Day 4 Backpacking to Mount Whitney – The Back Route!

Hiking Mount Whitney to the Whitney Portal
Hiking Mount Whitney to the Whitney Portal

Hiking Mount Whitney Hike, Day 4

Thinking about hiking Mount Whitney? It’s a good choice, but be sure you know what you’re in store for! Below, I’ll share my experience to hopefully help you on your adventure. If you’re following my adventure from day 1, day 4 (the final day) of our incredible adventure continues below!

If you’re new – welcome! You’ll want to start with day 1 hiking from Horseshoe Meadows campground, and then continue on from there for the full picture. There I’ll share basic info about hiking Mount Whitney, as well as details on an alternative route.

In this article:
Hiking Mount Whitney from Outpost Camp to Whitney Portal
Breakfast at the Whitney Portal
Finishing Up your Mount Whitney Adventure

Hiking Mount Whitney: Trail Map Day 4
Hiking Mount Whitney: Trail Map Day 4


Hiking Mount Whitney from Outpost Camp to Whitney Portal

Well, this was it. We had spent the last 3 days putting our bodies through hell hiking from Horseshoe Meadows Campground all the way to the summit of Mount Whitney and down. Now, we were ready to be done.

The body is an amazing machine. I’ve seen time and time again.  You’ll be tired and sore all along your trek, but it’s not until your body knows you’re almost at the end that it starts to let its guard down and things start to hurt a lot more. It doesn’t matter how many days you spend backpacking. It’s always the last day that you have a “get me the f**k off this mountain” attitude.

Day 4 of hiking Mount Whitney was really quite simple. We had reached the summit of Mount Whitney the day before, we were tired, and we were ready to be off the mountain. It was no longer about taking pictures and enjoying our beautiful surroundings. It was time to stuff our faces and take a shower.

On day 4, we had a short 3.5 miles of hiking downhill switchbacks to the parking lot, and they just never seemed to end! The views looked out towards Long Pine, and I’m sure it was beautiful – the photos look great – but, I really don’t remember much. That is, other than staring at my feet moving as quickly as they could, people complaining about the hip straps of their packs irritating their hips, and turning at the end of each switchback.

I was so incredibly grateful at this point that we had glissaded the day before rather than walking down the 99 switchbacks because with 99 + all these – it’s enough to drive a person mad! Needless to say, our group were all on the same page, or should I say pace, and we made it down rather quickly. Nobody was wasting any time – there were pancakes and bacon at the finish line!

If you’re hiking Mount Whitney down from Trail Camp vs Outpost Camp, you’ll have an extra 2 miles to hike today on top of the 4 from Outpost Camp. Don’t worry – going downhill, you can still make that in like 3 hours if you’re moving quickly. Above Outpost Camp the trail is fairly rocky, but once you get to Outpost Camp it’s mostly a dirt trail. That makes it easy to move along quickly!

It’s not uncommon to see deer along the trail on your way down – please give them their space and remember you’re in their home. Respect their home.

After a rather quick jaunt down from Outpost Camp, we took our celebratory photo at the trail head and made it towards the Portal Store. We ordered our breakfast and sat down to relax. It felt so amazing to know that I had completed such a huge accomplishment hiking Mount Whitney! But, also…that it was over!

Breakfast at the Whitney Portal

Now, this is very important. If you’re hiking Mount Whitney, you want to enjoy the pancakes and bacon at the Whitney Portal. Trust me. After a very long hike up Mount Whitney, they’re delightful. But, you have to get an early start from either Trail Camp or Outpost Camp because I believe they stop serving breakfast at 11am! For our Mount Whitney Hike in July 2011 we made it no problem since we only had to hike from Trail Camp. But in August 2016 we almost missed it, and that would have been devastating.

Don’t worry, if you don’t like pancakes, they have a ton of other stuff, and if you happen to miss breakfast, they serve lunch. Also, sometimes bees can be a problem here. But mostly, it’s amazing.

You can also get souvenirs inside to mark your HUGE accomplishment hiking Mount Whitney! Don’t downplay it, seriously. No matter how you hike Mount Whitney, it’s a huge accomplishment. Other people may hike it faster than you, or see to be less out of breath. It doesn’t matter. You got out there, and you did it. And that’s what matters. Now go enjoy your pancakes. And maybe get some In&Out on the way home, too!

Finishing Up Your Mount Whitney Adventure

After breakfast we started the task of gathering our cars and gear. We would have to get the car we left at Horseshoe Meadows, along with any gear and food we left in the bear bins first. Then we’d have to drive 5-6 hours back to San Diego. We were in for a long day for sure, but at least we would be sitting in a car!

For our August 2016 adventure, they were doing construction at the Whitney Portal so we actually had to leave our car in Lone Pine and then pay for a shuttle into town. It was reasonably priced, and coordinating pickup was painless.

On the way to Lone Pine, packed in one car with all our gear we saw a PCT hiker with a few miles left to walk to town. After hiking Mount Whitney, I could only imagine how much it would suck to have to walk all the way to town. I rushed to Lone Pine to drop off my friends, and then drove back to pick her up. She was from Europe and hiking the PCT alone, and would be staying in Lone Pine for the night – my badassness was nothing to compare to hers!

We got in our car and shuttled back to Horseshoe Meadows campground to get the other car and anything we left behind in the bear bin. It felt like forever since we had been there, when really it was only 3 days. We had seen a lot, we had pushed ourselves through a lot, and we had been victorious.

I encourage everyone to hike Mount Whitney at some point – it’s an incredible experience. But please be smart about it. We bought ourselves emergency insurance in case we had to call a helicopter or if there were other emergencies. We had a satellite phone in case we had to phone out for help (not as important with a busier PCT trail these days). And, most importantly, I went with people who knew more than me. Bring only what you need, but don’t skimp on the important things. And more than anything – make sure you don’t just keep hiking and forget to look up every so often. The Sierras are so incredibly majestic and there is so much to see – stop every so often and take it all in!

Hiking Mount Whitney
Hiking Mount Whitney


Read back on days 1-3 of hiking Mount Whitney:

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