JOHN MUIR TRAIL, USA

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - World’s Greatest Walks -

CON­NECT­ING YOSEMITE Na­tional Park’s Happy Isles with the sum­mit of Mt Whit­ney, via Se­qouia Na­tional Park, the 340km John Muir Trail (JMT) takes you up high, and then higher again (around the 2400m mark), as you tra­verse the rugged Sierra Ne­vada Range. Alpine lakes, jagged moun­tain­tops, steep alpine passes and des­ig­nated wilder­ness ar­eas – as well as oo­dles of wildlife – all com­bine to make this long-haul jour­ney a cracker.

Like most treks in this list, you can walk the JMT in both di­rec­tions – north-south or the other way. Due to the rugged (and, in win­ter, snow­cov­ered) alpine ter­rain the best time of year is the north­ern hemi­sphere sum­mer (July-Septem­ber). If you de­cide to walk the JMT north-south, you get to fin­ish on a fig­u­ra­tive high­point: hik­ing to the sum­mit of Mt Whit­ney which is, at 4418m, the tallest peak in the USA’s lower 48 states. As well, by kick­ing off in Yosemite NP, you’re in­stantly sur­rounded by world-fa­mous land­marks, in­clud­ing Ne­vada Falls, Half Dome and Cathe­dral Peak, with the lat­ter two be­ing bucket-list des­ti­na­tions for rock climbers around the world.

Leave Yosemite NP and you’re soon in the spec­tac­u­lar Ansel Adams Wilder­ness, named in hon­our of the fa­mous land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher, with its steep, rugged ter­rain. Then, once you cross over Dono­hue Pass, you’ll en­joy com­mand­ing views of the epic Sierra Ne­vada Range. The Ansel Adams Wilder­ness sec­tion is in­cred­i­ble and leads on to even more spec­tac­u­lar vistas in Kings Canyon NP be­fore com­ing to the last por­tion of the JMT that starts in Se­quoia NP, and en­com­passes the haul to the Mt Whit­ney sum­mit.

As with any global bucket-list trek you will have to plan well ahead for your JMT ad­ven­ture. Aim to book your per­mit at least six months in ad­vance and make sure you don’t for­get to or­gan­ise food drops – un­like the Lara­p­inta Trail, the JMT is well away from civil­i­sa­tion, roads and ac­cess points. Of course the sheer size of the JMT means that, even though it is pop­u­lar and might seem like it should be busy, it won’t be. It’s a huge slab of one of the world’s wild re­gions, so there’s plenty of space for any­one keen to take a few weeks or more to ex­plore it.

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