• 2014
  • Dec
  • 1

JMT - John Muir Trail 2014 - Gear Review - Elizabeth Wenk - the essential guide to hiking America’s most famous trail

The essential guide to hiking America’s most famous trail

When hiking the John Muir Trail this year - were looking for a good guidebook and after a lot of reading we settled for

The essential guide to hiking America’s most famous trail
by Elizabeth Wenk and Kathy Morey

The book

The book consists of 4 sections

  • General Logistics - A section outlining trail logistics
  • Trail description north to south - about 80 pages
  • Trail description south to north - about 80 pages
  • The Appendix -probably the most useful part of the book

So most people will probably not take the full book with them on the hike, since only about 100 pages are useful on the trail.

General Logistics

This section outlines some very basic planning instructions on direction, timing, permits, and transportation. The section also outlines basic trail information such as food storage, campfires, and water.

So if this is not your first sierra hike you will not be getting a lot of meaningful information on this.

The hiking guide

The hiking guide makes up the core of the book - 80 pages per directions. While you would be expecting this to be the most useful part of the book, I got much more information out of the appendix than out of this section.

Elizabeth Wenk wrote a her Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between rocks and plants, and she is using this information extensively in this section, you will learn how the plants growing in any specific area of the hike are related to the specific rocks you are climbing over.
Unfortunately Elisabeth is going into excruciating detail about the plants living along the trail, while she is only giving a high level overview of animals and neglects to mention them when you pass through their habitat.

So what out for the yellow legged frog in the high altitude lakes (as you climb towards Muir Pass) and make sure to notice their gigantic tadpoles. Despite their large numbers you will not find them mentioned in the book.

The book does however give useful information on campsites and river crossings. The fauna sections I suggested to skim or skip entirely.


The appendix is actually the best part of the book. It details the location of campsites using coordinate, so you can find them onthe maps, and provides information on the resupply spots - so mostly the Muir Trail Ranch, and Reds Meadow.

Both excellent spots to resupply.


The book is somewhat useful, and has up-to-date information in it. Elisabeth seems to be hiking the trail at least once a year. The flora (and there is little of it as you get into the higher elevations) is much over-emphasized and fauna barely mentioned.

Nevertheless - the book makes for a good read, at night in you sleeping bag, getting ready for the next day.
We did in fact scan its pages, so we could read it on an amazon Kindle - which by itself was lighter than the book.

You can find more on how to turn a book into an ebook for your personal use in a future post.


The latest edition of book is now also available for kindle (here - so you will not need to scan it yourself: