Great Hikes: Mount Whitney

Tackle the highest peak in the Lower 48
Staff Writer

Located in the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia National Park in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains is the highest point in the Lower 48: 14,497-foot Mt. Whitney. At that elevation, you'll need to put in some serious training and planning ahead of time, no matter how you plan to tackle the summit.

Backpackers and hikers should stick to the western approach up the 22-mile roundtrip Mt. Whitney Trail. It can be done in one day, but most people complete it in two to three for a more comfortable, acclimatized ascent over the nearly 6,000 feet of elevation gain. It's a challenging hike, but one that even novice mountaineers can do. Because there are no glaciers or tricky scrambles, you won't need technical skills or heavy snow gear. In fact, you can climb to the top in sneakers.

For a more technical ascent, climbers tend to head up the steeper eastern side of the mountain. Popular routes include the Mountaineer’s Route, East Face and East Buttress, which vary in difficulty, but all start from Iceberg Lake.

Depending on when you choose to climb and the type of trip, you may need a permit, which is granted through a lottery system. Check for requirements.

While you're in the area, be sure to explore Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. They're lesser known than their nearby counterpart, Yosemite, but they have some amazing things to offer. For instance, in Grant Grove, you can check out one of the world's largest living organisms, giant sequoias.

Distance: 22 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 6,100 feet

Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Duration: 1-2 days

Best Time to Go: May - October

How to get there:

Fly into Los Angeles, rent a car and make the 3.5-hour drive to Lone Pine, California. From Lone Pine, drive 13 miles west on Whitney Portal Road and watch for the Mr. Whitney trailhead on the north side.  

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