Seeing and Climbing Mt. Whitney

a sunrise illuminates rocky peaks
Whitney Sunrise

Steven Gadecki


Seeing Mt. Whitney

Many who visit these parks are interested in seeing Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the "lower 48" states. However, Mt. Whitney is on the far eastern boundary of these parks. A chain of mountains that runs north/south through the center of Sequoia National Park called the Great Western Divide blocks views of Mt. Whitney from park roads. The best place from which to see Mt. Whitney is the Interagency Visitor Center on Highway 395, just south of the town of Lone Pine on the east side of the Sierra.

Climbing Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Most people who climb Mt. Whitney start from the east side of the Sierra and remain in Inyo National Forest throughout their hike.

Because it is the most frequently climbed mountain peak in the Sierra Nevada, a permit system is in place to minimize the impact of day-hikers on the Mt. Whitney backcountry. All hikers entering the Mt. Whitney zone, including day-hikers, are required to obtain a permit.

If you begin at Whitney Portal, in Inyo National Forest on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, you should apply for a Mt. Whitney permit from Inyo National Forest. Contact the Mt. Whitney Ranger District, PO Box 8, Lone Pine, CA 93545, 760-876-6200, for additional information about this trailhead.

If you begin in Sequoia National Park and approach Mt. Whitney from the west by travelling across the Sierra Nevada range, you should apply for a wilderness permit from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

Trail Routes

The shortest and most popular route to climb Mt. Whitney is a 10.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine on the east side of the Sierra. Ice axes and crampons are needed in spring and early summer, but technical climbing equipment is not usually necessary between mid-July and early October. The elevation at the trailhead is 8360' (2550 meters). The elevation at the summit is 14,494' (4418 meters).

There are other routes besides Whitney Portal that lead to Mt. Whitney. They begin at less heavily-used trailheads, but require a much longer hike to reach the summit. The High Sierra Trail leaves from Giant Forest on the west side of Sequoia National Park, and is about 60 miles (100 km) one-way. It takes a minimum of 6 days (one way) or 10 days (round trip) to complete. The Sequoia Parks Conservancy's bookstore offers books and maps for planning hikes to Mt. Whitney and elsewhere in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon areas.

Last updated: July 21, 2023

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