Hiking the Mt. Whitney Trail

Lone Pine, CA

There are two trails that begin at the Whitney Portal, 8,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We did one of the trails last week with Eric and Laurel.  This morning we headed back up to the portal to hike the other trail, the Mt. Whitney Trail.  If you hike the full length of this trail it is eleven miles to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the 48 contiguous states, with an elevation gain of over 6,100 feet.  We may be crazy, but we’re not that crazy.  Our goal today was to hike up three miles to Lone Pine Lake, with a gain in elevation of just under 2,000 feet.

The Mount Whitney Trailhead

Heading out on the trail

The arrow indicates the location of Lone Pine Lake

Going to the top of the mountain? Bring your own toilet facility.

The temperature at the trailhead was only in the forties and we thought it would get colder as we climbed.  So we came prepared with multiple jackets and gloves.  But the sky was clear and the sun kept things nice and warm allowing us to put the extra clothing in our packs.

Crossing Carillon Creek

The view east of the Alabama Hills and Inyo Mountains

This hike is all uphill to the lake, mainly through a series of long switchbacks.  The next two photos show hikers below us and above us on the switchbacks.

Hard to see but there are two hikers below us in the center of the photo

Looking up to a hiker on the trail above us

Long log bridge over Lone Pine Creek

After a long three miles uphill, we came to a sign pointing the way to the lake.  We could see water down a hill to the east.

The beauty of the lake and the mountains around it made the hike up the mountain worth while.

Lone Pine Lake

Lunch with a view

A number of hearty high altitude trees surrounded the lake.  The stumps and twisted trunks reminded us of the Bristlecones we saw a few weeks ago near Bishop.

The view to the east from near Lone Pine Lake

Looking across the lake to the west

After lunch and some exploration around the lake we headed back down the trail, glad that gravity was now our friend.

Shade on the trail with sun on the mountains

Back to the trailhead!

This hike is rated “moderate” by some hiking sites.  We agree with that rating as the trail is well-maintained and easy to follow.  Elevation gain is the only difficult part of the hike.

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31 Responses to Hiking the Mt. Whitney Trail

  1. pmbweaver says:

    Portable toilet…how unique.

    The trail is awesome with a gorgeous vista. I love looking at the Bristlecones. The colors are beautiful and the shape amazing.

    I wouldn’t want to hike over that bridge unless I did it on all fours. Looks dangerous.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, weren’t the portable toilets…interesting!

      We were surprised that these gorgeous tree trunk weren’t bristlecones. We haven’t found out what they are yet.

      The long tree trunk bridge was very uncomfortable. Luckily, there wasn’t much water and it wasn’t deep.

  2. Jodee Gravel says:

    Another beautiful hike! We did the same one, only stopped at the Portal 🙂 The difference in temps between shade and sun is amazing up there! Beautiful photos of the lake :-)))))

  3. Ingrid says:

    What fabulous scenery and a wonderful hike. Those trees create a unique form of art… natures finest creations.

  4. Sherry says:

    Love the bring your own bag descriptions. Beautiful pictures of the lake and the gnarled trees. Most certainly worth the up hill climb especially since it was up first rather than at the end.

  5. allisonmohr says:

    I really wanted to get a picture of the gaps between the logs making up that bridge. But the whole thing was giving me the willies, so I just kept moving. It’s just a lovely hike, we liked it a lot.

  6. When we did that trail in Oct 2013 we had to trudge through snow much of the way. That lake still looks gorgeous even without the snow. After those three miles of uphill we couldn’t imagine going all the way to Mt. Whitney!

    • placestheygo says:

      We waiting to hike this trail because of the snow fall right after we arrived. When the snow line moved above 10,000 ft and the temps were in the low 70’s, we knew it was time to head up! It turned out to be the perfect day:) But some snow around the lake would have been nice.

  7. Debbie L says:

    Another fabulous post!

  8. I spent so much time in the Eastern Sierra before I moved to Texas. This post and those of the other full-timers there recently really make me miss it.

  9. Yes, that would be crazy to go to the top! 😉 I had to use one of those potty bags, fortunately it was at a place where you could put over a toilet seat inside a toilet stall! TMI???? 😉

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Lisa, who would be crazy enough to go to the top…know anyone:) I can’t imagine getting to the lake split and still having eight more miles to go!!! You rocked it!! Glad you were able to put the bag over the toilet seat!

  10. Laurel says:

    I’m soooo jealous!!!! We really wanted to hike that trail with you. But I’m happy the snow level receded so that you were able to do it. Such a beautiful hike, and the lake is gorgeous. Thanks for taking us along with you through the blog! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      We would have had so much fun hiking this together. The trail wasn’t difficult at all. The switchbacks were very long so that took the steepness out of it. The hardest part for me was all the rock step areas made for people over six feet tall!! Thank goodness for hiking poles! Put this on your list for your return:)

  11. LuAnn says:

    This was a wonderful hike. I too can’t imagine hiking all the way to the top of Mt. Whitney. Thanks for transporting me back to a wonderful place.

    • placestheygo says:

      We had a perfect day for this hike:) We were all alone at the lake which really added to the magic. I was surprised how easy it was. Whoever built the trail did a great job with the switchbacks. But I do wish someone would build rock steps for short people:)

  12. Lenore says:

    Awesome hike you guys. But I thought for sure you were “crazy” enough to go for the top! By the way, I always love to see your “lunch with a view” photos.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Lenore! Maybe if it had been 11 miles round trip you would have seen us at the top, but not 22 miles with that much gain! Our hike was just perfect:) Glad you enjoy our “lunch with a view” photos:)

  13. What a beautiful hike! Im so jealous! We have not been hiking yet.
    There are some areas you have explored that we have not been, which makes for a logical conclusion we need to revisit the area.
    All pics are great especially the ones at the lake, those boots sure so belong there.

  14. furrygnome says:

    Love those pictures of the twisted tree trunks!

  15. Nancy says:

    What a beautiful hike! The toilet bags are quite interesting…
    Those trees look very much like manzanita trees. The beauty is unbelievable!

  16. Mrs. KKB says:

    This is a beautiful hike that’s on my bucket list for sure – knowing that the lottery system for permits to hike up to the summit is very cumbersome and difficult it’s definitely good and easier alternative. The “WAG Bags” are required to go to the summit, which makes sense LOL – don’t know anybody that could hold it in for 22 miles. The Permit area starts right at Lone Pine Lake… I hope they never start it from the Portal. Love the description and photos!!!

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