View Full Version : Navigation??

05-10-2010, 16:37
How is the land nav over the entire JMT? GPS vs. Compass. Do you need to land nav at all or is the trail pretty straight forward? Leaving late june and wondering if the snow is going to hide the trail and make for exstensive trail finding. Thanks

05-10-2010, 16:45
Just follow the footprints.
If it is a big fresh snow, and you can't read a map, wait for other hikers.
There'll be plenty around from late June on.
There are signs at most trail crossings.

GPS's have only been around for 12 years or so, the JMT has been around a lot longer.
Although they take much of the worry about being on the wrong trail away, they are not necessary.
They are having a big snow year though I believe. (late snow)

05-10-2010, 17:03
As fiddlehead noted, it's an easy trail to follow, especially with the Tom Harrison maps. Only place I stepped off the trail was at Reds Meadow and I recovered from that within about 10 minutes. Trails are marked, and if in doubt, just relax, enjoy the scenery and wait for someone else who may be more familiar with the trail to come by.

05-10-2010, 17:51
You'll have no issues following the JMT without a compass or GPS.

05-10-2010, 20:10
The only time is the JMT is difficult to follow is in June when most PCTers are coming through (well, for hiking season anyway! ). OTherwise, it is a well maintained trail that is, if not quite the superhighway of the AT, at least the I-295 to the AT's I-95. :)

05-13-2010, 18:28
Since you mention late June and this is a big snow year in the Sierras, you definitely want a map and at least a compass. I don't think a GPS is necessary as long as you have a decent map. Most of the trail is obvious but snow will remain in the higher elevations near the passes and after awhile you'll likely just want to do a direct beeline towards your goal then trying to find hints of the trail. The big issue is making sure you are going up the correct pass as I know some PCT thru-hikers who have done the wrong one before because they assumed and didn't check their maps. Meeting up with the trail on the far side isn't too hard. If you know where the trail is headed you'll eventually come across it below the snowline.

Later in the summer, after the snow melts, the trail is pretty easy to follow, though you should at least know what some of the landmarks are so you'll know which direction to go at a trail junction. They aren't all labeled PCT/JMT and there are no blazes to follow.

05-17-2010, 13:54
map helps when there's a lot of snow and as overview to plan your day. GPS is overkill, although I do bring it to track progress. The Garmin 24k California maps are pretty good and helped me last year stay near the snow-covered trail north of Mather. Rest of the trail I didn't need map nor GPS, since it's easy to follow, especially if you've been there before.

05-17-2010, 16:16
How is the land nav over the entire JMT? GPS vs. Compass. Do you need to land nav at all or is the trail pretty straight forward? Leaving late june and wondering if the snow is going to hide the trail and make for exstensive trail finding. Thanks

The trail is straight forward when you can see it! It is relatively well marked and well trodden. Not a white blaze every 1/4 to 1/2 mile as on the AT but well marked with signage. Like Phreak said, "you will have no issues following the JMT, without compass or GPS." I'll add, again, when you can see the trail! In late June you will not be the only one hiking it! You will see footprints, even over the passes, where there might very well still be intermitent snow on the trail.

I have not checked on this year's Sierra snowpack or what the temps have been lately so don't know how fast the snow is melting. Miner gave some sound advice, and it makes sense if it makes you feel more comfortable since you are new to the JMT - "carry a compass and the Tom Harrison maps." and you would be covered.

The amount of snow you encounter and therefore the amount of trail that may have internitent snow, which I think shouldn't pose very significant issues in late June, is partly dependent upon when and where you hit the Sierras on the JMT/PCT. PCTers, for example, typically hit the Sierra going NOBO around the first to third wk of June. You are starting in late June. Even in just two wks much snow will usually melt. Also, going NOBO on the JMT/PCT means you will be starting off at a higher elev and will encounter some of the passes at higher elev sooner than if you were going SOBO starting in Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley at a lower elevation. Going NOBO on the JMT in late June may mean you will encounter more snow or snow sooner than if you were to go SOBO. Going SOBO on the JMT starting in late June and I think you will have very little problems finding and staying on the trail. I don't want to overly concern you about snow or being able to follow the trail but since you asked I'm trying to inform you as much as possible. It's probably NOT going to be a BIG issue to follow the trail.

Unless you were hiking with significant snow on the ground or want to use GPS for other reasons(like being able to have your maps on your GPS unit, etc), I also think GPS is overkill if you stay on the JMT.

Enjoy the JMT!

The Other Tom
05-17-2010, 21:25
Get a set of Tom Harrison maps and you'll be fine. The trail is easy to follow.

05-25-2010, 09:16
Here is a site that measures snow depths along the PCT


Because so much of the trail is above tree line and one can see great distances, navigational tools are not necessary. Looking up at various passes from below, one can often not imagine how to get over them, but as one hikes up, the way over becomes more evident, and eventually obvious!