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children on the j muir trail

Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2005 3:16 pm
by varnes-epstein
Hey there,
We are planning a long hike on the J Muir trail next summer with three homeschooled, intrepid traveler, organic farm kids: 7. 9, and 10 yrs old. We'll be modifying the hike to a reasonable 5 miles a day. I'm looking for general advice and a link to any families that may have taken on a similar challenge in the Sierra Nevadas. My husband and I are experienced back country packers/canoers but have lost a few brain cells since having kids and need to get back up to speed in the adventure trail common sense department.
Thanks all for your time
Lisa y familia

Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:53 pm
by ndwoods
If you remember the old backpacker series...trailside adventures or something like that, there was a family that hiked from Tahoe to Yosemite with 2 girls 9 and 12 or something like that. You could probably still get a copy of it...their girls did fine. It was called Family Wilderness Adventure parts 1 and 2. 2 parts cuz each show was 30 min and their adventure was 60 min. I did a lot of hiking with my kids, and now my granddaughter, but never did the JMT.

Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:28 pm
by burtonfm
Last August on the top of Forrester Pass, I met a family with three kids aged 9, 10, and about 12. I remember I was sitting down eating an early lunch when out of nowhere this little kid comes marching up the pass. Shortly afterward, the rest of the family showed up. They explained to me they were hiking the JMT in under 2 weeks. Wow. The day I saw them they were hoofing it 17 miles. The point of my story is... if kids are prepared physically and mentally, they can travel much more than 5 miles per day. As parents, you'll need to assess their mental attitude and physical fitness to determine how many miles a day you can hike. But, if your kids are anything like the ones I saw on Forrester Pass, you could do 10 or more miles a day with no problem. Before you hit the JMT, I'd take some shorter duration practice trips to test endurance, equipment, food, etc.

Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:07 pm
by copeg
Here's a link to someone that hiked the JMT with her 12 year old daughter this last year. She posted a some very nice photos (link below), and trip reports in the forums at (you have to really dig to find them though). I know her and her daughter were interested in writing a thorough trip report before they started the trial, but I don't know what came of that after the trail...

children on JMT

Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:23 pm
by gdurkee
I've seen a fair number of kids with parents doing the JMT. With a few exceptions, 9 is probably as young as they usually are. Seven might be pushing it, but what the heck. Try it and just have places to bail out if necessary. It would be ideal if you could get some friends to come in with caches and meet you along the trail. The problem with kids that young is the parents end up carrying the majority of the weight. 9 & 12 can probably carry a semi-substantial pack (clothes and sleeping bag), but 7 will have to be pretty light. That still leaves you with tent, almost all the food, stove, bear canisters etc.

Five miles sounds great if you can work that out. It's not clear if you're taking them out hiking already. That would be another consideration. A few shake-down hikes out of Tuolumne or somewhere.

Good luck,


Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 7:23 am
by Rosabella
I came from a large family (13 kids) and we backpacked every summer. The first time we attempted a thru-hike on the JMT I was 16. There were eight of us, and the youngest was 8. We had a wonderful time, and although we ended up exiting the trail at South Lake, It was one of the most memorable backpacking trips of my youth.

As George mentioned, you definately want to take them out on some backpacking trips; something with some real elevation gain. Even if you only do five miles a day, you'll still be going over a pass every other day. You'll probably find that the kids can handle more than that, which would be good. Five miles a day on the JMT would put you out there for over a month, and that's a lot of supplies to carry.

You didn't mention which direction you'd be going. I'd suggest north to south. Out of Yosemite the trail and passes are pretty gentle, and become more challenging as you progress south. There are a few places that are easy re-supply points on the northern half of the trail, but south of Muir Trail Ranch, your only options for re-supply are to exit the trail to pick up supplies or arrange to have someone hike in and meet you to bring your supplies, as George also mentioned.

When are you planning on being on the trail? I'll be departing from Yosemite on July 30th... maybe I'll see you out there! :)

Posted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 10:18 am
by varnes-epstein
WOW! Lot's of inspiring feedback. We decided to do John Muir for some of the same reasons others take it on (ie, weather, terrain, feasability), but what really inspired us to go there was a family reunion in the Yosemite vallley year before last. Entering the park from south of Reno was a stunning experience. We realized immediately that we really wanted to be in that backcountry. We learned a lot about Yosemite during our week staying at Housekeeping camp and took many day hikes. Our then 5 yr old made it to the top of Nevada Falls and back in less than 4 hrs and not one complaint. We were amazed and started contemplating the back country trip right away. I'd rather pack 8-10 miles a day for obvious logistical reasons, but wanted to make sure we had enough time for exploring/journaling, etc. Resupply will be one of our challenges but seems option are available. We'll be traveling North to South and on the trail by late July. Could be another homeschool family of 4 may join us.... Do we need to get our permits sooner than later to make sure we can get on the trail as planned (6 mos in advance)? This part is a bit unclear to me. Thanks for all the posts; hopefully we can get hold of some folks for testimonials. We welcome all unsolicited advice, particularly that which can not be found in the literature.
Gratefully, Lisa

Posted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:24 pm
by sierranomad

For sanity's sake it's best to get your permit in advance as you mention. But getting your permits as "walk-ins" (if you can't get them in advance) shouldn't be a problem.

There is a quota of so many people allowed to enter each trailhead per day, and a percentage of the quota (40%?) are reserved for walk-ins. Walk ins can get these permits either the day of or day before their trip is to start. So if your trip leader can get to the wilderness center about 30-60 minutes before it opens (typically opens at 7:30 a.m. in the Valley) on the day before your trip you are practically guaranteed to get your permit. (I go solo so it's not so crucial for me to get to the center the day before my trip, but since you have several in your group it would really be a good idea for you to do so).

Hope this helps. Enjoy the planning.