Getting to and from the John Muir Trail can be quite the feat. Southbound hikers begin their journey in Yosemite Valley and finish 225 miles later at Whitney Portal. A point to point thru-hike like this requires a bit of planning beforehand to ensure that plans flow accordingly on a tight itinerary. My transportation plans for the John Muir Trail were made a little easier by the fact that Julia and I live in Southern California, and I was able to drive my own car. In this guide, I’ll list the resources (with links) I used to plan my transportation, and give an overview of the transportation options for all travelers and hikers. To start, let’s take a look at your 3 main transportation options for the John Muir Trail:
- Have someone drop you off and pick you up at your arrival and departure trailheads.
- Drive yourself and park at Whitney Portal/Lone Pine or Yosemite Valley, then use public transit to return to your vehicle post hike.
- Arrive to CA/NV by bus, train, plane, or car and take public transit to and from your arrival and departure trailheads.
My recommended John Muir Trail transportation resources:
- The Pacific Crest Trial Association transportation guide
- A list of Easter Sierra shuttle services ( I recommend Kurt Power and East Side Sierra Shuttle)
1.) Have someone drop you off and pick you up at your arrival and departure trailhead.
If you’re able to go with this option for your arrival and departure logistics, there really isn’t too much to plan. You just need two addresses and you’re good to go. You can reach Whitney Portal via Lone Pine on HWY 395. You can reach Yosemite Valley from the east or west sides of the park.
2.) Drive yourself and park at Whitney Portal/Lone Pine or Yosemite Valley, then use public transit to return to your vehicle post hike.
This is the transportation method I used, and the path most sensible for those hikers who are able to drive to a trailhead.
- I started my journey in Lone Pine, parking in the long term parking lot of the Dow Villa Motel. You can also park at Whitney Portal, but make sure to have absolutely no food or scented items in your car to avoid bears.
- From Lone Pine, I took the Eastern Sierra Transit shuttle north on HWY 395 to Mammoth Lakes. The bus stop in Lone Pine is right outside of the McDonalds. The station is Mammoth Lakes is also right outside of a McDonalds. (The Eastern Sierra Transit runs from Lancaster in the south to Reno, NV in the north)
- In Mammoth Lakes, I caught the YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley.
Once I arrived in Yosemite Valley, Julia and I picked up our permits and made our way to Yosemite Backpacker’s camp for the night. The best part about this plan, is that we were able to hitch a ride down to Lone Pine after hiking the JMT, and drive straight home in our own car. If you can’t hitch a ride or would prefer not to, here is a list of shuttles for pay. It’s also possible to do this in reverse by parking in Yosemite to start. If you do this, park in the Backpacker’s Lot near Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village). The downside to this plan, is that you need to make the long journey back to Yosemite after your hike to pick up your vehicle.
This most difficult part of relying on Eastern Sierra Transit and YARTS is trying to time up their schedules. The YARTS buses run fairly regularly, but the Eastern Sierra Transit can be a little more troublesome. Make sure to check up to date schedules on their websites before making your plans.
3.) Arrive to CA/NV by bus, train, plane, or car and take public transit to and from your arrival and departure trailheads.
- For those of you that can’t drive to Whitney Portal or Yosemite, you’ll have to rely on train or plane travel.
- The easiest train route in California is to take Amtrak to Merced and Catch YARTS, or take Metrolink to Lancaster and catchs the Eastern Sierra Transit and YARTS. You can see my description and find links on these options above.
- If you’re flying in to hike the JMT, your best bet for airports is Reno, NV. From Reno, you can catch the Eastern Sierra Transit to Lee Vining and then the YARTS bus to Yosemite. Look above for links.
- You can also fly into San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other nearby airports. The key here is finding a way by taxi, rental car, train, or bus to reach a town that links up with Eastern Sierra Transit or Yarts.
The most difficult part of not having a car is that you have to run the transportation gamut twice, as you’ll need to make a return flight home!
I hope you found this guide useful, and I hope it helps you navigate to your starting point on the John Muir Trail. If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below.
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9 thoughts on “John Muir Trail Transportation: Arrival And Departure Logistics”
I am in the *very* early stages of a summer 2018 JMT hike. At this point, (and assuming we can get a SOBO permit) we plan to drive to Yosemite. After a few days of acclimating, my wife and daughter will bid us farewell as my son and I, and another buddy, begin our hike. This means we will not have a ride out once we finish at Whitney.
At this point, we are thinking about flying home. Also we would like to mail our entire pack home to keep from going through he hassle of checking them at the airport, and potentially having to discard items. I figure shipping will cost about the same amount as a checked bag anyway.
So, with this in mind, what options would you suggest considering?
Thanks for your feedback, and for your website. It is a really great resource for a hike! 🙂
The JMT requires a lot of *very* early prep! Good that you’re getting ready for next year. As for the return leg home, you have a few options. You can take the Eastern Sierra Transit north to Reno, and fly out from there (http://www.estransit.com/). There are a few UPS stores where you could ship your packs home. You could also take Eastern Sierra Transit south to Lancaster, then take the Antelope Valley Express to LAX. There are a few UPS stores in the Lancaster/Palmdale area where you could ship your pack home. Those are the two easiest options from what I can see.
Thanks for the reply… after doing a bit more digging, I think the hitch into Lone Pine, a ride via the EST to Reno, and then a flight home is the best option…
I will see if there is a place I can ship the packs back from Lone Pine to keep from having to get rides in Reno.
And yeah, lots of planning is required for this to happen… and I am grateful for the time to do so, but as I am sure you know… I am so dang excited, I am ready to be on the trail NOW! LOL… 🙂
Sounds like a great plan. We parked at the Dow Villa in Lone Pine and caught a ride from Whitney Portal. Lucky for us, it’s only a 3 hour drive home from there.
I wanted to let you know l just started an inexpensive shuttle ($40/hr for up to 4 people) for hikers serving Independence to Mojave and all surrounding trailheads. I just got permits from the CA PUC and the Inyo National Forest. I’m SherpaMax at (805) 341-6360. I would appreciate you letting others know. Thanks!
If I leave my car in Yosemite (Northbound thru hike this July), would you be able to drive a couple of us from Yosemite to Lone Pine/Whitney Portal? What would that cost?
Are there places one can leave a car in Mammoth? Thinking of doing the Happy Isles to Red’s Meadow section of the JMT.
I know they have long term parking at Mammoth Yosemite Airport.