99 switchbacks are harsh. 5 - The last 1.9 miles is the longest ever walked. 6 - Coming down is every bit as difficult as going up. Finally, and most importantly 7 - I wouldn’t have made it without the help, support, advice and encouragement of friends, acquaintances and strangers alike.

We left the Portal as a group at 2:00am, drowsy, happy and excited. We summitted independently, as pairs and in small groups, to the cheers of those in our group who had reached before us, as well as people we had never met. I summitted at noon (last of my group) as the final pair with a true friend who waited an hour for me to start his final two miles with me. We were all back at the Portal by 7:55pm, again, with me in the last pair, and the rest of the group cheering on our group achievement. 23.4 miles, 18 hours, 78,000 steps. Almost 6,000 feet up... and then down. A very long day indeed.

Jeff, Cindy, Nicki, Amber, Katie, Amay, Joe, Jenn, Summer, Barry & Scott. 11 started, 11 summitted and 11 finished.

We had no injuries, and only minor setbacks. We are all tremendously thankful for that.

As one of my ‘new’ friends just pointed out, a week ago we were on top of that granite rock. Today we’re all spread out across this great country. I count this as one of the greatest personal accomplishments of my life (children, marriage notwithstanding). Not necessarily summitting, but being a part of an amazing group of people who came together to reach new heights, and left richer for the experience and the friendships gained.

Carpe Diem

hiking
5 months ago

Absolutely beautiful! Perfect for a day hike, completed within 10hours (12 hours if my chit-chat time at the summit is added). Started at 01:25am and made it up all the switchbacks by 06:08am, saw one of the most beautiful sunrises!!!
Food wise, I carb-loaded the day before (around 2-3pm). I ate a banana and a little of trail mix up the summit and ate a meal after completing the hike. Carb loading the day before and going in a fasted state was probably my best decision, I had a ton of energy and did not feel nauseous. I only needed about 1.5L of water total (but I did hike most of the trail during night).
ALSO, thank you whoever takes care of the trail, during full moon (as it was last night) I did not even need to use the headlamp to find my way up.

hiking
5 months ago

My son and I drove out from LA to Lone Pine Friday morning, retrieved passes after 2pm (many were available) and checked into a hotel.

Sat 3am the journey commenced and approx 7 hrs later we hit the summit shortly after 10am. High winds and cold temps up top made clothing options crucial. Glad as well that w had altitude meds (diamox) so as to avoid AMS. (No acclimation)

The descent was fun and enjoyable since anything below the 99 switchbacks was dark on the way up. We watered up at Trail Head camp, cooked a nice “campers stew” about halfway down just past Outpost Camp, then cruised the final 6 mi. We were in the car by 5pm so all in all including stops a 14 hr journey.

The ride home was a breeze. The journey nothing less than epic. We both vow to return - Whitney is a beast but beautiful !

5 months ago

The views are nothing to brag about. This hike was more mentally demanding than it is physically. The sad part is that I didn't even get to enjoy getting to the top because my first thought was that I have at least another 6 hours to retrace every step in order to get off this mountain. If you are doing this as a dayhike, make sure to set a schedule to get enough carbs. We set a schedule to eat energy chews or gels every hour, which we were doing well with until we reached Trail Crest. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen but we couldn't get ourselves to eat after that. On the way back down, I crashed hard at around Trail Crest. Finally forced myself to eat some energy chews and within 10 minutes I was feeling a lot more energetic. We had Clif Bloks with caffeine and Honey Badger Gingsting gels which were both lifesavers.

5 months ago

hard ...but amazing

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