Finding Wildflowers On the John Muir Trail

There’s no reason to mince words—hiking the John Muir Trail is hard! You’re likely shuffling with your blistered feet, heavy pack, eyes glued to the ground below your feet.

Fortunately, that ground is dotted in a spectacular rainbow of high alpine wildflowers! June and July are prime wildflower spotting months in the High Sierra.

So whether you’re stopping to enjoy a scenic lunch break or huffing and puffing up another mountain pass, here are some of the flowers you may stumble across.

Fendler’s meadow rue

Distribution: Common throughout, on both sides of the Sierra CrestWildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Habitat: Stream banks, moist forest, marshy areas

Elevation: 3,300’–11,000′

Season: Mid-June–late July

Locations: Virginia Canyon, Dana Gardens (western base of Mt. Dana), Duck Pass Trail, Rae Lakes Basin

 

Wildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Brewer’s miterwort

Distribution: Common throughout west of the Sierra Crest, and occasional east of the Sierra Crest, becoming rarer farther south

Habitat: Moist, sheltered locations, including stream banks, seeps, wet forest, and willow thickets at meadow edges

Elevation: 6,500’–11,000′

Season: Early June–mid-July

Locations: Virginia Canyon, Dana Plateau trail, Duck Pass Trail, French Canyon, Vidette Meadow

 

Blue elderberry

Wildflowers of the John Muir TrailDistribution: Fairly common throughout most areas but especially common in drainages in the eastern Sierra

Habitat: Dry slopes and flats, stream banks

Elevation: 1,000’–10,000′

Season: Late June–late July

Locations: Convict Creek drainage, Mono Creek, South Fork Big Pine Creek, Baxter Pass Trail, Mt. Whitney Trail

Wildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Yarrow

Distribution: Common throughout, on both sides of the Sierra Crest

Habitat: Meadows, vegetated slopes, forest

Elevation: 3,600’–10,500′

Season: Late June–mid-August

Locations: Tuolumne Meadows, Rock Creek Basin, Evolution Valley, Vidette Meadow, Cottonwood Lakes Basin

 

Heartleaf arnica

Wildflowers of the John Muir TrailDistribution: Fairly common on both sides of the Sierra Crest, from the Yosemite area south through the Bishop Creek drainage, then rare to absent until the far southern Sierra

Habitat: Moist forest, damp meadows

Elevation: 6,000’–11,000′

Season: Late June–mid-August

Locations: Gaylor Lakes, Mt. Dana, Tyee Lakes, Marie Louise Lakes (Bishop Creek drainage)

 

 

Wildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Alpine gold

Distribution: Common throughout, usually near the Sierra Crest or other high ridges

Habitat: Gravelly alpine slopes, alpine fell-fields, gravel in between talus

Elevation: 9,500’–14,500′

Season: Mid-June–mid-July

Locations: Dana Plateau, Donohue Pass, Mt. Agassiz, summit of Mt. Whitney, New Army Pass

 

Spearleaf stonecrop

Wildflowers of the John Muir TrailDistribution: Occasional throughout, on both sides of the Sierra Crest

Habitat: Flat granitic sands that are moist early season, moist fell-fields

Elevation: 7,000’–12,000′

Season: Early June–early August

Locations: Mt. Dana, Mono Pass (Rock Creek Basin), Coyote Ridge, Kearsarge Pass Trail, Lake South America Trail

 

Wildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Scarlet gilia

Distribution: Occasional throughout the eastern Sierra; mostly absent west of the Sierra Crest

Habitat: Dry slopes and flats

Elevation: 7,000’–11,500′

Season: Late June–early August

Locations: Virginia Lakes Basin, Minaret Summit, Coyote Ridge, North Fork Big Pine Creek, Shepherd Pass Trail

 

California Dock

Wildflowers of the John Muir TrailDistribution: Common throughout the eastern Sierra; occasional in the western Sierra

Habitat: Seeps and other moist locations, including on rocky slopes and on lakeshores

Elevation: 5,800’–11,300′

Season: Late June–early August

Locations: Warren Fork Lee Vining Creek, trail to Dana Plateau, Seventh Lake (North Fork Big Pine Creek), Ladder Lake, Baxter Lakes Basin, Bullfrog Lake

Wildflowers of the John Muir Trail

Rosy pussytoes

Distribution: Fairly common throughout, on both sides of the Sierra Crest

Habitat: Alpine fell-fields, dry meadows, open slopes; often growing alongside rocks

Elevation: 7,000’–12,300′

Season: Late June–mid-July

Locations: Dana Plateau, Rock Creek Basin, Lamarck Lakes Trail, New Army Pass

 

Woollypod milkvetch

Wildflowers of the John Muir TrailDistribution: Fairly common in specific areas, usually near the Sierra Crest, but absent elsewhere

Habitat: Open, rocky areas, especially alpine fell-fields; typically found on metamorphic rock

Elevation: 3,500’–12,500′

Season: Early June–early July

Locations: Tioga Crest, Dana Plateau, Convict Creek drainage, Green Lake (from South Lake)

 

 

For a thorough guide of all the wildflowers you can find along the John Muir Trail, grab a copy of Wildflowers of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail by Elizabeth Wenk.

Tanya Twerdowsky
tanya@adventurewithkeen.com

I am a Jersey girl living in Alabama who loves to run far and eat lots.

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