The High Sierra Trail (HST) spans 73 miles crossing the Sierras from west to east, starting at Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park. It crosses the great Western Divide, climbs the Kern Canyon, and summits Mt. Whitney before exiting at the Portal. It makes for a beautiful and scenic backpacking trip featuring stunning lakes, passes, forests, and the tallest summit in the lower 48 states. The views aren’t handed over without some amount of pain though, the trail starts around 7000 feet and includes several climbs and descents before the Mt. Whitney summit at 14505 feet.
We completed the HST in 5 days averaging 15 miles daily. At the time it was my longest ever backpacking trip so that was a good number of days to be out in the wilderness, although it really pushed my limits physically.
I felt really proud to reach the Mt. Whitney summit having completed the entire HST but then I started to hear other hikers talking about their own trips finishing the John Muir Trail! It sounded pretty crazy at the time, spending several weeks backpacking in the Sierras. But soon after completing the HST I planned a thru hike of the JMT as well. The HST was the perfect stepping stone for longer trips, but it certainly stands on its own as a fantastic journey.>> Click here for my JMT trip summary page
Click on an itinerary day or map icon to read a detailed description of that day.
Dates hiked: 7/26/12 to 7/30/12
This trip was fairly easy to plan except for transportation! I loved the fact that this hike crosses the entire Sierras from west to east, but that also places the trailheads a 6 hour drive apart. To start planning your trip first consider a few things:
I have previously hiked on the HST twice as short weekend trips and had no trouble picking up a walk-in permit in Sequoia. If you are planning to do the entire HST I would recommend securing a permit in advance, and they become available on March 1st at midnight. See links below for the permit information and availability.
Starting at Mt. Whitney requires entry in the lottery process which has an approximately 40% success rate. The lottery closes on March 15.
This is the hardest aspect of planning a HST thru hike, but fortunately we had some very generous friends in LA who were willing to help both drop us off in Sequoia and leave us a car at Mt. Whitney. Those may not be options for everyone so I’ve included some transportation details below. If you are somewhat local it might be easiest to leave a car at one end or try to convince a friend to drop you off.
Another option is to find a group to hike the opposite direction and trade keys!
Mt. Whitney Trailhead
The following is a list of gear necessary for the HST that may not be required on other trips.
National Geographic Trail Map
Always carry a map! This folded map covers both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, including the entire High Sierra Trail through Mt. Whitney Portal.