Hiking Mt. Whitney can be a fantastic summit giving you a magical experience when traveling through its tough trails and taking in its natural sights. It is the highest peak in the contiguous United States and gives you an elevation of 6,300 feet making it a memorable hike to include in your memoir.
For beginners and even intermediate hikers, it is recommended to first get used to the climate of Mt. Whitney before heading on to the Mt. Whitney Trail. You have a few camping options including Outpost Camp, Trail Camp, Consultation Lake, and Lone Pine Lake.
In this article, we’ll talk about Outpost Camp in detail discussing how to reach there, camp overnight, and some nearby trails to acclimate yourself before taking on the mighty Mt. Whitney.
Getting a Mount Whitney Hiking Permit
Getting an Mt. Whitney hiking permit is difficult due to the popularity of the trail. Over 70,000 people travel to Mt. Whitney to take on the hike between May and November. The U.S. has enforced a quota system to accommodate the number of people and to get your hiking permit you would need to participate in a lottery to acquire your permit(s).
With 100 hikers and 60 backpackers allowed to hike the Mt. Whitney trail from Whitney Portal, your chances of getting a hiking permit may be tough but not impossible. To acquire your spot you would have to apply for the Mt. Whitney lottery which starts on the 1st of February and ends on March 15th.
Applying for the Lottery
Before applying for the lottery you have to select your primary and alternate dates on which you plan to travel for the hike. The lottery allows you to choose 1 primary day and 15 alternate dates. The most popular dates to choose to hike the Mt. Whitney trail include the summer months – late July or August – to avoid snow and ice on the trail.
Although the Mt. Whitney hike can be completed in a day-long trip, Ideally you’d want the overnight permits if you plan on camping in the outpost camp between hikes.
Next, you need to decide on the number of people accompanying you during the hike. The lottery allows anywhere between 1 to 15 people to apply and the bigger the group the harder it is to get a permit. If you’re going as a group, then you would need to decide on a group leader who will be responsible for collecting the permits.
After submitting your application, you’d have to wait till the announcement of the results. The results are typically announced on March 24th of every year however, the dates may be subject to change. Your application status will be sent to you via email and will let you know whether or not you won or lost the lottery.
If you won the lottery, you’ll have to pay a $15 reservation fee per person from the official recreation.gov website.
Entering the Mt. Whitney Zone and Reaching Outpost Camp
To get started with your Mount Whitney hike, you’ll need to reach the Whitney Portal, your starting point for climbing the summit.
You’ll be getting to Whitney Portal in your vehicle. It is 13 miles west of Lone Pine in California and is located at the end of Mt. Whitney Road. Upon reaching the Whitney Portal, you’ll be asked to show your permits to gain access to the area. From here, you’ll need to make your way to Outpost Camp.
Outpost camp is one of the most popular camping sites to stay in before the Mount Whitney hike. It is located 3.8 miles from the Whitney Portal trailhead at an elevation of 10,300 feet. This campsite is recommended for hikers and backpackers who want to acclimatize themselves and ensure they’re fit for climbing the summit.
Another alternative campsite is Trail Camp, at an elevation of 12,000 feet. Although this camping spot brings you closer to the actual climb, it has a rocky trail and terrain making it harder to find a good camping spot. Also, if you suffer from altitude sickness, it would be better to camp a bit lower at Outpost Camp rather than Trail Camp to avoid being sick or lethargic to make the climb.
Hiking Trails Near Outpost Camp Mt. Whitney
There are different hiking options located around the outpost camp which can help you acclimatize to the climate and prepare yourself before climbing the Mt. Whitney trail. If you’re looking for other challenging hikes we’ve discussed them below as well.
Camp Lake Via Meysan Lakes Trail
This is a difficult trail to Camp Lake from Outpost Camp that goes through the Whitney Portal Family Campground. It is a 9.9-mile hike with an elevation gain of 3,783 feet.
John Muir Wilderness Via Whitney Portal Trail
This one-way trail to the John Muir Wilderness passes from multiple other trails including the Mount Whitney main trail, Trail Camp, Trail Crest, Mirror Lake, and many other trails. The hike covers a distance of 13.4 miles with an elevation gain of 5,696 feet making it difficult for beginner and intermediate hikers.
Whitney Portal Picnic Area Via Whitney Portal Trail
The out-and-back hike to Whitney Portal Picnic Area is great for casual hikers and gives you a few sites to see on your way. It’s a 1.9-mile hike with a 568 feet elevation gain going through the Whitney Portal Group Campground and the Whitney Portal Trailhead.
Whitney Portal Trailhead Via John Muir Trail
This one-way trail stretches for 46.5 miles giving you an elevation gain of 6,081 feet with varying up and down slopes. It’s an incredibly difficult trail that passes through multiple trails, lakes, and campsites along the way.
Whitney Trailhead Campground Via Mount Whitney Trail
This is an easy 1.6-mile out and back hike to John Muir Wilderness with an elevation gain of 486 feet passing through the Whitney Portal Picnic Area, Mt. Whitney Trailhead Campground, and the Whitney Portal Trailhead.
Summary of Outpost Camp
A campsite at Bighorn Park located inside John Muir Wilderness
3.8 miles from Whitney Portal Trailhead
Outpost camp, Mt. Whitney is one of the most popular campsites for hiking the Mount Whitney Summit. At an elevation of 10,400 feet and a distance of 3.8 miles from the Whitney Portal Trailhead, Outpost Camp is a good option for hikers that want to acclimatize themselves.
Despite being further away from the Mount Whitney hike, Outpost camp is great for “climbing high, resting low” some advice given to hikers acclimating. There are many hiking trails near the campsite including the Mt. Whitney trailhead, Camp Lake trail, and many others.