Know Before You Go
Choose your dates wisely. The Mt. Whitney Trail is a non-technical, but strenuous, route to the summit of Mt. Whitney when it is free of snow. Winter mountaineering skills and equipment are necessary for safe travel when snow is on the mountain.
- May-June: The winter snowpack slowly recedes. Expect snow on the ground above Lone Pine Lake through Memorial Day weekend, and snow on the switchbacks above Trail Camp through June. Nights are usually still below freezing. Winter-like storms are still possible. There was snow on the trail until after July 4th in 2011.
- July-early September: The trail is usually snow free and the weather can be fair and pleasant. At elevations above Trail Camp, it is often cold and windy. Thunderstorms and lightning are a significant hazard. If thunderstorms are forecast, plan to leave the summit by noon. Be aware thunderstorms sometimes will occur early in the day. At the first sign of lightning, leave the summit area or exposed ridge tops.
- Late September-October: Short days and cold temperatures make day hikes to the summit difficult. Storms may bring severe cold with high winds and snow deposits from a few inches to several feet. Thin snow may melt quickly, but deeper drifts may linger for the winter. Winter mountaineering equipment and skills are necessary for safe travel when snow is on the mountain.
- November-April: Winter prevails, with deep snow and very cold temperatures. Winter storms may drop several feet of snow and have winds over 100 mph. The road to Whitney Portal is usually closed 8.3 miles from Lone Pine (at elevation 6,400 ft., about 3 miles from the trailhead) from mid-November to late April. Experienced winter mountaineers should be suitably equipped for extreme conditions and check avalanche conditions and weather forecasts.
- At Whitney Portal: All food and scented items must be removed from vehicles and stored in the bear proof lockers located in parking areas. Dispose of trash in bear resistant trash cans.
- On the trail: Day hikers, keep your pack with you at all times. Overnight hikers, bear resistant containers are required for storage of all food and trash.
- All visitors are expected to pack out their solid human waste.
- Only the group leader or listed alternate can use the permit; reservations cannot be transferred.
- Whitney Portal Campground is not in the wilderness area and is a separate reservation.
- Entry date is the date your group must start on the trail.
- Day Use can be by any route in the Mt .Whitney Zone, for one day only- Midnight to midnight.
- Mt. Whitney Trail Overnight is backpacking one or more nights, starting on the Mt. Whitney Trail. The Mountaineers route is NOT included.
- Day Use of Mt. Whitney Zone: If the entire trip will be on one calendar date the trip is day use; if you will enter the Mt. Whitney Zone, a Mt. Whitney Zone Day Use permit is required. This permit allows your choice of routes, including the Mt. Whitney trail and North Fork of Lone Pine Creek trail (access to climbing routes like Mountaineers Route, East Face and East Buttress and Mt Russell).
- Consecutive day use permits are not allowed. If a trip is more than one calendar date an Overnight permit is required.
- A day use permit cannot be used as part of an overnight trip to pass through the Mt Whitney Zone.
- Mt Whitney Trail Overnight: Trips lasting one or more nights require an Overnight permit. This is for the regular trail that goes to the top of Mt. Whitney and includes trips that continue into Sequoia National Park (i.e., Pacific Crest and John Muir trails).
- This permit does NOT include the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek trail (access to the Mountaineer's Route, East Face / Buttress, Mt. Russell)