Mount Whitney isn’t for everyone. Let’s get that out there right now. At 14,505 feet, it is the highest point in the continental United States of America and the only mountain outside of Alaska that soars above 14,500. But for those who want to hike Mount Whitney in one day, this is the guide for you!
The Mount Whitney hike is considered one of the most challenging day hikes in the United States, and it tests your physical endurance and mental stamina. At 22 miles round trip, this is a full-day adventure. I hope you’re ready for hiking Mt Whitney in a day!
All you need to know about hiking Mount Whitney in a day
Commonly asked questions about hiking Mt Whitney in a single day
Can you hike Mount Whitney in 1 day?
First things first. Yes, you can hike and summit Mount Whitney in a single long day. Hiking Mt Whitney in a day is a beast, and we’ll touch on it later, but it can be done. You need to be in peak physical shape, have good weather, and have your body respond when pushed.
How tall is Mt. Whitney?
Mount Whitney is the tallest point in the Lower 48 at 14,505 feet. So regardless of where you live, you will feel the altitude. The last 1,500 feet kicked my butt really hard! Hiking Mt Whitney in a day means covering over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.
How Long Does Hiking Mt Whitney in a day?
I started the hike at 2 am and completed it around 7 pm. Including breaks (I was on the summit for over an hour) took me 17 hours to complete. Many people can do it between 14-16 hours, depending on your fitness level.
The first 3-4 miles were pretty straightforward, but as I approached 12,000 feet and up, it slowed down. The last half of hiking Mt Whitney in a day was as strenuous as any hike I’ve ever done.
Related: Training for Mount Whitney
How hard is it to climb Mt. Whitney?
Technically, it’s not hard at all. If the 99 Switchbacks are clear, you don’t need any special equipment. However, it’s still physically demanding and one of the toughest day hikes you can do in America. Regardless of how well you train, you will be tired summiting Mt. Whitney and feel dead the next day.
Mount Whitney Hiking Details
Distance: 22 miles round trip
Highest Point: 14,505 feet
Elevation Gain: 6,700+
Difficulty: Brutally Strenuous
Beauty: Wow. Wow. Wow.
Travel Distance: 20 minutes from Lone Pine
Planning Your Summit of Mount Whitney in one day
Because this is a “day hike,” it doesn’t take too much prep. The essential aspects to figure out are straightforward.
Where to stay before hiking Mt Whitney?
There are various lodging options. I personally camped at Whitney Portal to help my body adjust to the altitude. The campsite is about 8,600 feet in elevation. There are also hotels in Lone Pine.
I would recommend getting that locked in as soon as you can. Furthermore, I suggest arriving a day or two in advance and spending some time at Whitney Portal. Then, walk around a little on the trail to get the blood flowing at a higher altitude.
Related: Backpacking to Big Pine Lakes
Check the Weather
What’s the forecast looking like? Down below in Lone Pine, it doesn’t matter too much. But up top, you really, really don’t want to be caught in a thunderstorm. If you’re hiking Mt Whitney in a day and the weather looks bad at Trail Camp, do not continue.
How is your Mount Whitney hiking route?
If you’re going in late summer or the fall, you’ll probably do the 99 switchbacks. The Chute in the snow might be your preferred choice if you go earlier in the season. I took The Chute route on July 4, 2019, due to icy conditions on the switchbacks.
The Chute is steep, so ensure you have an ice axe, spikes, and a helmet, and trust your abilities.
When is your start time for hiking Mt Whitney in a day?
I’d suggest starting no later than 2 am. This will give you plenty of time to get to the summit and off of it before the chance of afternoon t-storms.
The Mount Whitney Hike – On the Trail
The first half of the hike up to Trail Camp is quick and easy. The trail is well-marked, and the altitude shouldn’t give you too much of an inconvenience. However, once you get to Trail Camp, rest up, fuel up, and fill up. This is important. There’s no more water for the next 5 miles, and staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining a high level of performance at higher elevations.
What route are you taking?
Now, depending on your hiking season will determine your route.
- Early Season/Heavy Snow Season
- Most people will take the chute in this case. It’s more direct but also quite steep. You’re doing 1,500+ vertical feet in a mile. Plus, it’s slow going in the snow. From trail camp to the ridgeline took us two hours. Ice axe and crampons/microspikes are mandatory. I’d also suggest a helmet.
- Later Season/Light Snow Season
- Later in the year, most people will take the usual trail all the way up. This includes the 99 switchbacks. I don’t know this route, as I took the chute, but it should be marked. I assume you could still take the chute route if you’d like, but I’m not sure many would recommend it. But personal choice!
Once you get to the ridgeline (Trail Crest), you’re two difficult miles from the top. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, two miles, I can run this in 17 minutes or less.” Nah. This is tough. The trail to the Mount Whitney summit is well maintained, so you won’t have any issues with traction, but hiking around 14,000 feet will be slow. Take your time and use the breaks to take photos and soak in the beauty of Sequoia National Park.
I took plenty of breaks, and the final two miles took between 90 minutes and two hours. (We had to strap on microspikes again for a short portion.)
Expectations for the Mount Whitney hike
This is the granddaddy of them all. Be ready for a long-fucking-day on the mountain. And remember, the top is only halfway. But on the flip side, it’s absolutely amazing. You’re standing at the highest point in the lower 48, which is super cool!
Unless you’re an experienced high-elevation mountaineer, Mount Whitney will make you winded and exhausted no matter how good of a shape you’re in. This is because you haven’t been training at the altitude you’ll be hiking. Be okay with walking slowly. This is the true definition of “it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
Additionally, don’t forget to fill up water on your day down, and don’t stop eating some food. 11 miles is a long way not to eat; by the end, you’ll be running on fumes after hiking Mt Whitney in a day.
What to Bring for Day Hiking Mt Whitney
As I mentioned above, there’s not a huge amount you have to bring to hike Mount Whitney in one day.
- 32L – 40L backpack
- Water bladder&bottle and water filter (refill at Trail Camp and any of the streams you find below it)
- Sunglasses, Hat, face protection, sunblock
- Wind Jacket (Rain Jacket too if you think it could rain)
- Gloves and Beanie (for the early start)
- Food & Electrolytes
- Hiking Poles
- Ice Axe and Crampons/Microspikes (if snowy conditions)
- Wipes/Toilet Paper
Hiking Mt Whitney in a day – Wrapping Up:
Hiking in the snow is tremendously more difficult than doing the normal Mout Whitney hiking trail. If you can take the 99 Switchbacks, do it. Going up the chute added another hour or so to our time. For the way down, we also glissaded, but it was very fragmented as my group was inexperienced and took a long time to do.
Overall, you’ll love hiking Mt Whitney in a day. Have a great time!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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