Distance: 11 miles (18 km) one way to the summit of Mt. Whitney
Elevation: 8,400 - 14,500 ft.
Time: 1-4 days (not including stops for rest or picture taking)
Never-to-be forgotten views as well as an extremely strenuous aerobic workout--the Mt. Whitney Trail is a mecca for adventure seekers. Mt. Whitney is the highest summit in the continuous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet above sea level. It is located on the border between California's Inyo and Tulare counties. The peak rises 10,800 feet above Owens Valley below--making this escarpment one of the tallest in the world.
The Mount Whitney Trail is the most direct, and therefore the most popular, route to the summit. The trail is about 22 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 6,100 feet. Most hikers take between 2 and 4 days to complete the trip, although it is often done as a strenuous day hike taking anywhere from 10-20 hours.
The trail starts just below the Whitney Portal Store--a last chance to get any forgotten supplies. The trail ascends a number of long switchbacks, passing Carillon Creek and the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. It then continues to climb the north wall of Lone Pine canyon on the way to Lone Pine Lake. After the fork to the lake, the trail then skirts the south side of Big Horn Park on the way to Outpost Camp. The trail then switchbacks up to Mirror Lake and ascends above the tree line. In this area the trail is more rugged as you gain elevation and pass Trailside Meadow and Consultation Lake. The stream feeding the Trail Camp Pond is the last easy area to get water before heading to the summit.
After passing through Trail Camp you arrive at the 97 switchbacks. Around switchbacks 23-25 there is often water from a spring and snow melt higher up the slope. After switchback 45, you will enter the area with a cable railing. After all 97 switchbacks are mercifully done, you begin a long traverse over to Trail Crest. The trail then crosses to the west side of the crest as it descends to the John Muir Trail junction, then starts to climb again and passes below Mt. Muir. After much steady climbing and many dizzying views, you enter the final section and glimpse the summit.
All hikers entering the Mt. Whitney zone, including day-hikers, are required to obtain a permit—either your park wilderness permit if you are entering the zone from the west or an Inyo National Forest Whitney Zone permit if you are entering from the east.
Help us keep this place beautiful. Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. Please pack out your trash.
Know the Bear Facts! Whether staying in the picnic area or going for a longer hike, always store food away from bears. Use large, brown bear-proof boxes to store food and scented items. Never leave food or scented items unattended.
Be Safe! Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks/lunch. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction, as well as long pants (due to ticks and poison oak). Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring insect repellent.