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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
22.00 mi (35.41 km)
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

First called Fisherman’s Peak after the group of fishermen that reached the summit in 1873, California's Mount Whitney stands at 14,505 feet and is the highest summit in the contiguous United States. Thousands enjoy hiking Mount Whitney each year for premiere Serra Nevada views, whether on the lower trails on the mountain’s flanks or on one of the major approaches to the summit. Of these approaches, hiking on the Mount Whitney Trail that leaves from Whitney Portal is the most popular and accessible choice (for examples of alternative hikes, see the Cottonwood Pack Station and Mountaineers Route articles).

The 22-mile round-trip Mount Whitney Trail is often a hiker’s first experience with high-altitudes, which is certainly a factor to consider when planning the pace of an ascent. Strong and experienced hikers can complete the Mount Whitney Trail in one long day, but for most, a two-day approach provides much needed time for rest and acclimatization. Many hikers on this two-day schedule will camp at Trail Camp, which sits at 12,039 feet and a little over 6 miles from the trailhead. Outpost Camp, at 10,360 feet, is another good option.

The 4-hour hike from the Whitney Portal Trailhead to Trail Camp includes stream crossings, bridges, a variety of alpine flowers in the summer, a potential side-hike to Lone Pine Lake, and a constant view of the extraordinary ridges and mountains that surround the trail. The camp has plenty of dedicated sites, and a small lake nearby for a summer water source (filtering is essential). If you do camp in the area, keep in mind that marmot activity is very high; protect your food and your belongings in bear-proof containers and make sure your trash is neatly packed away.

An alpine start around 2 a.m. is not unusual on summit day. Light trails from the headlamps of fellow hikers are visible toward the trail crest in the early morning. A grueling section of ascent known as the 99 switchbacks awaits, though you can console yourself that it is really only 97 switchbacks to Trail Crest, where the John Muir Trail intersects with the Mount Whitney Trail. If you reach Trail Crest by sunrise, you will have incredible views of Mount Hitchcock and Hitchcock Lakes west of the trail. From Trail Crest, you’ll have another 2 miles or so to the summit. A lonely shelter sits atop the peak, and you’ll find a summit book to record your achievement in a box on an outside wall. Once you’ve appreciated the summit views, the daylight descent provides new views of Sequoia National Park. While retracing the 99 switchbacks to camp and then continuing on to the trailhead can feel grueling, the sense of accomplishment and the splendid views are palpable.

This particular trail and camp approach is very popular, and any effort to minimize trail and camping impact is essential. Practice a Leave No Trace ethic, which includes packing out all waste once on the trail. Also, the Forest Service has prepared some helpful planning materials. Finally, be sure to prepare yourself for the trip by understanding the terrain, the weather, the area wildlife, and the tricky lottery permitting system. The Whitney Portal hike to Mount Whitney's summit is one of the most rewarding hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so be sure to take the endeavor seriously to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Amazing views. Wildflowers. Alpine lakes.

Cons

Crowded. Permits are difficlut to obtain. Bear and marmot country.

Trailhead Elevation

8,360.00 ft (2,548.13 m)

Net Elevation Gain

6,100.00 ft (1,859.28 m)

Address

Whitney Portal Rd
CA
United States

Features

Backcountry camping
Mountaineering
Rock climbing
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Fishing

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

Comments

10.11.17
Sunrise that hiker can enjoy while attempting to do this as a day hike. In October , temperature can be pretty cold. On 10/11/17, the summit temp dropped down to 20's and probably around 40's above 12000 ft. Location : above mirror lake
09.15.17
I did this hike on a Friday and was happy we acclimated the day before. We left at 2:45 am and didn't get back to the campground until 5:30pm. The altitude hits almost everyone on the last 1.9 miles to the summit. It's a grueling section of trail, but the views are worth it. The permit process is a bureaucracy but if you do the day pass its almost certain you will get a pass. The day hike is long, but the light pack is really nice. Also be prepared for the cold. If I didn't have gloves and a beanie I would have froze. It was in the twenties at dawn and there were thick ice patches on the stairs of the 99 switchback section.
07.09.17
My cousin and I were bold enough to do the one day trip. It can get pretty tough. We decided to go up "the chute" instead of the "99 switchbacks." The snow got quite slushy around 10am, making it hard to get solid footing so easily. Definitely will need crampons and an ice axe if you decide to take this route as you may slip and slide down requiring self-arrest.

However, glissading down made it all worth it. Definitely doable in one day if you are in good enough shape, just be prepared to have the altitude kick you in the ass. The scenery is definitely AMAZING!
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