Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

HARD 385 reviews
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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
6715 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
1 month ago

I am an old man now and have not done this in a long time, longer than I care to admit. Fees, permits, reservations were not required, you need to check into that these days.
Went up and down it numerous times in one day in my 20's I still could

backpacking
1 month ago

I recommend doing Whitney it’s worth all the hard work. I hiked Whitney from the backside while hiking the JMT

hiking
2 months ago

What a beast! Yet this hike is also the most rewarding and my all time favorite hike to date. It is best to hike this one over multiple days of possible, preferably over three days so the 11 mike decent after a 5 mike ascent doesn’t kill you. Overall I cannot wait to get back to this mountain sometime next year.

hiking
2 months ago

Coming down is harder than going up.
:)

2 months ago

Spectacular

hiking
2 months ago

Wednesday 10/18
I drove up from LA and arrived in Whitney Portal at about 7:00 PM. Goal was to stay in the Portal for two nights before summit attempt on Friday.

Thursday 10/19
Woke up early and drove back into Lone Pine to pick up my permits and do one last weather check. As a note, I had cell service (AT&T) about 3 minutes outside of Whitney Portal, just not directly in Whitney Portal or on the mountain. Permit pick up was easy, the staff walked me through the papers, had me sign in a few spots acknowledging that I wouldn't litter, have a fire, etc. then they gave me my permit and wag bag.

Drove back up to the Portal, got my backpack ready for the next day, and decided to take a short hike up to the trail head to help my body acclimate. Ended up hiking through the first few switchbacks of the trail, basically to the first water crossing then turned back and headed back to camp.

Weather was supposed to be very windy on Thursday night and Friday morning, final NOAA report had 70-80mph gusts with sustained winds in the 30+ mph. I decided to pack up my hammock and sleep in my car that night to avoid falling debris and to hopefully get a better night sleep. Day ended with a Mountain House dinner of Chicken and Dumplings and was in bed by 6:00 PM.

Friday 10/20 (Summit)
Woke up at about 2:00 AM to get all my clothes on, breakfast made, and drive up to the parking lot with the goal of starting at 3:00 AM. Ended up starting about 3:15 AM. Weighed my pack at the trail head scale it was 27lbs including 4L of water.

Weather report was just about spot on with the sustained winds. Those kept up the entire morning and didn't fade out until around lunch time when more normal summit winds continued.

Water sources along the trail were very active. If someone was trying to go light on water, they'd have an easy time filtering water essentially all the way up until Trail Camp. I don't necessarily trust the Trail Camp pond water, but if you walk off trail a hair above the pond, water seemed to still be flowing alright.

The hike up to the switch backs was pretty easy, nothing crazy, just plodding along. Even on the switchbacks it wasn't difficult once I found a sustainable pace. Towards the top the winds were getting strong enough that some of the gusts would have blown me off the side of the switch backs had I not had a trekking pole planted downwind. The trail was in great condition though and the one icy spot near the cables was trivial to bypass. It was more cool to see than anything.

I started the switchbacks with about 2.5 liters of water. 1.5 in a camelback and 1 in a Nalgene. From the start of the switchbacks I had to nurse the camelback because the hose kept freezing and continued to do so more frequently as I approached the summit. Eventually about a mile from the summit, I forgot about it for 5 minutes and it was frozen solid. If a camelback is your only source of water to the summit, watch this carefully, otherwise you may lose your water source.

From Trail Crest on I slowly made my way to the summit, altitude becoming a large factor taxing my effort. The main gusty winds had simmered down a little bit at this point but coming around the bend at Trail Crest and through each of the windows, I had to watch my step because the winds were so strong.

Summited in 9.5 hours (approx 12:45 PM), very slow, probably could have done it in 7-8 hours had I not stopped so many times along the way. Summit weather was clear, cold, and beautiful. Stayed on the top for about 30-45 minutes to enjoy the view and eat.

I desummited much quicker but still got back after dark with a total time of 16.5 hours. I feel comfortable that I could have done it in closer to 13-14 but for sticking with other groups on the way up and down.

Overall
Attempt: First
Time: 16.5 Hours
Trail Conditions: Clear and Clean
Water Consumption: 4L
Weather: Clear, Cold, and Windy

Key Learnings
- The two nights in Whitney Portal helped LOADS with acclimation. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

- I was able to finish the hike with 4L of water but still brought my water filter with me.

- I took ibuprofen all day to manage not only the small aches and pains but also to help with altitude sickness. Not sure how much of a role it played with altitude sickness prevention but I didn't have any issues all the way up. However, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it made the descent much more comfortable with regards to the aches and pains.

- Heavier/fattier foods should be eaten earlier in the morning when at lower altitudes. Your body has a difficult time processing those foods at altitude. Switch to simple sugars like fruits and snickers as you approach the summit. It's amazing what a little bit of food in your stomach will do for how you feel.

Hope this helps anyone looking to head up there!

hiking
2 months ago

First and foremost for 'once in a blue moon' hikers. This is a well-established trail and very easy to follow. There are also lots of prettier hikes with far superior picturesque peaks.

Started on this beast at 7am. Why 7am? B/c there wasn't gonna be any lolligagging around. Also, I do wonder if the reason ppl have so much trouble with this hike is b/c they start out at like 2 or 3am. No! Get a good night's sleep! If you are going to be hiking in the dark, wouldn't it be better to have to do it after plenty of rest???

Onward-> I took 6.5 hours to summit. During this time, I also managed to play messenger when 4 ppl decided to turn around after 4 miles, yet 2 of there companions were already up at camp so they axed me to play messenger and get the 2 dudes the mssg. Axed around and found them. Mission Accomplished! Next I ran into a couple that had camped at the camp at 12k. They went to summit Whitney and had hiked made it past the switchbacks and a half mile down around the bend before dying of hunger. Luckily, this DAY hiker, had plenty of protein bars on him to spare one plus a half container of fig newtons. I don't know how you get that hungry after maybe 3 miles of hiking but they did. Nice ppl tho. SOOooo yes, plan accordingly. KNow your limits, and if this is your first hike or you are from sea level or you do not condition for mountain hikes, then maybe wait a bit on this one or do it in 3 days.

Now I was completely impressed with my summit, passed 21 ppl on the way up, and I was amped to get back down in 4 or 4.5 hours. But then! tragedy struck. I twisted my knee or something with 7 miles to go. Thank you ibuprofen and natural endorphins. So yes, my return time ended up being the same as my summit time. On the way down I was fortunate to catch up to 2 other ppl hiking down in the dark (w/headlamps). Hiking in the dark in bear country is not my favorite thing to do. And I never do, but when I do I would recommend yelling 'hey bear' and clacking your trekking poles to make some noise every once in a while or like every minute if your me and really, really don't want to get jumped by a grizzly. Hit the parking lot 13 hours after starting at 8pm. Mark another peak off the list.

Other miscellaneous items I would like to look back on: The dark red , not transparent ziploc bag with my snow trax seemed extra heavy...yeah, pulled the trax out on the way down and found a huge bag of coins inside, too. Double check your pack!. Oh yeah, ask the ranger if there is snow near the summit. I read on one of the mssg boards there was snow so I brought my trax. No snow and dead weight in my bag. Going at a fast walking pace I only needed 4 liters of water not the 5.5 I brought. I drank it all which I am sure helped but again lower the weight you are carrying by zeroing in on what you need. Again on the water issue I based it off of others' experience and should have tailored it more towards my personal experiences. Also, the mileage on this hike is listed differently around the web. Based on the signage on the trail it is 21.2 miles. Alltrails recorded 19.1. So it was a bit hard to dial in exactly what I needed for this hike, and I ended up overpacking.

It's better to fall forward from exhaustion, then falling back cause, at least, your moving forward.

hiking
2 months ago

It is a beautiful trail that can be easily done on one day, however, to enjoy the landscape I would recommend to stay at least one night and have a nice and relaxed hike to the summit.

The Trail is in very good conditions and about 95% artificial and does not require any experience, however, the altitude can be a problem for not experienced hikers.

2 months ago

Absolutely Amazing!

hiking
3 months ago

It was a great experience for my first hike. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the top but our goal is to make it to the top by next year. We managed to hike up to the lone pine lake.

hiking
3 months ago

EPIC ADVENTURE!!! I did this as a Day hike on Saturday 10/14/17. I arrived Thursday morning and camped out at Whitney Portal Campground, less than a mile from the trailhead, sitting at 8,000ft elevation. I did a lot of research and followed the advice of many people by arriving 2 days before the hike, to allow my body to become acclimated to the altitude. I had one friend arrive Thursday night after 11pm and 2 other friends arrived Friday after 1pm. Out of the 4 of us, I felt no effects of AMS, my buddy that came Thursday night did have slight symptoms of altitude sickness, but he still managed to finish the hike. Of the other 2, one was very slightly affected and the other had absolutely zero problems (just goes to show that some people are immune to altitude)
We went to sleep at 7:30pm Friday night and woke up at 12:30am Saturday morning and began hiking just before 2:30am. It was literally FREEZING, with temps in the 20’s and 30’s the first half of the hike. We all had our headlamps on and used them for about 4 hours until the sun came up. It was a welcome sight for me, because I wasn’t properly layered, so I was very cold..it turns out I was actually wearing too many layers under my jacket and I became sweaty and cold, despite wearing moisture wicking fabrics. My friend actually made the same mistake, and at one point in the darkness, he removed a couple shirts and they froze and became firm and crunchy! We kept taking small breaks on the way up because of the difficulty breathing as the air got thinner and thinner the higher we ascended. We finally made it to the summit after 9 excruciating hours. But it was such a great feeling and sense of accomplishment! We hung out at the summit, ate some lunch, took some photos and laid out clothes out on rocks to dry. After about an hour, we started back down. It took us 5 hours to get back to the trailhead, arriving around 5:20pm.
The weather was sunny and extremely clear the whole day, but it probably stayed in the high 50’s at the warmest. Trekking poles were definitely a help going down. I went through 3L of water in my Camelbak, 2 16.9oz bottles of water with added electrolytes and a 20oz Gatorade at lunch on the summit...could’ve used 1 more bottle of water though.
This was an incredibly difficult hike, and I’ve been training for months and months, reaching the summits of a dozen mountains in Southern California, so make sure you are used to hiking at altitude and going 20+ miles at one time. One of my friends is very athletic and it kicked his butt.
I’m pretty stoked that I have finally completed Whitney, after months of training, planning and worrying that everything would work out, and if you ask me if I’d do it again, I would...but NEVER in the cold again! I’ll do it in the summer

hiking
3 months ago

on day one I arrived, September 12th, at Whitney portal and slept inside my Grand Cherokee. o got about 10 hours of sound sleep which is about twice what I normally get. the noise level while sleeping a vehicle is not bad at all. there are great facilities at the portal. there had been a big storm the couple days before I arrived which caused some issues with the Whitney portal store water system. as a result their kitchen was closed and they weren't cooking any food. just a heads up. the next day I began backpacking up to trail camp at 10am. the first few miles are on a trail of dirt/gravel and few steps. it made for great hiking. after outpost camp it gets more Rocky and there was some wet trail to cross but nothing more than a couple inches of water. trail camp was amazing. there were snow patches over 10k ft but none on the trail until near the summit . I began the summit push at 3am on the 14th, first on the trail. temps in high 20s. I had to bust through several icy spots on the trail, so just have good footing. nothing that required additional equipment. I got to the summit at sunrise. layers required. temp was about 20°, even lower with the wind chill. the few miles leading to the summit was more bigger rocks and steps. headed down after. overall a great hike.

3 months ago

Magical! It was more than I expected and I'm TOTALLY doing this again! We stayed at Horseshoe Meadow/ Cottonwood Lakes walk in camp on Sunday evening. Got up early and did 4.5 miles on that trail just to acclimate.
Monday we stayed at Trailhead campground, also a walk in with facilities and a general store right there. We hit the trail until 9:15 but we were only going as far as Trail camp (6.1 mi.). We made it there about 3:30 and we're greeted by a hiker who was waiting for her group to return from summiting. We chose sites that were as wind protected as possible. Only after setting up along the south side "wall" did I discover on a walkabout, that there were even MORE sites over the Little Rock wall, so explore plenty before choosing.
My hiking buddy and I tried to sleep as best we could with the wind gust sounding like people beating on the outside of my tent (I now know the difference between a $60 knock-off and a REAL 3 season tent).
Be warned: IT IS WINDY. One poor fellow nearly lost his tent when it was carried 100 yards or so before someone else grabbed it. Gusts had to be in the 40-50 mph. At night you could hear it coming before it got to you.
99 switchbacks is next and was not as bad as I've heard others complain. When you reach the top, be prepared......MORE WIND! The Ridge though was my absolute FAVORITE of the Entire Hike! The majestic view of two breathtakingly beautiful lakes that seem to be untouched by human are nestled at the base of another fantastic Peak!
When you get to the dg, your almost there. Moonscape. It reminded me of the album cover Houses of the Holy by Zepplin.
Funny coincidence......we ran into a girl who glommed on with us who had been hiking with her mom and stepfather and she went on ahead because he wasn't feeling so hot....... he popped a Pepto and ate......a summer sausage that I gave him when we ran into them on the way down.......That was Dale, who left a review just yesterday on this site....his review is also true......be CAREFUL. Hydrate! HYDRATE!! HYDRATE!!! And eat! Calories are important here.....and HYDRATE!
We made it from Trail camp to the summit at almost noon straight up....(4.5 hours)....back down to camp, 3:30. Packed up. Left camp at 6:18, was off the trail by 10:15.

Awesome all around! If you do it in 1 day, go EARLY, bring water filtration kit. And fill up EVERY TIME you pass water!

hiking
3 months ago

We did it! My wife, daughter, and myself completed Whitney in one day. Started at 4 am and finished at 8 pm. Have to admit we do several 10+ mile hikes but nothing prepared us for this. I started to get sick after about 12k feet, but popped a pepto bismol and ate. After that I was good. My wife outperformed me by a long shot. This is by far the longest, toughest, and most dangerous hike we have ever done! Do not underestimate the danger. People do die on this mountain. What an overall experience but we will not be back. Just came to check off this epic hike from our list.

hiking
3 months ago

Absolutely beautiful weather! Cold but dry which we we so fortunate to experience. Other than poles and light you don't need any other equipment as of this moment. There is ice especially at the cables on the switch backs but you can step on the rocks on the edges to avoid the ice. The altitude is a real issue that many were struggling with in the trail. Give yourself time to adjust and plan for more time than you think you will need. Pack light. A member of my group carried too much it sapped him. There is NO water at the Portal so buy ahead and carry enough and have a purification plan for Base Camp. You will need more water than you want to carry.
This is an accomplishment no matter what but pushing it as a one day trek pushes your limits. I would do it again as a one day hike.

hiking
3 months ago

This is an amazing trail. If you plan on hiking it overnight, start extremely early. Be prepared for winds and thunderstorms. Also, be aware of acclimation sickness. At such high altitude, it is possible to get fatigued, and sick. Be prepared and be aware. It could happen to anybody, fit or not. Ideally, if you have time, spend three or more days on this trail This will help you acclimate and plus you'll get more time to enjoy the great sights, enjoy!

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful day to summit, but I don’t think I’d opt to day hike this one again. Started at 2:00AM and finished almost exactly 12 hours later.

hiking
3 months ago

so windy, so cold, so long, so worth it!
Oct 4-6, stayed at trail camp. no crampons required, despite what I heard. More later, Imma get a burger.

OK, here's more.

Left the Portal about 10 on the 4th and camped at Trail camp. Pretty windy, so sleep was on again, off again, but it was tolerable. There are sites with rock windbreaks on the left hand side of the trail...arrive early and look around, as there are some sites that are not immediately obvious but are better protected. As other reviewers note, there is plenty of water available on the trail all the way to trail camp IF you have filtration/purification.
I left about 8 am to summit, and went as slow as i needed, spent about an hour on top, and was back in camp by 4. You think its windy at trail camp, but it really gets breezy after trail crest! The second night i was used to the wind, and had a very pleasant nights sleep. I broke camp on day three and had a really nice hike back down to the portal.
Glad I split this up in three sections, and fully recommend the experience. The trail itself was in very good shape, with only some intermittent icing. The worst part for me turned out out not to be the switchbacks, but the slog from outpost camp to trail camp. I first really noticed the altitude on that part of the trail. After trail crest, altitude felt like less of a factor than managing pace over some of the steeper ascending parts of the trail.
First time and solo hike; I over-packed, especially food. If you're trying this for the first time, ask around and get as may opinions/as much advice as you can. Don't cheat on your prep; this is a long, high hike. Talk to Doug at the Portal store before you head up, he was very nice and had great last minute advice for me regarding conditions and equipment (thank you Sir!).
This was an absolutely awesome experience!

3 months ago

hiking
3 months ago

I attempted to summit on 9/16/2017 and came up 1.5 miles short of the summit as two of us were starting to suffer from mild AMS and we were running out of daylight (9 hrs up and 6 hrs down). Back at camp, my mom gave me a “I climbed Mt Whitney 14,505ft” sticker and patch which I loved but within a day or two they started to bug me given I did not summit. Therefore, my last minute planned second attempt was a solo hike on 9/28/2017. Started at 4:15am and reached the summit at 11am. I like to think of the Whitney day hike in three stages. 1) Whitney Trail Portal to Trial Camp – 6.3 mile steady climb 2) Trail Camp to Trail Crest – 2.2 mile/1,700 plus feet ascent via 99 switchbacks 3) Trail Crest to Summit – 2.2 mile steady climb at 14K plus feet of altitude. I completed stage 1 in 3 hours and rested for 15 minutes before taking on the switchbacks. I completed stage 2 in 1.5 hours and rested for another 15 minutes. I completed stage 3 in 1.75 hours and rested/soaked up the views at the summit for 45 minutes. It was an absolute gorgeous day on the summit, clear with no wind. It took me roughly 5 hours to descend down for a total time on trail of 12.5 hours. I did not train for altitude prior to either of my two hikes on 9/16 or 9/28 but one could argue that the 9/16 attempt helped. I think sleeping near the portal the night before your attempt helps to acclimate vs staying down in Lone Pine (don’t expect a good night sleep though). For me, the key to a successful summit was taking very few breaks but I am sure others would argue differently. The way down, especially the last 5 miles, is a grind that will test you physically and mentally. Would I do it again? Maybe. Am I glad I did? Absolutely!

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