6 Day Backpacking Trip on the John Muir Trail

6 Day Backpacking Trip on the John Muir Trail

    I recently headed out on the John Muir Trail (overlapping with the Pacific Coast Trail) for my very first backpacking trip, which turned out to be one of the most beautiful nature-filled experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

    We started in Mammoth Lakes and ended in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. I logged our mileage, created a map of our route, and took some pretty incredible photos - all of which I have included in this blog for those who are looking for their next backpacking adventure!

      Mammoth Lakes > Tuolumne Meadows

      • Total Miles: 46.7 mi
      • Total Elevation Gain: 7575 ft
      • Total Time: 6 days


      DAY 1: Agnew Meadows > Ediza Lake

        • 7.8 miles
          • 1,512 ft gain
          Agnew Meadows to Ediza Lake - 6 Days on the John Muir Trail (JMT)

          Tip: The easiest way to get to Agnew Meadows from Mammoth Inn is via the Devil’s Postpile Shuttle, which is a cheap and quick ride that drops you off directly at the Agnew Meadows trailhead. From there the journey begins! Tips: stop for a swim and lunch at Shadow Lake - there is a beautiful area where the water is deep enough to jump in.

          We camped at Ediza Lake for our first night , which is an idyllic (and slightly crowded) camping spot for many hikers and backpackers.

          DAY 2: Ediza Lake > Thousand Islands Lake

          • 8.5 miles
          • 1,745 ft gain
          Ediza Lake to Thousand Islands Lake - 6 Days on the John Muir Trail (JMT)
          Tip: Stop at Garnet, Ruby, or Emerald Lakes to refill water and refuel - they are all incredibly gorgeous (and a little cold). We camped at Thousand Islands Lake for our second night, which turned out to be an incredibly windy night. Nonetheless, the views are unbelievable!
          If you're uneasy crossing creeks and streams, make sure to bring trekking poles as there are many water crossings in this area, and during this entire route.

          DAY 3: Thousand Islands > Rush Creek

          • 5.3 mi
          • 1,017 ft
          Thousand Islands to Rush Creek - 6 Days on the John Muir Trail (JMT)
          This was our "rest" day - a nice break in elevation and mileage before our two biggest days. Tip: You get to our Rush Creek camping spot by turning off the JMT (which heads over Donahue pass) and instead going on to the Marie Lakes trail (although you don’t go all the way). This was by far our favorite camping experience during the 6-day trip - it was quiet, we didn’t see any other campers, and it had the perfect little waterfall for bathing!

          DAY 4: Rush Creek > Lyell Canyon

          • 9.8 miles
          • 1,166 ft gain
          Rush Creek to Lyell Canyon - 6 Days on the John Muir Trail (JMT)

          Tip: This part of the trail heads over Donahue pass at 11,000 ft, which can be dangerous in the afternoons due to thunderstorms and lightning. Be sure to head over the pass early in the morning, which will give you the best chance of beating the storms!

          In the photo above, you can see the Lyell glacier, which is the largest glacier in Yosemite and second largest in the Sierra Nevada. The below photo shows the dramatic ice loss since the 1800s. The glacier is incredibly important to the local ecosystem, as it feeds the majority of the water sources in the area.

          Lyell Glacier - Ice loss

          You can read more about the glacier and its retreat here.

          We ended up going a little farther than our map suggested for a camping spot, which helped make our hardest day in terms of elevation (day 5) a little shorter.

          DAY 5: Lyell Canyon > Fletcher Lake

          • 8.2 miles
          • 1,906 ft gain

          The original plan on our map was to stay at Fletcher Lake, which is an option many campers choose. However, we ended up going off route a bit and camping at Boothe Lake. It took a bit of navigating, but ended up being well worth the peace and quiet.

          Tip: stop at Evelyn Lake's sandy beach for lunch! We all agreed this area looked like Mars (very different than the rest of the trail) - a flat and open area with a bunch of scattered boulders.


          On this part of the trail, you will pass by Vogelsang High Sierra Backpacker's camp - the highest of the High Sierra camps in Yosemite.

          DAY 6: Boothe Lake > Tuolumne Meadows

          • 7.1 miles
          • 229 ft gain

          The final day was our easiest one! It was almost entirely downhill, so we got an early start so we could finish up by lunch time. While it was only 7 miles, this part of the trail definitely felt grueling as we were so close to a cold beer, a big sandwich, and a long shower.

          My Maps & Stats

          6 Day Backpacking Trip on the John Muir Trail (JMT) - Route & Map

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