Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

HARD 378 reviews
#1 of 118 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
6715 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

camping

hiking

ice climbing

nature trips

rock climbing

skiing

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

cross country skiing

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

hiking
5 days 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
16 days ago

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

21 days ago

hiking
22 days 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
24 days ago

Coming down is harder than going up.
:)

hiking
24 days ago

1 month ago

1 month ago

Spectacular

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month 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!

1 month ago

1 month ago

hiking
1 month 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
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

Absolutely Amazing!

hiking
1 month 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.