Climbing Mt. Whitney-1-8.jpg

Inyo National Forest: Summit Mount Whitney

summit mount whitney

the rundown

Duration: Day Hike

Distance: 22 miles out-and-back

Elevation gain: 6,100'

Trailhead: Mount Whitney Trailhead

Planning your summit of mount whitney

Are permits required? Yes, and they are not easy to come by, in fact, you will probably have to win a lottery in order to secure a permit. You can apply for the permit at recreation.gov. The park offers 100 day-hiking permits and 60 overnight permits. 

Recreation.gov lists the following information about the permit system:

"A lottery is held February 1 to March 15, followed by open reservations for the remainder of the season. You apply for dates, group size and your preference of day hike or overnight permit. List up to 3 alternate leaders and up to 15 alternate trip choices on one application.

  • Applications are entered on-line, February 1 through March 15, until midnight Eastern Time.
  • After March 15, all the applications are processed in one lottery.
  • April 1 all remaining space opens for web reservations.
  • April 1- April 30: Accept or decline dates won in the lottery. Complete trip information and pay the $15 per person reservation fee to claim your reservation.
  • April 30: Deadline to accept and pay reservation fee is midnight Eastern Time, or the reservation will be canceled.
  • May 1, all remaining unclaimed dates are canceled and released for web reservations."

Early in the season you may have better luck securing permits as well, which is how I was able to secure permits. Since we hiked so early in the season there were still over 70 day-hiking permits available for reservation when I 

If you don't win the lottery permits, don't fret! People do cancel their trips and permits will become available to reserve online. For example, a few weeks ago the entire summer was completely booked but I checked back today and there were a few available permits. 

How to get to the trailhead: Whitney Portal is located just 12 miles from Lone Pine, CA. Lone Pine has lodging and a hiking store (Elevation Climbing) in case you forgot any essentials for your hike. We used it to buy fuel for our JetBoil and a few extra snacks. 

The trailhead can be accessed from LAX or LAS. 

For Google directions click  HERE .

For Google directions click HERE.

For Google directions click  HERE .

For Google directions click HERE.

When to go: The best time of year to hike this trail is late summer when all the snow has melted but you can hike it earlier in the season with the proper gear. 

AllTrails Info: Mount Whitney via the Mount Whitney Trailhead

Special notes: This trail is only for fit and experienced hikers. Even in prime conditions the hike can easily take 12-14 hours to complete and it will require heading out well before sunrise. Altitude sickness is also a very real threat on this hike. The trail starts at 8,374', gains 6,100', and ends at 14,505' and at this elevation it is common to feel affected by the lack of oxygen. Read up on the signs of altitude sickness, HACE, and HAPE before setting out and turn back if necessary. WebMD has a pretty informative article you can check out!

This is bear country, so if you are spending the night at any of the camps along the trail you will need to store all of your scented items in a bear canister. 

Visitors are also required to pack out all of their solid waste. When you pick up your permit at the visitor center they will provide you with wag bags for each member of your party. 

Gear to pack: 

  • The 10 Essentials
  • Plenty of water and food
  • Water filter
  • Trekking poles
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Headlamps
  • Ice axe (when there is snow on the trail)
  • Crampons (when there is snow on the trail)
  • Helmet (when there is snow on the trail)


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