View Full Version : Not sure if I should do the JMT or something easier?

06-26-2012, 12:54
I really want to do the John Muir Trail but to be honest I'm not sure if I'm ready for it. I have only hiked in Pennsylvania. I have never been out west and have never been above like 3000 feet above sea level. I have never even been on a backpacking trip overnight haha Is this a bad idea? Should I start somewhere easier?

Spirit Walker
06-26-2012, 16:45
I suggest you do several overnight or longer hikes in PA or elsewhere before you attempt the JMT. You're a long way from help if you discover that you forgot something essential - that you didn't know you needed. It's not like the AT, where town is rarely more than a day away. PA has some good long trails - the AT, obviously, but also the Laurel Highlands Trail, the Donut Hole, the Quehanna, the Susquehannock, etc. The last three will give you some experience at solitary hiking where you aren't sharing shelters or campsites with other people as you do on the AT or Laurel Highlands.

The JMT is a beautiful trail, but resupplies are a long way apart, which means you need to be able to do consistent good mileage days. Most beginning backpackers start at 5-8 miles a day - that won't work for the JMT because your pack would be so heavy, you'd be miserable. Altitude can slow you down considerably, making you feel even more out of shape than you actually are.

Better idea is to try an overnight hike or two. Then do a three day weekend. Then do a 4 or 5 day hike. If you are enjoying yourself, then try something longer. Keep hiking and backpacking - and next year try the JMT. It's a long way to go when you don't even know if you like to backpack.

06-26-2012, 20:50
Keep the JMT on your to do list but get some experience out here first. IMHO there are few trails that have mile for mile as much goodness as the JMT. But, if you aren't ready for it then it would be silly. Sorta like skiing for the first time on a triple black diamond ski run in Aspen (I'm not a skier so if that doesn't make sense ignore it.)

The JMT is not the easiest trail out thre. The sandy trail will destroy your feet, the climbs will kick your butt and the elevation could be a show stopper. But properly prepared its incredible. Hike around our area here in Pa and even Wv and Va and do it next year. My humble opinion of course! :)

06-27-2012, 00:57
I think the biggest problem with trying the JMT as an inexperienced hiker is that you won't know how much mileage to plan everyday.
Like Spirit Walker said, there are not many resupplies on that trail.
So, you have to hike with the food you need to get you to the next one, or your way out (passes that can take you out to civilization but can take a day to get there from the JMT)

If you think you can do 12-15 miles a day and plan accordingly, but then find out that the altitude is just too much for you and you are not having a good time trying to hike long days, you are not going to enjoy your trip, may run out of food and may even get lost trying to get out.

So, experience helps in many ways.

Also, are you aware of the permit regulations out there? Bear canisters?

One suggestion that might work for you (if you can get a permit) is to head south from Tuloumme Meadows and just go to Red's Meadow.
It's not far, maybe 2 days, but will help you get some of the experience you need, show you what the JMT is like, and you can then decide if you want more or want to bail out.
Maybe get the permit to go as far as Bishop pass but then make that decision at Red's Meadow or a little further along, there is another bailout to Mammoth.

Starting at Tuollume will have you starting at a high elevation meaning you won't have to start with a 5,000 foot climb right out of the gate. Which can really suck, especially for someone not used to hiking and knowing how to take a slow uphill without killing yourself.

Another problem with the JMT is that there are many trail crossings and you need to be aware when you get to these crossroads of trails, not taking the wrong one and again, wasting time being lost and possibly running out of food. A good map and compass is important (or GPS with the trail loaded), and the skills needed to know how to use them.

If you can handle all of that, it is probably the most beautiful trail in the continental USA.

06-27-2012, 01:38
I just started backpacking about 10 years ago. There is no way I would have been ready to tackle a JMT hike early in my early hiking days. If one is is good physical shape a JMT hike could be done without experience if you were partnered with someone that knew what they were doing. Doing the JMT solo without much experience is a recipe for trouble.

I agree with others. Do some section hikes in the 30-100 mile range in your home area. Get comfortable with that. The AT would be a great proving gound for you. The AT and JMT are very much different but if you got comfortable doing a multi-day section on the AT the JMT would be just another hike.......a BEAUTIFUL hike.

06-27-2012, 04:09
The Sierras are an extraordinary place, and, just as occurs in the East, not all the extraordinary scenery is located along any one trail, no matter how well known that path is. Nor is there anything written on stone tablets anywhere that I know of that says that all back country hikes must be conducted on famous trails done end to end.

I'm an aging Kentuckian who has backpacked for decades, but who these days does very low miles. Nonetheless, in recent years I've taken two great trips into the Sierras, partly on the JMT, primarily within the Ansel Adams wilderness. I agree with others that doing the JMT completely probably doesn't make sense for you to attempt yet. But, properly prepared, following a "shakedown" hike or two in PA, you could spend several great weeks this summer hiking/back country camping in the high Sierras.

Except for "crazy busy" places such as Yosemite N. P. and Mt Whitney, back country camping permits for the Sierras simply list a number of days, your entrance trail head and your(proposed) exit trail head. Yes, the freindly Inyo National Forest folks also asked me for some additional itinerary details, but once out on the trail I was free, if I wanted to do so, to modify plans, lengthening proposed hiking distances, shortening those mileages, or adding back country rest days. There are lots of streams and lakes in the region so hikers don't necessarily need to walk very far there between water sources/camp sites. And, spectacular loop or "out and day" multi-day hikes can be taken in several different from Reds Meadow, which is easily accessible via public transportation. Resupply packages can be be mailed to the horse packing station/store/restaurant business at Reds, or they can simply be dropped off there in person, safeguarded for a small fee. Alternatively, unlimited resupply can be done in the ski resort town of Mammoth Lakes, an inexpensive public shuttle bus ride from Reds. It's from the southern 1/2 to 2/3 of the JMT that resupply is more difficult.

On one trip from Reds Meadow I spent two days hiking thirteenth spectacular, non JMT miles down into the Fish Creek Canyon, to the Iva Bell Hot Springs, which is a great place to tarry for a while. Do two to four back country hikes like that, of perhaps three to six nights each, and you will have completed a vacation justifying your having flown all the way to California (or nearby Reno, Nevada).

Last winter the Sierra snow fall/snow pack was substantially less than usual, creating exceptionally good backpacking prospects this summer for two reasons: (1) streams have lower levels, making them easier and less dangerous to cross; and (2) meadows try out faster, reducing the mosquito population. (Note--Not all Sierra trails include scary stream crossings, but some do. Also, mosqito presence can vary from non-existent to in any year, the later in the summer you go to the Sierras, the fewer bugs you'll encounter there.

06-27-2012, 04:30
Sorry folks, I accidentally sent my last post before finishing it or editing out its bloopers , such as "out and day" instead of "out and back" hikes.

Josh, if what I've written above interests you, consider purchasing from the Inyo National Forest their map of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Located south east of Yosemite N.P., the Ansel Adams includes Reds Meadow and (between 100 Island Lake and Reds) parallel sections of the JMT and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). That map is a great planning tool. As others have suggested, until you' hiked some in the Sierras, plan to complete substantially lower mileage days there then you would accomplish in Pennsylvania. Also, I suggest that after you've purchased your bear canister (mandatory in the Sierras for good reason), practice ahead of time fitting your food and toothpaste and soap in there.

Feral Bill
06-27-2012, 12:12
You might consider the Wonderland Trail at a 10-12 day pace. It's glorious. Expect almost no flat, and a lot of elevation change, but otherwise pretty straight forward. Search for Shutterbug's pictures on this site.

06-27-2012, 18:18
Now that you've decided to hike the AT in Maine, you'll get a good dose of challenging hiking experience. If your Maine hike goes well, the JMT is within reach soon. I still say that for all its challenges, the JMT isn't as difficult as the Maine AT's southern/westernmost 100 miles as far as ruggedness and stress. Assuming you come out of Maine OK and want to tackle the JMT next, the biggest 2 issues for you are acclimation (unknown) and long stretch without easy resupply (known).

06-27-2012, 18:31
I still say that for all its challenges, the JMT isn't as difficult as the AT's southern/westernmost 100 miles as far as ruggedness and stress.

I agree. The AT is more rugged compared to the JMT. What makes the JMT more of a challenge for the rookie is the logistics and the elevation. IMO logistics/elevation trumps ruggedness as concerns for the rookie.

06-27-2012, 20:11
The JMT is a big bite, it's a trail that can or could bite back. You could use beautiful Yosemite NP as a base camp and hike/camp out of there. Remember, the western USA is a tenderbox due to the extreme low humidity and winds as compared to the eastern part of the country. I use a wood burning stove and had to be very careful at all times while I was hiking the PCT and JMT.

06-27-2012, 21:03
The JMT is a fabulous trail, indeed, but I'll join the chorus in suggesting it's not a great choice early in one's backpacking career.

Especially if you are not from California. The dropout rate for would-be JMT thru-hikers is about the same as for AT thru-hikers. Many start; shockingly few finish. If you've come from a long way away and can't just call your significant other to come pick you up partway through the trip, aborting yiur hike becomes a lot messier and more expensive.

06-30-2012, 15:41
I start the JMT on the July 28th, it will be my first thru-hike. I had wanted to do the AT, but theres no way that I can take that much time away from my family or work, so I chose a thru-hike that could be done with my schedule. I'm also taking my 11 and 14 yr old sons. We live at the base of a 10,000' mountain and have been hiking there for years (me for 35 years), and have logged quite a few hiking miles in the Sierras as well, but this is a whole new animal for me. We are training twice a week in the 8k to 10k altitude range, with 10-12 mile hikes with pretty steep grades, and some overnighters thrown in here and there. We also have 2 days in Yosemite before the hike to acclimate, and even though I don't think we'll really need to acclimate, I love Yosemite and spend time there whenever possible. We should be fine as far as conditioning goes, but as someone mentioned the logistics are something I've never dealt with before to this degree. The second half of the trail is going to be 10 days with no resupply, twice as long as anything I've yet done. That being said, I've corresponded with several people who have done the trail and I feel we are ready.

Plan your JMT hike for a year from now and start getting ready for it. Do some overnighters to learn your gear. You may not be able to get used to altitude yet, so plan for a few days in California to "hang out" in the high country before you start the hike. Get yourself in good physical condition now, which will make acclimation easier and the hike as a whole more enjoyable.

Finally, one resource that has really helped me is to watch these video logs of a guy's JMT hike:

He also wrote a good ebook and has a blog on the JMT. He's helped me via email on the logistics side of things.

07-01-2012, 11:31
I think you will do fine! And your sons will have a blast! A couple of tips....take your time acclimating and don't focus solely on the goal. In otherwards, as other's have said, it is a big bite for a 1st hike....just go out and have fun and if you make the whole thing then great and if not then great. There are several bail out points. It's more important for the kids to have fun. So go a comfortable speed and get as far as you can doing that and then they will want to go back with you next year. You are in for a real treat....the JMT is the most magnificent country!:)

07-01-2012, 11:32
Oops, sorry mixed dafiremedic up with the original poster, oh well, same advice applies...:)