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Mt. WHITNEY, CA

part ofInyo National Forest, US Forest Service
Photo: Mt. WHITNEY

Overview

Mount Whitney can be summited as a day hike or multi-day backpack trip on the classic Mt. Whitney Trail. Located on the eastside of California's beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, the trail starts in Inyo National Forest and enters Sequoia National Park, with spectacular views and access to trails that continue deep into the park wilderness. The summit of Mt. Whitney is the southern end of the John Muir Trail. Named for the naturalist, author and early wilderness preservation advocate for preservation of wilderness, the John Muir trail extends more than 200 miles north to reach Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. Whether you are seeking a one day hiking challenge, an overnight ascent, or beginning the trek of your dreams, climbing Mt. Whitney is sure to be a memorable experience.

Starting at 8,300 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal, the Mt. Whitney Trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation. The trail is usually snow free from July to late September. Specialized equipment and training may be necessary to safely climb when snow or ice is on the trail.

Most day hikers choose the classic Mt. Whitney Trail. The 22-mile round-trip hike will challenge even very fit hikers. Expect to hike 12 to 14 hours to the summit and back. Consider starting before sunrise. Be prepared to hike in the dark.

For the backpacker starting up the Mt. Whitney Trail, some popular camp locations are Lone Pine Lake, Outpost Camp, Consultation Lake and Trail Camp. If you are approaching Mt. Whitney from a different route, you need a different permit. For more about other permits to Mt. Whitney click here .

Anyone considering other climbing routes should research the difficulty. The approach to the Mountaineers Route is steep, rugged and hard to follow. This route crosses the Ebersbacher Ledges to reach Boy Scout Lakes. Above Iceberg Lake there are several routes of varying technical difficulty. There is not a trail to the summit from this isolated canyon. The Mt. Whitney Trail overnight permit does not give access to the North Fork area. Mountaineers who wish to base camp near Iceberg or Boy Scout Lakes need an overnight permit specifically for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek Trail.

Visitors to the Mt. Whitney Zone are expected to pack out their solid human waste.
Mt. Whitney Zone Map, click here

A lottery is held February 1 to March 15, followed by open reservations for the remainder of the season. You apply for dates, group size and your preference of day hike or overnight permit. List up to 3 alternate leaders and up to 15 alternate trip choices on one application.

  • Applications are entered on-line, February 1 through March 15, until midnight Eastern Time.
  • After March 15, all the applications are processed in one lottery.
  • April 1 all remaining space opens for web reservations.
  • April 1- April 30: Accept or decline dates won in the lottery. Complete trip information and pay the $15 per person reservation fee to claim your reservation.
  • April 30: Deadline to accept and pay reservation fee is midnight Eastern Time, or the reservation will be canceled.
  • May 1, all remaining unclaimed dates are canceled and released for web reservations.
  • For more about the lottery, click here.

    Cancellations return to the reservation calendar within 24 hours at random times. Space is not saved for walk-in permits. There is no wait list. Reservations can be made until two days before a trip entry date, if space is available.

    Trips sponsored by organizations or commercial groups must contact the wilderness permit office before applying for a Mt. Whitney permit.

    Know Before You Go

    Seasonal Information
    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.

    This is an Active Bear Area! Be alert when arriving at night. DO NOT leave food or refuse in your car. Do not leave food or your pack unattended.
    • 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.
    Important Details
    • 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.

    PERMIT TYPES:

    • 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)

    Changes to Reservations: There are NO refunds for Mt. Whitney permits. Be sure your dates and permit type are correct. Day use and overnight permits are not interchangeable. (link to FEES here)

    • Reservations cannot be sold or transferred; only the group leader or listed alternate can use the permit.
    • Changes to group size can be made on line.
    • To change the entry date, trail or permit type, cancel and re-book for the desired trip.
    • Corrections to itinerary or exit date for overnight trips can be done when the permit is issued.

    Permit Pick Up: You should receive a reminder email 14 days before your trip. THIS IS NOT YOUR PERMIT!
    Confirm your group size online 2 to 14 days before your trip, or your reservation will be canceled.
    Pick up the actual permit
    at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center, near Lone Pine, CA.93545.

    • Only the group leader or alternate leader that is listed on the application can pick up or use the permit. (Show photo id when requested).
    • Leader must carry the permit while on the trip. A reservation receipt is not proof of having a valid permit.
    • Instructions for permit pick up and group size confirmation, (Click Here).
    Overnight trips that start on other trails in Inyo National Forest can be reserved (Click Here) up to 6 months in advance.
    • This includes the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek trail to the Mountaineer's Route, East Face / Buttress, Mt. Russell and other climbs in this isolated canyon.
    • Trips that will exit the Mt Whitney trail (Trail Crest to Whitney Portal) have an exit quota that will apply to the date you finish at the Portal. These dates fill quickly. Reserve the entry trail with permit type "Exit Mt. Whitney". Be sure your dates are what you want; exit date can not be saved if you change the entry date.
    Commercial Services: Book the trip directly with the commercial guide or pack station. Schools and other organizations may need a special use permit. Making your own non-commercial reservation does not guarantee approval for your trip.

    Trips starting in Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, contact the park where you will start the trip for information.

    Refer to the Rules and Regulations for information about permit terms, entry quotas, group size limits, food storage and other wilderness regulations.

    Rules and regulations for Mt. Whitney

    Contact Information

    Inyo National Forest
    351 Pacu Lane
    Suite 200
    Bishop, CA 93514
    760-873-2483
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