Chapter 1: Before and After

  • A couple of pages to introduce the book and to get you excited about hiking this hike.

Chapter 2: Should You go?

  • I’ll give you four great reasons to do this, and concede four reasons why it may not be such a good idea.

Chapter 3: 5 Critical Decisions

  • Before you even start planning you need to answer some questions and make some decisions.  I’ll submit them for your consideration, discuss options, and even make recommendations.

Chapter 4: Wilderness Permits

  • Next to actually walking the trail, the hardest part of your hike will be getting a permit. Learn how to maximize your chances, and learn about the alternatives available in case you aren’t as lucky as you hoped.

Chapter 5: Gear

  • I’ll discuss the gear you’ll need, and introduce you to the Gear Triangle, a great tool to evaluate your choices.  We’ll hit everything from tents to backpacks to water purification to sleep systems to trekking poles to socks.

Chapter 6: Navigation

  • Is it easy to get lost? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a GPS? Should I take a smartphone? All of that, as well as how the diagram, below, can sometimes be even more useful than a map.


Chapter 7: Safety

  • Backpacking is not an extreme sport, and the Sierra Nevada is about as benign a wilderness that you will find, but hiking the JMT is not risk free.  In this chapter you’ll learn the two major causes of injury and death in the backcountry, the sorts of situations that you should worry about, and at least one concern to put out of your mind.

Chapter 8: About the Wildlife

  • One of the joys of the hike are the critters, great and small, you will encounter. In this chapter you will learn a little about the bears, the birds, and find out how I was terrorized by a squirrel.

Chapter 9: A Little JMT History

  • Who are the passes named for? (You will find that the names of the passes are among the most memorable of the names you will read on your map.) What is the story behind the Muir Hut? Why does Donald Downs have a monument next to the trail, miles from the nearest road?

Chapter 10: The Hike

  • The first nine chapters are about getting ready, but what is spending two-to-four weeks on the trail really like?  Strap on your virtual hiking boots and join me as we travel all the way from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley, to the summit of Mount Whitney and beyond.  There’s a picture on almost every page, as well as pages dedicated to my favorite spots with maps.  We’ll cover camp routines and the pro’s and con’s of the various resupply points.

Appendix 1: Trail Guides

  • “Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail” is not a trail guide. You very likely are going to want one to carry with you on the hike, and ebooks are not particularly well suited for that.  I’ll give recommendations concerning four different guides as well as a relatively little known source of almost unlimited, current information regarding the trail.

Appendix 2: An Itinerary

  • What itinerary would I suggest for an average hiker who wanted to successfully finish the hike with a minimum of pain and suffering, spend nights in scenic and interesting places, average around twelve miles a day (including a longish last day), and work in some rest days and half days?

Appendix 3: Packing List

  • Everything I carried on the hike, from my boots  (50 3/4 ounces) and backpack (44 ounces), to my medical insurance card (0.1 ounce).  Total backpack weight (without food and water): a little over 26 pounds.

Appendix 4: Getting to the Trailhead

  • Some ideas on how to get from home to the trailhead, and from the other end of the trail to home.

Appendix 5: Video Accounts of Each Day

  • Links to eighteen video accounts of each day of my hike.  These are not videos of the hike, but videos recorded each night in the campground, discussing the terrain, scenery, challenges and the wildlife I saw.


A quick note regarding format:Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail” is delivered to purchasers via PDF.  That choice is driven primarily by the number of photos, maps and other illustrations (one on almost every page).  Some e-book readers, particularly devices that are designed primarily for the rendering of text (like Sony Readers, Nooks and most Kindles) would strip out the photos entirely, allow them to show up wherever the software decided on the page, or render them in grayscale on a monochrome device.  That is not the book I wrote, nor is it one of which I could be proud.

The absolute best way to read this e-book is on a computer screen.  The pages were laid out and the photos were post-processed with that in mind.  The perfect way to read it is on a tablet!  For those of you with iPads, it will use every square inch of your screen.

The copyright notice also allows you to print a copy with a color printer.  I tried that myself, just to see what it looked like, and was surprised at how good it turned out on a color laser printer.

If you do not have a device that will read PDF files without reformatting them, this book may not be the best choice.


  1. Paul LaRusso
    Paul LaRusso November 23, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    If I have the first addition do I have to pay full price to get the second?
    Paul LaRusso

  2. Richard Moran
    Richard Moran June 3, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Great read. I had edition from 2015 when I did the JMT for first time, unfortunately can’t locate it on my phone anymore. We’re headed back this September to do HST to Whitney then JMT nobo. How is newer edition different other than permits?


  3. […] while you’re over there, check out Rippel’s book Planning Your Thru-Hike of the John Muir Trail, a great resource to help you plan your JMT […]

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