Regarded by many as the premier hiking trail in the country, the John Muir Trail (JMT) runs along the backbone of California’s High Sierra between Yosemite National Park and the summit of Mount Whitney. The 211-mile long trail commemorates the influential naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, who’s understanding of the landscape and voice for conservation laid the groundwork for protecting much of the Sierra through the establishment of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. The JMT can be done in segments or as a thru-hike, many opting for the latter. Pre-planning is critical to a successful JMT thru-hike; advance permits are required. Most hikers take around three weeks to complete the journey following the trail southbound (SOBO) from Yosemite Valley. See the John Muir Trail Overview for more information on logistics and permit information.
This section describes the JMT from Red’s Meadow, the second resupply/food cache point for SOBO hikers, to the Piute Pass Trail junction, located 48 trail miles to the south. This is a beautiful lake-studded stretch that crosses two high mountain passes, multiple creeks and rivers (sandals are handy), offers three resupply/food cache points, and even a few hot spring side-trip options for those longing for a soak to restore those aching muscles.The lakes and creeks along this section of the JMT can also offer some excellent trout fishing (fishing regulations apply). Dogs are permitted on some, but not all, segments of this JMT section.
Starting out from Red’s Meadow, the JMT continues south across Boundary Creek and parallels Mammoth Crest, which lies adjacent to the east. Beyond Deer Creek, the trail remains above Cascade Valley and hugs the north rim. Along this section of trail JMT hikers can opt to take a scenic side trip up to Duck Lake before moving on.
Continuing south, the JMT passes by scenic Purple Lake and then Virginia Lake, two additional serene spots to soak up some nature before descending 1,000 feet down to verdant Tully’s Hole. Tully's Hole is a meadow and regularly used camp that can be rife with mosquitoes during early season and often well into peak season, but it is a beautiful and picturesque spot nonetheless. If you will be hiking the JMT in the early season, expect to encounter plenty of northbound (NOBO) PCT thru-hikers in this area. Note that it is possible to visit Iva Bell Hot Springs up Fish Creek as a side trip along this section of trail. The springs can be accessed by either dropping down a trail from Purple Lake into Cascade Valley or by heading back up Cascade Valley along Fish Creek from Tully’s Hole.
Heading south from Tully’s Hole, the JMT gains elevation as it makes it’s way up toward Silver Pass, passing by Chief Lake, another scenic spot for a backcountry camp. At 10,900 feet, Silver Pass is the high point along this section of trail. Beyond the pass the trail begins its descent toward Quail Meadows and Lake Thomas A. Edison, the third resupply point, following the drainages of Mono Creek down to the lake.
Located on the western shore of Lake Thomas A. Edison, Vermillion Valley Resort provides food resupply/food cache to JMT and PCT thru-hikers (this must be booked in advance). The resort is most easily reached by a water taxi/ferry since the JMT runs near the far eastern side of the lake. In the event the ferry is not running, a trail runs the length of the lake and can be used to access the resort, adding 4 miles of hiking each way.
Between early June and September, however, JMT hikers can typically catch a ferry boat from the east side of the lake over to the resort in the mornings for a fee. Lake waters are lower in drought years, so make sure to check with Vermillion Valley Resort for latest ferry schedule. JMT hikers may also be able to arrange for a ride around the lake if ferry isn’t running. For those looking to take a longer rest at Vermillion Valley Resort, Mono Hot Springs is located 6 miles down the road from Lake Thomas A. Edison.
Continuing south from Lake Thomas A. Edison, the JMT climbs along Bear Creek toward the second high pass of the section, 10,870-foot Selden Pass. Surrounded by beautiful alpine lakes and peaks, the Selden Pass area offers some fantastic camps. Marie Lake, lying below Seven Gables peak, is a nice spot to spend the night. Beyond Selden Pass the JMT drops down to the South Fork of the San Joaquin River Canyon and near the forth and final resupply/food cache point of Muir Trail Ranch, which must be booked in advance and is located a short detour off the JMT. Most JMT hikers choose between stopping at Vermillion Valley Resort or Muir Trail Ranch for resupply. One reason for stopping at the latter is the backpacker’s camp and nearby Blayney Hot Spring (walkable from camp) located on the edge of Blayney Meadows; it is also the last possible near-trail resupply from here on out.
From the junction with the Muir Trail Ranch it’s a short trek along the South Fork South Joaquin River up canyon to the junction with the Piute Pass Trail, which splits off to the north up Piute Canyon.
Note that if hikers will be accessing this section from Red’s Meadow, there are road access restrictions during the summer. Check here for up-to-date information on Mammoth shuttles and road openings.
For additional trail details, refer to the following John Muir Trail sections: