The Mt Whitney Trail
is a well maintained 11 mile foot path to the summit of Mt Whitney. The trail begins at 8,360 Ft, and ends at the 14,508 Ft summit of Mt Whitney. This places the total elevation gain at 6,137 Ft. I would rate Mt Whitney as the third easiest of the fifteen California peaks (that soar above fourteen thousand feet) behind White Mountain
and Mount Langley
. The Whitney region includes the Sierra crest from Shepherd Pass to Cottonwood Pass.
Mt Whitney (due to it being the tallest peak in the continental United States) receives the heaviest traffic by far of all the peaks in the Sierra Nevada
, and people come from all over the world to tackle Mt Whitney via this famous trail. There are very few trails in the Sierra Nevada that take you all the way to the summit, and the Mt Whitney Trail is the only one in the Sierra Nevada that gives you direct access to a 14,000 foot peak without any scrambling involved, and because of this, it has a steady class one rating (for more about hiking and climbing classifications, see our page on Climbing
The Whitney Region contains some of the highest peaks in California, as well as some of the most exciting terrain in the Sierra. Deep glaciated canyons, cirques, hanging valleys, sharp ridges and high passes make the Whitney region, and all these features add up to something special when it comes to high adventure.
Once you have finished making all your last minute preparations and taken that group send off photo at the Whitney Portal Trail Head
, you are ready to get started on your adventure. You begin your trek at the lower end of the parking area loop of the Whitney Portal Road, and after a 100 yards or so, you will find yourself gradually hiking up the north slope of the canyon. This section is of the trail is fairly easy and smooth (in comparison to what is to come later on).
In early season the lower section of the trail is graced with beautiful green ferns and other plant life as seen in the photo to the right. Later in the season things dry out and your surroundings are not quite so lush. About a mile up the trail, you will come to a trail marker that points the way to the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.
If you are tackling one of the East Face Routes
, the Mountaineer's Route, or are climbing Mt Russell, then you do not want to miss North Ford of Lone Pine Creek turnoff as shown in the photo to the left. I have met up with people that have ventured well up the North Fork who thought they were on the Mt Whitney Trail, and also with folks that were well on their way up the main trail, only to find out that they missed the turnoff for their intended trip up Whitney's Mountaineer Route. So pay close attention to this trail marker located at about the one mile point. It's no fun wasting energy going up and down this section of the mountain just because you took the wrong fork in the trail.
I have been up both forks several times, and I have to tell you, that the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek is nothing like the Main Mt Whitney Trail. The North Fork is much rougher, and if you get off course you will find yourself doing some nasty bushwhacking in the lower section (along the infamous creek bed).