Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

A Guide to Hiking Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney Hiking: Landscape

On the east face of the mountain, you'll be able to see clearly the top of Mount Whitney in all its rugged, rocky majesty. You'll also have a good view of the subsidiary needles, including Keeler Needle and Crooks Peak (formerly known as Day Needle).

As you climb the west side of Mount Whitney, you'll find a landscape filled with beautiful lakes and wildflower meadows. You'll come across a variety of pine trees, including singleleaf pinyon, Jeffrey pine, white fir, and (at higher elevations) foxtail and lodgepole. You won't find many trees above 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) but rather patches of shrubs and grass.

Much of Mount Whitney is bedrock. This, combined with the fact that Mount Whitney is immensely popular and attracts so many hikers, means that visitors have to be especially careful when answering "nature's call." In many other wilderness areas, you may be allowed to simply bury your human waste. However, the USDA Forest Service explains that Mount Whitney doesn't have enough soil to properly decompose every hiker's waste. If all hikers were to simply leave their waste, this would dangerously affect the water quality of the area. So, be prepared to pack out your own waste. You can get pack-out kits from the Visitor Center in Lone Pine, the costs of which are covered in your permit fees.

And although athletic shoes may be all that are necessary during the warm peak season, ice and snow will likely be present doing the off-season. So, come equipped with an ice axe and crampons.

So, adventure-seekers and casual hikers alike won't be disappointed with an excursion to the famous Mount Whitney. For lots more information on hiking, see the links on the next page.