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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