Hiking Mount Whitney

Trailhead location: Whitney Portal can be reached by driving 13 miles west of Lone Pine on Whitney Portal Road. The road is usually open from May to early November. In winter, the last six miles are not plowed.

Trailhead elevation: 8,365 feet

Summit elevation: 14,497 feet

Distance: 22 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous, especially for those not acclimated to high altitude. Altitude sickness is common.

Season: The trail is usually free of snow from mid-July to early October. Ice patches can remain on the switchbacks above Trail Camp all summer.

Reservations: Permits are required year round for all visitors entering the Mount Whitney Zone. Daily quotas are in effect from May 1 to Nov. 1.

Lottery: Applications must be postmarked in February and accompanied by a $15 per person payment (returned if no reservation is made). Lottery results available by April 1. Go to www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo for details and to print lottery application.

Weather: Summer days may be warm at lower elevations but temperatures at the summit are usually cool. Night temperatures often drop to freezing or below, even in summer. Afternoon thunderstorms are common and snowstorms can occur anytime.

Equipment: Rain gear, sturdy shoes and warm clothes are essential. Sunglasses, sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), a hat or visor, and mosquito repellent are advisable. Ice axe and crampons usually are needed in spring and early summer.

Water: Available near the trail until Trail Camp. Giardia -- a parasitic disease -- is common, so boil or filter all drinking water.

Contact info: Mount Whitney Ranger District, P.O. Box 8, Lone Pine 93545; (619) 876-6200.

Maps: USGS, Mount Whitney and Mount Langley; Tom Harrison Cartography, Mt. Whitney High Country

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