John Muir Trail Part One: Devil’s Postpile to Yosemite Valley

It all started with an impulsive text, “Do you want to save up vacation time and hike the JMT?”

A speedy reply from Squirrel, “I’m in!”

Unfortunately, neither of us could get a month off work, so we came up with a plan to hike the John Muir Trail in sections. August 2012 was the first 57 miles, Devil’s Postpile to Yosemite Valley. The next three sections are soon to follow.

Two tools have been invaluable during planning and while on the trail. John Muir Trail: The essential guide to hiking America’s most famous trail by Elizabeth Wenk. Well it’s right there in the title – essential guide. This book makes planning daily mileage a breeze. Plus, don’t leave home without Tom Harrison’s John Muir Trail Map-Pack. You get the entire trail for about $20; that’s three national parks, one national monument, and two forest service wilderness areas – what a deal! If you wander too far off the JMT you’re off the map, but if that’s your goal then you should buy a different map. And really, who can have too many maps?!

13_JMTPart1First Night: Devil’s Postpile to Rosalie Lake (6.9 miles)
Rosalie Lake (1) was your typical alpine lake, which is a complement. We camped on the north side of the outlet. I wandered off to find a tree and quickly came running back because I “discovered” a ginormous canyon right behind our camp! Yes, I should pay more attention to the topo lines on my map, but that’s beside the point – amazing view down to the River Trail and back to Mammoth Mountain!!

Side Trip: Ediza Lake (4.6 mile roundtrip)
A friend told me Ediza Lake (2) was not to be missed while on the JMT. We stashed our packs at the trail intersection to Ediza Lake and went to explore. It made for a lot of miles that day, but worth it.

Second Night: Island Pass (8.8 miles)
Originally we were going to camp at Thousand Island Lake, but after the fifth person referred to it as Thousand Hiker Lake I bullied Squirrel to the top of Island Pass (3). It was a rough climb, but have a snack before you start the ascent and you’ll be glad you made the extra miles – the reflection of Banner Peak in the lakes at the pass made this one of my favorite campsites.

Third Night: Head of Lyell Canyon (9 miles)
You’ll notice a theme of me adding mileage to our days…originally we were supposed to camp near the Lyell Creek bridge, but apparently that’s a popular plan and anything remotely flat was taken. We continued down from Donohue Pass and found a site near the head of Lyell Canyon. We watched deer graze in the meadow, soothed our aching feet in the creek (4), and had the place to ourselves.

Fourth Night: Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Campground (9.8 miles)
Coming into the front country was a bit of an adjustment. However, the delicious hamburger (5) from Tuolumne Meadows and the wine in our resupply box made the tourists and lines of shuttle buses easier to handle. Be sure to store any scented items in the bear boxes – if you’re going to have a bear encounter along this section of the trail, I bet this would be the place.

A note about resupplying, we passed through Tuolumne Meadows to get to the trailhead so we dropped our resupply box off in a bear box by the wilderness center. There is also a store with basic backpacking items and a freebie backpacker box to take and leave items in.

Fifth Night: Upper Cathedral Lake (5.8 miles)
We camped on the south side of the lake and enjoyed Cathedral Peak views from our tent door (6). Plus the water was heavenly. I’m all for jumping in an alpine lake, but that is usually promptly followed by jumping out. I was able to swim around and really enjoy the lake.

Sixth Night: Little Yosemite Valley (12.6 miles)
Again, the original plan was to camp before the junction with the Half Dome trail on a knoll with views of Half Dome and Mt. Starr King, but there wasn’t much water in the creek and the area had three piles of fresh bear scat – we opted to keep hiking. Little Yosemite Valley (7) was my least favorite campsite of this section. There had been some tree fall from a wind storm the winter before and it looked like giants had been playing a game of pick-up-sticks. If you do camp here, note the wind direction and your proximity to the restrooms. It wasn’t the most pleasant smelling campsite, but once you’re in the area you’re limited to staying in the campground or hiking all the way to the trailhead.

Seventh Night: My Bed (3.9 miles)
A somewhat easy hike out, short mileage and all downhill – trekking poles recommended. At this point you can choose to stay on the JMT or take the Mist Trail. We opted to stay on the JMT for more switchbacks and less tourists.

We didn’t choose to hike this section south to north on purpose, that was the only permit left. However, a lot of thru hikers were saying how tough the hike out of Yosemite Valley and up to Donohue Pass was. If you’re section hiking and have trekking poles to save your knees on the downhills, I’d recommend south to north.

As we complete the rest of the sections I’ll post our itineraries. For those who have been on the JMT, do you have any campsite recommendations or must-see destinations?


John Muir Trail Part One: Devil’s Postpile to Yosemite Valley

John Muir Trail Part Two: Devil’s Postpile to Muir Ranch

John Muir Trail Part Three: Muir Ranch to Woods Creek Junction

John Muir Trail Part Four: Baxter Pass Junction to Whitney Portal

24 responses to “John Muir Trail Part One: Devil’s Postpile to Yosemite Valley

  1. Pingback: John Muir Trail Part 2: Devil’s Postpile to Muir Ranch | Trails' Guide·

  2. Curtis and some other boys are trying to plan a trip down the JMT next summer so I told him that he had to look at your blog. Meaning that I looked at your blog and told him about it. The fact that you “discovered” a canyon still makes me laugh.

    • Ohh that sounds fun! Are they doing a section or the whole thing? Is it boys only? That’s no fair…We’ll do a girls only trip so there.

      And I’m here to provide amusement!

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  4. Pingback: John Muir Trail Part 3: Muir Ranch to Woods Creek Junction | Trails' Guide·

  5. What’s the longest stretch for backpacking/camping on the JMT where I can bring my dog along?I was planning to do the whole 220 miles to Whitney but I’d like to do as long a hike as far as I’m allowed to with my dog.

  6. Hi Bobbie! Having Aspen on our second section of the JMT was a great experience! You’ll have so much fun with your adventure pup. Dogs can be on the JMT from Yosemite’s boundary in the north to Kings Canyon’s boundary in the south – thank you Forest Service for being dog-friendly! The closest trailhead to Yosemite’s boundary is at Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop then hiking up past Agnew, Gem, and Waugh Lakes. There are various ways to get to the JMT from Silver Lake, but that would put you on the JMT for the most time with your pup. For Kings Canyon you have two options. Florence Lake the the west, which is an easy 5 miles or so – do watch out for rattlesnakes in this area. Or literally at the Kings Canyon border you could head northeast out Piute Canyon to North Lake on the east side of the Sierras, which is 16 miles or so and includes a 11,423 foot pass.

    If you haven’t seen it already, my post Seven Days On The Trail With A Dog? might have some helpful tips. I can’t link it in the comments section, but if you type “dog tips” in the search bar on the right-hand side that post will come up along with our tips post from the Tahoe Rim Trail.

    Hope this information helps!!

    • Thank you so much! I am changing my hike itinerary to this dog friendly hike.What is the time needed with a zero day included? is it a 4,5,6,7, day hike? I need to plan food etc and what to put on my permit information.on how long I’ll be on the JMT.any help and special maps for this section recommended?Bobbie

  7. This will be such an epic pup backpacking adventure! For now are you just hiking this dog-friendly section? Piecing together our two sections, this stretch took us nine days – Island Pass to Florence Lake. The itinerary would depend on if you’re using Florence Lake or Piute Pass and how many miles you’re hiking per day. If you plan on hiking the entire JMT at some point it’s worth investing in the two resources I mention at the beginning of this post and they’ll help a lot with planning out your mileage. Hope this helps!

    • I was going the whole jmt ,I can take the time off but I think I’ll do your 2 sections and go with my dog for 9-10 days.I’ll plan it out and see which looks best but possibly island pass to Florence lake (I never heard about the rattlesnakes there before so I’m wary of rattlesnake ally now!) I’ll go the whole JMT solo next time.This trip will give me a taste of what to expect but I shouldn’t have to resupply if I’m not out longer than 9\10 days this trip do you think?Hope I’m not bugging you but I sure am glad to get your valuable feedback and advice😊

  8. I’ll take any excuse to talk backpacking! Nine to 10 days is a lot of food to carry and fit in a bear canister, especially with food for the pup too. If you can manage to fit all the food in and carry it, more power to you! If not, Reds Meadow may be an option to send resupply or if someone wants to meet you on the trail with one.

    • Just the info. I needed.Was hoping my boy( my dog) lol ! Would \could carry all his food and I’d be tough enough to carry everything but why suffer any more than I need to.Ill take your advice.Thanks😉

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  10. Okay now that I’ve planned,changed and replanted a zillion times I think I have an itinerary.I am taking my Dog with me so my planning has been all around taking him.This is it….Will you look it over and tell me if all my trip is dog allowed? I’d start in Ansel Adams wilderness area.start..
    Agnew trailhead to Badger lake 1 day
    1,000 island lake 1 day
    Garnet lake 1 day
    Lake Ediza 2 days
    Rosalie lake 1 day
    North junction devils post pile campground.can dogs stay there?
    can I leave my car at the Agnew trailhead where I’ll start?and how do hikers with dogs get back to their cars? It’ll. be me and only my dog so I’ll need to get to my car .Any help is great! I’m trying to finalize so I can reserve my permit for July soon.thank you! P.s. I must sound like a total newbie ,for this long trip with my dog and ansel adams / yosemite I am. But I am going to get the logistics figured out!:)bobbie

  11. Now that I’m back home with my maps – let’s have a look! The wilderness portion is definitely all dog friendly. I can’t seem to find a north junction campground in Devil’s Postpile though. I’ve heard finding a campsite within Devil’s Postpile can be tricky during the summer, but dogs are allowed on leash. When we’ve started hikes there we’ve been lucky enough to be dropped off before the shuttle buses were running. It sounds like long term parking is at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center aka main lodge, then you have to ride the shuttle in. Good news is dogs are allowed on the shuttle, but they have to be muzzled while on board. More good news, when you get off the trail, the shuttle will take you back to your car!

    Info about parking:

    Shuttle info:

    The folks at Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center ( are super helpful and that’s where you’ll pick up your permit.

    Your itinerary looks like a great way to really take in the Ritter Range. If I were you I’d stay on the High Trail rather than hiking the River Trail at the start, I hear the climb up to Thousand Island from the bottom is humbling to say the least. Also, if you have extra time and energy at Thousand Island you may take a quick trip up to Island Pass – view is awesome and the little lakes are, well cute. Also, good choice with Ediza Lake, it’s absolutely gorgeous and there are lakes above it to explore on your layover day.

    Hope this helps!

  12. Thank you for ALL your expert advice.I will definitely take the high trail now I’m not going out of my way to torture myself!I’ve reserved my permit and I will have my trip planned out better in 6 months.More maps next payday!I’m not going to try to race through my trip,I am looking forward to solitude and beauty.Taking zero days are a must and I wasn’t sure how far I’d go so I gave them this trip plan for the permit but are there any other trails out of the wilderness area , after or before any of my later in my backpacking route stops? I’m staying for 7 nights packing out on the 8 th day but I am not sure of any other trails to pack out on Past Rosalie lake or before it.It shows Devils postpile campground is after it but I may be reading it totally wrong😁 I put that down as my exit place but I dont know where else to exit where I,d be able to catch a shuttle back to my car but there ( DPP campground. It makes me sooo happy to hear that shuttles will accept my dog and get me to the traihead and back to my car.I may rent a car one way to mammoth and pick one up again on my 8th can tell I still have a lot of stuff to figure out.😊 Bobbie

  13. I just discovered your blog about a month ago and have been studying it almost religiously! This is all such great information and I have my permit going south to north as well. I’m wondering though- is the trail pretty easy to follow? And what about places to set up camp? are there obvious places where people have been set up before?

  14. Hi Gabriela, You’re going to have such a great adventure! I feel like trail navigation is relative to an individual’s experience, but for the most part we were able to follow the trail with little trouble. Campsites are plentiful and water sources, especially this year I would imagine, are good with lakes and creeks marked on the map. We used the JMT map-pack from Tom Harrison, but for those that want more details about campsites and water sources, Erik the Black’s pocket atlas is a great source:

    Let me know if you have anymore questions!

  15. Pingback: Thank You Cathedral Peak | Trails' Guide·

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