Words can not really describe how beautiful hiking the John Muir Trail is. There are so many fantastic spots to camp, that picking the right one becomes contigenent on so many things; the weather, the clouds, how tired you are, etc. So this is only my opinion, but I will give you guys my list of what I think are the best campsites on the JMT (my personal favorites).
7. Lyell Fork
Lyell Fork was an amazing place. The hike in from Tuolumne Meadows is just beautiful. You hike in along the river with giant granite pools to swim in. We arrived into Lyell Forks as the sun was setting and were able to fish a bit. I caught my 1st fish of the JMT in Lyell Canyon.
6. Marie Lake
We didn’t actually camp at Marie Lakes bc we got caught in a storm the night before, but it is now on my list, as a place to go back for. It was just stunning and might have been my favorite lake of the entire trip. It’s right at the base of Seldon pass and has some shelter, so if you can make it and the weather is good, I would HIGHLY recommend camping there. You can’t beat the views.
5. Lower Cathedral Lake
Lower Cathedral Lake was a stunner mostly because it was our 2nd night on the trail and I had no idea it even existed. We were debating whether or not to go down to Lower Cathedral Lake from Upper Cathedral Lake and it was totally worth it to do so. You end up right below Cathedral Peak. There is granite everywhere, the water is warm, and the views are great. The lake forms almost an infinity pool on one side. Very cool!
4. Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes lived up to all the expectations I had for it. I had heard a lot about it bc it’s a popular California loop. The entire hike up to Rae Lakes from the Baxter Creek Bridge is just beautiful. You kind of stumble upon these lakes, that are some of the prettiest lakes I’ve ever seen. Meander through fields of streams and then come up on Rae Lakes, which are surrounded by peaks. It’s an awesome place to swim, but it is definitely crowded, so beware. If you’re not into the crowds, stop before you get to Rae Lakes or go all the way to the end of the lakes. There are some secluded spots at the very end before you start up Glen Pass.
3. Guitar Lake
I think Guitar Lake tugs on some heart strings for me, which is probably why it is so high on my list. Not only is it beautiful, but if you’re doing the JMT south bound, it is probably your last night on the trail. It’s the highest you will sleep and there is a lot of anticipation for that night. We hit the weather window just right so we had a totally clear sky from when we arrived until after we summited Whitney. The stars shined brighter then I had ever seen, and the water was bluer than I could have imagined. The atmosphere at guitar lake is pretty magical. Everyone is stoked to be there and it’s where you can sort of get your first glimpse of Whitney. That is if you can find it 🙂
2. Lake Virginia
Lake Virginia was an awesome place to camp. We had actually stopped for the day at Purple Lake, which is about a mile before Virginia, but my hiking partner convinced me to keep going and I was glad she did. The lake sits in this depression and where it isn’t lake, it is beautiful rolling green grass with little streams winding through it, surrounded by huge peaks. There are TONS of awesome sites there and the sunset was amazing!
1. Evolution Lake
Evolution Lake was by far my favorite. It could have been the epic sunset we watched there, it could have been the shooting stars reflecting off the lake, but regardless you will not be disappointed. There are tons of good campsites. We lucked out with ours, which was tucked right in behind some boulders. We had been told the whole trip that the 2nd half was more extreme in everyday: Better views, higher passes, longer days, and it would all start hiking out of Muir Trail Ranch. Well they were all right! The first night out after Muir Trail Ranch was my favorite campsite of the whole trip. I could never have dreamed of a more beautiful campsite.