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Difficulty descriptions are by nature very subjective. The categories below represent generalized distinctions in terrain, level of commitment, time spent at elevation and overall trip duration. Level of commitment refers to the ability to opt out of activities such as peak ascents from a base camp. A committing trip requires a daily mileage to be completed each day.
These trips typically travel on groomed trails at a leisurely pace. You can expect maintained trails, gentle grades and more flexibility in terms of your destination for the day. Hikers will carry mainly the essentials in a light daypack and travel anywhere from 3 to 8 miles depending on the trip or preference.
These include hiking, backpacking, or stock-supported trips that take place mostly on maintained trails to get to camp. These trips hike into a set basecamp and then offer optional destinations with varying degrees of challenge. You can expect modest climbs on uneven terrain. Total distances are often 4-7 miles of hiking per day over 3-4 days of hiking.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking or stock-supported trips. The trails can consist of uneven terrain with modest to difficult climbs and some steep passes (gains of 1000-2000’). These trips are typically 3-5 days in duration but can be longer. For backpacking trips, they can include carrying a fully weighted pack (30-42lbs) and travel 6-10 miles per day.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking, backpacking or stock-supported trips with uneven terrain and steep grades and passes. These trips are more physically and mentally challenging and usually 7-8 days in duration. For backpacking trips, pack weight will consist of (30-40lbs). Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment is high. Trips in this category spend significant time at higher elevations and often cover 8-12+ miles per day with average gains/losses of 1,500-3,000’ per day. The most successful people on these trips have some prior overnight backcountry experience.
These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking on uneven terrain with steep grades. These trips travel 10-12+ miles per day and can vary from 8-21 days in length. Given the mileage and duration, there is an increased amount of physical and mental challenge throughout the trip. Pack weights will consist of 35-45lbs depending on the resupply schedule. Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment to reach your destination is high. The most successful people on these trips have extensive overnight backcountry experience.
The John Muir Trail is one of the most classic trails in the world and what better way to experience it than with “The Best Outfitter On Earth”! Following the rugged spine of California’s High Sierra, we climb 8 high-mountain passes, traverse 3 national parks and attempt the summit of Mt Whitney, (14,500’) the highest point in the contiguous US. Expert guides, seamless logistics and world-class scenery make the John Muir Trail the true “trip of a lifetime”.
Accommodations: We provide 21 nights of tent camping and 1 night lodging at the Best Western in Lone Pine (pricing based on double room occupancy)
Equipment: We supply all group camping gear (stoves, cookware, water filters, group first aid kit, etc.). We can also supply personal camping equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, ground pads, trekking poles, and tents) upon request with no additional fee. You are welcome to bring your own personal camping equipment if you prefer. A detailed gear list will be sent to you upon registration.
Meals: We provide meals starting with dinner on day one through breakfast on the final day except at Vermillion Valley Resort and dinner in Lone Pine. Our "Backcountry Gourmet" meals have been acclaimed in Sunset Magazine. We take pride in providing excellent meals even in remote surroundings.
Your Cost Includes: Meals (as noted above), group camping gear (as noted above), personal camping equipment (as listed above), 4 remote food drops, accommodations (as listed above), transportation to and from the remote trailheads, round trip ferry crossing at Edison Lake, applicable permits, professional mountain guide(s), pre-trip planning packet, and trip support from our friendly office staff.
Not Included: Personal clothing and footwear, personal gear not listed under “Equipment” above, meals at Vermillion Valley Resort, dinner in Lone Pine, tips for guides (10-20% of trip cost is customary), transportation except as noted above, and optional trip cancellation insurance.
Preparation: Training is paramount to the enjoyment and success of your trip. We recommend rigorous exercise in the months prior to your trip to bolster sustained cardiovascular/aerobic activities as well as core and leg strength. Day hikes with a weighted backpack, preferably on hilly, off road terrain, is the best way to train for our trips. Activities such as cycling and step-master type machines (or stadium stairs) are excellent for training as well and are preferable to a routine comprised solely of running. Be sure to include hill and steep climbs wherever possible on all training. On the JMT it's not about if you can climb a pass, but if you can get up the next morning and climb another one... and then another...
Full Itinerary: John Muir Trail
Day 1: Meet at the Tuolumne Campground (8580’) between 5:30-6pm. Site numbers are issued upon check-in. The guides will post a sign with your name and our site number on the entrance kiosk booth). We’ll have a brief orientation with the group, followed by a welcome dinner prepared by your guides and a final gear check. *
Please Note: that we will provide a group shuttle at 1pm from Fresno to Tuolumne Meadows. Please plan to arrive in Fresno well in advance in case of delays. Many participants choose to stay at the Picadilly Inn at the airport on the night prior to the shuttle. Feel free to talk with our friendly office staff for more details 800-231-4575.
Day 2-4: Today we hit the trail! After crossing Rafferty Creek we turn south and enter the dramatic canyon of the Lyell Fork. With views of glaciated Mt. Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite National Park, we climb up and over Donahue Pass (11,056'). The trail then passes beneath Mt. Ritter, Mt. Banner, and Devil's Postpile on our way to Reds Meadow where cold beverages and a resupply drop await us.
Day 5-7: In this section we will pass by the volcanic Red Cones, lovely Virginia lake and down into Tully Hole. After climbing over Silver Pass (10,900'), we will reach Edison Lake and the Vermillion Valley Resort, where we will spend the night, enjoy hot showers, and pick up our second resupply.
Day 8-12: Leaving Edison Lake, we make the steep climb over Bear Ridge, pass by the wildflower-strewn RoseMarie Meadow, and then to the top of Pass (10,900'). From there, we descend to the roaring South Fork of the San Joaquin River. A bridge over Piute Creek and a few switchbacks lead us to McClure Meadow and Evolution Lake, one of the most spectacular sections of the trail. We then climb over Muir Pass (11,955') and descend deep into LeConte Canyon for another resupply drop.
Day 13-17: Our next milestone is ascending the Golden Staircase to our high camp at Palisade Lake. We then trek over Mather Pass (12,100') before dropping once again, this time to the South Fork of the Kings River. From there we climb over Pinchot Pass (12,130') and drop down to Woods Creek, which we’ll cross via a grand suspension bridge. We pass by Rae Lakes, Fin Dome, and The Painted Lady before climbing over Glen Pass (11,978'). We will have our final resupply drop at Vidette Meadow below Forester Pass.
Day 18-21: Our final section of trail is just as spectacular as the rest. We begin by crossing the superlative Forester Pass (13,200), the highest pass on the trail and the entrance to Sequoia National Park. From there we’ll make our way directly to Mt Whitney, which steadily grows taller as we approach it. The culmination of our trip is an attempt at Mt. Whitney (14,495') the highest peak in the Continental U.S. After the peak, we’ll make our way to our comfortable camp at Crabtree Meadow. After connecting with the Pacific Crest Trail we’ll reach our camp along Rock Creek in the shadow of the Major General.
Day 22: Today we’ll rise early for our final stretch of trail amongs the picturesque Foxtail Pines. We’ll exit the high country via Cottonwood Pass in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Our private shuttle will meet us at the trailhead to bring us into the desert town of Lone Pine. A well-earned hot shower will be followed by a farewell dinner together.
Day 23: On our final day we will take our private shuttle back to the Fresno airport. (appx a 6 hour drive). Don't plan a flight before 3:00 PM.
*Segment Hiking Available. Actual Permit starts can vary. You will be notified before departure.
I wanted to make sure that you all know how truly grateful I am for the superb job of guiding you did. The thorough preparation, the seamless execution, the compassion, support and concern for safety and comfort were apparent every step of the way. As I shared, I had wanted to undertake the JMT for over 6 years, but I was truly nervous as the departure date approached. Your leadership and genuine care made the trip achievable and super enjoyable. This trip made a significant impact on my life, and the personal reward of completing the goal has been huge; I thank each of you for helping make this happen.
-Karen Gilbert, 2017
Hi Ian. It's been almost 4 weeks since the JMT and a great big thank you to you and your SYMG team is overdue. Each and every one - yourself, Andrea, Mike, Fred and most especially Alex and Brendan - were in their own way, brilliant ambassadors for SYMG. For someone such as me who committed a lot to be on the trip of a lifetime, I can't speak too highly of the great job SYMG did to help make that happen and more!
From the very beginning, SYMG (you!) helped me with the wilderness permit application, Andrea then helped me with the logistics of sending a parcel early so that it could meet me in Tuolumne, Mike did a great job quietly and effectively supporting Alex and Brendan 'in the background' and Fred was a welcome sight with his picnic table at the end!
Ultimately though, Alex and Brendan put in the hard yards through the days and quite frankly they were amazing and an absolute pleasure to hike with. Real gems and I have them to thank for the fact that my JMT really did turn out to be the trip of a lifetime!
Many many thanks (from sunny Scotland)
-Paul Curran - August 2014
Ian- Thank you for checking in about the rest of the trip. It really was everything we had hoped for originally. Both Alex and Carlos were so adept at not only safely guiding us but also making the journey enjoyable. The two of them worked together well and offered so much expertise along the way. Even though our packs were still heavy and the mountain passes unforgivably steep, we both knew that with their guidance we could do it. I learned so much from Alex's knowledge of the Sierra's, of the plants, trees and geographically. And of course, we will always carry Carlo's infectious smile with us that usually convinced everyone that all is well and that each step along the way is to be truly savored. So, we truly did have a trip of a lifetime and would recommend it to anyone (who knows, maybe we'll get the chance to hike the JMT again) Happy trails,
-Karen and Russ Swinehart JMT Backpack 2013
The whole trip was everything I could have wished for. Booking a trip from the internet with a company of which I had no knowledge incurred some risk but your organization worked perfectly. Your information sheet and responses to my questions had me well prepared for the hike. Your staff are great ambassadors for SYMG, demonstrating a commitment and enthusiasm for their jobs and lifestyle. Csuri was the dream guide and her efforts ensured that we all had a successful and enjoyable trip. To hike the JMT had been a dream of mine since my first visit to Yosemite in 1970. Thanks to SYMG the dream came true and it was better than I could have imagined. Special thanks to Csuri- for a great job well done, Albert- especially for the food and drinks. To Sam for her enthusiasm and navigational skills, and Katie and Joel- for their enthusiasm, help, and good company. Regards,
- Viv Dore, Australia, July 2007