Climbing Mount Whitney

Climb Mt Whitney | Statistics | Elevation | Wildlife | Trails | Maps and Topography

Do you want to stand on top of the tallest mountain
in the contiguous United States?

  (14,497 ft / 4418,69 m)


You walk there.

Walk, even in one day.

Test your limits,

Accept the challenge,

It’s up to you;

Prepare to ascend Whitney…

"To know the road ahead, ask those coming back."
— Chinese proverb

Hiking & Backpacking Essentials Book

Your “how-to”, “step-by-step” trail guide to take you to the trailheads, Above…then beyond

Climb Mt Whitney

Mountain climbers will appreciate the steep eastern side of the mountain, while backpackers and hikers undertaking the challenging hike on the western side of Mt. Whitney can expect to view picturesque sunrises, giant granite peaks and even encounter strange little animals called marmots. The main trail can be hiked in 1 day, but most people complete it in 2-3 days.

Mt. Whitney , east of the California town of Lone Pine along US Highway 395 is most easily accessed by the Whitney Portal Trailhead (8,365 ft), 13 miles east of town. This granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Range, located in the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia National Park (its western face), is the highest point south of Alaska. Mt. Whitney is one of the most popular wilderness destinations in the world! Backpackers and climbers visit Whitney from all corners of the globe. While accessible without extensive training or technical equipment, summiting Mt. Whitney still requires planning, permits, practice and preparation.

Mount Whitney Statistics

 36 34'42.9 N, 118 17'31.2 W
Type: Granite
Age of Rock: Cretaceous
Range: Sierra Nevada
First Ascent: 1873 by Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Lucas
Name: Named after state geologist of California, Josiah Whitney
Trail Difficulty Strenuous
Peak season May to November

Mount Whitney Elevation

Depending on which graphic survey you use, Mt. Whitney ‘s elevation is 4421 meters (or 4418 meters) or 14, 505 ft. (or 14, 494 ft.). Or 14,496.811 feet.

Whitney’s height has been established and revised since the peak was named by a variety of different and increasingly technologically sophisticated methods which accounts for the changes (source:

The Whitney Portal Store will sell you a shirt that states, “ELEVATION 14,497.61ft” ## FOR NOW (source: shirt purchased at the Whitney Portal store July 2007).


Level party at the top of Mount Whitney.
Level party of John Brittain, C&GS Season's Report Brittain
Image ID: theb1789, NOAA's Historic Coast & Geodetic Survey (C&GS) Collection, June 1928

Mount Whitney Wildlife

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

  • Bears
  • Marmots
  • Mice
  • Squirrels
  • Quail
  • Robins
  • Deer
  • Blue Jays

You will need to take precautions for bears and marmots!

Marmots will chew through your tent to get to anything that smells interesting — leave the door open so they don’t make their own entrance.

Bear Vaults: a Mt. Whitney Requirement

Food and even empty food containers (such as ice chests) must be stowed in bear proof boxes at the Whitney Portal, not in your car (you can be cited if you fail to do so even if the bear has already ripped your car a new sunroof ); bear canisters must be utilized by hikers on the trails unless they have a one-day permit only and even then, consider using one.

Mount Whitney Trails

There are a great many routes to ascend Mt. Whitney, such as the “Shaky-Leg Crack Variation” or the “Cardiovascular Seizure”.

Mt. Whitney Trail is the most accessible, fastest and most popular; the other approaches require greater time, cover more distance, or mountaineering expertise and technical gear.


A permit is required for any descents along the Mt. Whitney Trail, no matter your starting point.

Mount Whitney Trail Crest
Sequoia National Park meets the John Muir Wilderness

Mount Whitney Maps and Topography