Mt Whitney, located in the Eastern Sierra of California, is the highest mountain of the contiguous U.S.A.
Whichever way you hike it, this is one of the most memorable hikes in California. Unfortunately, bureaucracy has increasingly spoiled the whole magic.
The best time to hike Mt Whitney is between the time the snow melts and just before the cold season starts, so july and august.
There are two trails from the Whitney Portal (the parking lot) to the top of
The regular trailApproximate distances from portal to summit (in parenthesis my 2003 time and the 2009 time, respectively the slowest and fastest):
The trail from the parking lot to Lone Pine Lake is long switchbacks with
a moderate grade. At the top of these switchbacks, there are a fork and a sign.
To the left one goes to Lone Pine Lake, to the right one goes to Mt Whitney.
If you take the right turn, you are likely to meet a ranger checking
that you have a permit (Read my anti-permit rant).
If you take the left turn, no permit is required.
If you are in reasonable shape and acclimatized, it shouldn't take you longer than eight hours to hike from the parking lot to the top (and five hours to hike back down). If you are in excellent shape, you can hike to the top in less than six hours. (If you are not in shape, you should not even think of trying this hike).
Western trailThe "western" trail (the third way to get to Mt Whitney) can be accessed via the Cottonwood Lakes. This hike requires a car shuttle, because the trailhead for Cottonwood Lakes and the exit point at Whitney Portal are more than 50 kms apart. It is also too long a hike to be done in one day.
See directions for Mt Langley. The beginning of the trail is the same. These are the milestones if you also want to summit Mt Langley (an extra 10 kms roundtrip).
Pictures of this hike
Lone Pine trails
Mt Whitney weather
CampgroundsChoices for camping include:
If I had to list the most serious dangers of the Mt Whitney hike for inexperienced hikers:
Everything is expensive in Lone Pine, whether gasoline or food. The selection of restaurants is particularly limited (and bad): overpriced, bad food, lousy service, not unusual to have to wait one hour for your order.
The regular trail is the one that goes through Mirror Lake and Consultation Lake.
The mountaineering (North Fork) "trail" is the one that ends at Iceberg Lake.
For the record...Check how Whitney compares with other mountains