Mt. Whitney

Inyo National Forest

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. Located on the eastside of California's beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mt Whitney Trail starts in Inyo National Forest at Whitney Portal, 8,300 feet above sea level. The trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation before reaching the summit in Sequoia National Park. The summit of Mt. Whitney is the southern end of the John Muir Trail. Named for the naturalist, author and early wilderness preservation advocate, the John Muir Trail extends from the summit of Mt Whitney more than 200 miles north to reach Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. 

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. Choose your dates wisely. The Mt. Whitney Trail is a non-technical, but strenuous, route to the summit when it is free of snow. However when snow or ice is on the mountain winter mountaineering skills and equipment are necessary for safe travel. The trail is usually snow-free from July to late September. Any day hikers attempting more technical rock climbing routes should carefully research the difficulty. 

For the backpacker attempting to go up and back on the Mt. Whitney Trail, a popular travel plan is to stay one or two nights camping at Lone Pine Lake (10,000ft level), Outpost Camp (10,500ft level), Consultation Lake (11,000ft level) or Trail Camp (12,000ft level). The Mt Whitney Trail overnight permit can also be extended to continue onto the John Muir Trail giving the opportunity to trek the longest roadless section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. 

For more information or help planning your trip, please call the Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit Office (760) 873-2483. Trips sponsored by organizations or commercial groups must contact the permit office before applying for a Mt. Whitney permit.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

A wilderness permit for hiking or backpacking is required year round to visit Mt. Whitney.

Day Use – Mt Whitney Zone

This permit is valid for one day only, from midnight to midnight. Choose the route appropriate for your group, Mt. Whitney Trail or climbing routes like the Mountaineers Route.

Map of Mt Whitney Zone (Day Use permit is required within the red boundary)

Overnight – Mt Whitney Trail

This permit includes multi-night trips starting on the classic Mt Whitney Trail and allows camping along the Mt Whitney Trail and summiting Mt. Whitney.

Trips sponsored by organizations or commercial groups must contact the permit office before applying for a Mt. Whitney permit, a special use permit may be needed.

Need to Know

Check-in 1 to 14 days in advance to have the permit emailed.

Visitor centers are issuing all permits by phone and email for the 2020 season. No walk up service.

Request by Email (allow 2 days to process)

In your message answer the following;

Include any questions you may have.

Subject line: [Entry Date] Mt Whitney [Reservation Number]

send to: SM.FS.WildPmt_Inyo@usda.gov  

Drop Box Service

You can request a paper copy of your permit in a drop box outside, Permit Pickup Instructions  

Permit will be sent by email to print out before the trip. The signed permit must be in the group leader’s possession during the trip and must be presented to rangers upon request. The group leader signing the permit is accepting responsibility to ensure everyone in their group will follow the rules and regulations on the rules and regulations on the permit. 

Be Bear Aware!  

Be alert when arriving at night. There is a high level of bear activity at Whitney Portal. Do not leave food or refuse in your car or tent. Do not leave food or your pack unattended. 

•At Whitney Portal: All food and scented items must be removed from vehicles and secured in 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 food and trash storage. 

Human Waste Disposal  

There are no restrooms along the trail. Mt. Whitney visitors are expected to pack-out their solid human waste (poop and paper). Pack-out kits are provided with your permit. Dispose of pack-out kits in the waste disposal box located near the restrooms at Whitney Portal Trailhead. 

Behave Responsibly 

Respect other visitor’s desire for quiet and solitude. Help protect this natural resource and leave it unmarked for future visitors. Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace principles and review wilderness rules with all group members. 

•Pack out your trash, help keep wilderness areas pristine. 

•Protect water quality, don’t use soap in natural waterways; even biodegradable soap can damage aquatic life. Scatter waste water at least 100 feet from any water source. 

•Don’t cut switchbacks; shortcutting switchbacks damages the trail and adds to erosion. 

•No drones; they are prohibited in wilderness. 

•No loud audio devices, let the sounds of nature be part of your experience. 

•No campfires; only stoves for cooking. 

•No camping at Mirror Lake or Trailside Meadow. Do not camp on vegetation; these fragile areas are easily damaged. Choose a campsite at least 100 feet from lakes, streams or the trail. 

Safety Is No Accident! Tips from Inyo County Search & Rescue 

Prepare for your trip by getting in shape. Come early to acclimate to the effects of high altitude. Stay together in case your friends need help. 

•Plan a turnaround time to allow a safe descent down the mountain. 

•Come prepared to find your way. Do not rely on cell phone for communication or navigation; most of the area has no cell service. 

•Download maps and emergency information before starting on the trail. 

•Bring adequate supplies of food, water and clothing. 

•Learn symptoms of altitude sickness. 

•Check weather and trail conditions. 

Entry Date & Exit Date 

Entry Date is the day you will begin walking the trail. Exit Date is the day you will come off the trail. 

•For Day Use the entry and exit date are the same; the day you are hiking on the trail. 

•Permit is only valid to start on the entry date stated on the permit and expires after the exit date. 

•Do not include days that are not part of the backpacking trip like campgrounds or motels the night before or after the trip. Whitney Portal Campground is not in the wilderness. 

Fee Policy

All people count for wilderness quotas and fees. Prices are not different for military, seniors or children.

Reservation Fee:

A $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee is required for each permit reservation. The reservation fees are used to finance the on-line reservation system.

Recreation Fee:

A $15.00 per person recreation fee is charged for trips entering the Whitney Zone (Mt. Whitney, North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, and Trail Crest Exit). The recreation fees are used to finance the on-the-ground wilderness programs in Inyo National Forest.

There are no refunds for Mt. Whitney permits.

Recreation fees cannot be transferred to alternate dates. No rain checks or credits.

Cancellation Policy

Reservations cannot be sold or transferred. Only the group leader or listed alternate can pick up or use the permit. Leader or alternate leader names cannot be changed or added.

Changes you can make online:

Log onto your account at Recreation.gov to make changes or call the wilderness permit office for Inyo National Forest for reservation assistance, (760) 873-2483.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

351 Pacu Lane Bishop CA 93514

Phone Number

760-873-2483

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