JOHN MUIR TRAIL, USA
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.