The JMT Wilderness Conservancy


Dedicated to the conservation of the John Muir Trail (est.1915)
for people to enjoy for the centuries to come
by caring for the wilderness, wildlife and waters
along its path in the high Sierra Nevada of California

CLICK on the image above
to see a brief documentary on the route and construction
of the historic JOHN MUIR TRAIL, now 104 years old!

  • The red line is the JMT itself.
  • The sage-green shaded areas are the national forests, Inyo and Sierra National Forest
  • The soft pink shaded areas are Yosemite National Park to the north and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park to the south.


The John Muir Trail runs from Yosemite Valley (4,035’ elevation) approximately 213.7 miles to the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505’ elevation).

May 17, 1915 by a bill in the California State Legislature, signed by Governor Hiram Johnson

July 1, 1908 (LeConte Expedition)

213.7 miles – From the terminus at the LeConte Memorial Lodge (now known as the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center) to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Yosemite National Park
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park
Inyo National Forest
Sierra National Forest
Devils Postpile National Monument
Ansel Adams Wilderness
John Muir Wilderness

Cathedral Pass (9,700’ elevation)
Donohue Pass (11,056’ elevation)
Island Pass (10,205’ elevation)
Silver Pass (10,895’ elevation)
Selden Pass (10,880’ elevation)
Muir Pass (11,995’ elevation)
Mather Pass (12,100’ elevation)
Pinchot Pass (12,130’ elevation)
Glen Pass (11,978’ elevation)
Forester Pass (13,180’ elevation – the highest pass traveled in America)
Mt. Whitney (14,505’ elevation – the tallest peak in the lower 48 States)

TOTAL CLIMB (traveling south): 46,000 feet
TOTAL DESCENT (traveling south): 38,000 feet


Why a non-profit foundation?

Nearly every national park or trail has a non-profit foundation or conservancy working to raise funds and organize volunteers for its long-term maintenance and conservation. The John Muir Trail has never had one focused solely on its needs. The federal agencies tasked with these responsibilities for our national parks and trails, the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service, depend on this private support to supplement their funding and resources. While the federal budget is constantly under review and stress from administration to administration, these private dollars can boost their scheduled maintenance and conservation efforts, fund studies or initiatives that may be outside the agencies’ budgets, and moderate the impact of any federal belt-tightening.

Why now?

Requests for use and actual use on the John Muir Trail have risen with such sustained volume that it risks overflowing the capacity of the trail itself. From 2014 to 2015, the National Park Service reported reservation data for JMT permits increased 242%. Quotas and lotteries have been imposed at trailheads and the termini in an attempt to measure and moderate the number of hikers and backpackers on the JMT. Meanwhile ever more applications are being received for the pre-existing trailhead quotas. In 2017, nearly 45,000 people entered the lottery for an overnight permit at the southern JMT terminus, Whitney Portal, only 24% of which received a permit. Applications for JMT hikes departing from the northern terminus, Yosemite Valley have a daily denial rate of 95% or higher. The majority of people who are unable to get a permit, even after serial applications, typically enter through one of the lateral access trails putting increased environmental pressure on those trails as well.

The Foundation would like to add resources to the sustainable management of the wilderness in order to support the rise in public demand. The broader area of the JMT Backcountry including the lateral access trails is extensive and requires substantial federal resources and staffing to assess and manage. The John Muir Trail Foundation hopes to provide additional and much-needed private funds and volunteers to assist the federal agencies in their efforts.

Below is the current data available from the National Park Service concerning the trend of public use of the John Muir Trail.

2002-2006: average number of people using the JMT was about 1,000 per year
2006-2009: number of people nearly doubled to almost 2,000 per year
2009-2014: number of people increased to 3,500 per year
2015-2016: number of people leveled out just above 3,500 per year
2002-2006: average number of people using the JMT was about 1,000 per year
2006-2009: number of people nearly doubled to almost 2,000 per year
2009-2014: number of people increased to 3,500 per year
2015-2016: number of people leveled out just above 3,500 per year


The Conservancy would like to acknowledge the following people who helped with the initial organization, the research into the history of the John Muir Trail and the design of the artistic elements of this undertaking. Without their support and guidance, we would not have been able to move forward so quickly.

Ellen Byrne, Librarian Emeritus and Therese Dunn, Librarian from the 
William E. Colby Memorial Library, Sierra Club, Oakland CA
Bruce Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director, the Sierra Club, Oakland CA
Frank Dean, President, the Yosemite Conservancy, San Francisco, CA
Susan Kamprath, Director of Operations, Earth Island Institute, Berkeley, CA
Tim Davis, PhD, the National Park Service, Historic American Landscapes Survey, Washington D.C.
John Dittli Photography, Crowley Lake, CA
Jesus McDonald and the team at JRM Web Marketing, Menlo Park, CA