How much does it cost to do the John Muir Trail?

Unfortunately it’s not possible to give a figure that will apply to everyone. If you can drive to the trail, already own the gear that you’ll need, make your own food, and stay on the trail, your outlay will be fairly minimal.

However, if you’re coming from abroad, the trail can start to develop ‘trip of a lifetime’ budget status, due to the need for flights and accommodation. Going solo means not having someone to split costs with. And you may also have other considerations to bear in mind, such as loss of income, if you are self-employed.

To help give you an idea of what you could spend, I’ve shared my JMT expenditure, along with the decisions that I made along the way and some thoughts on what I could have done differently to save money.

An overview of my expenditure

Here is pretty much everything that I spent in order to do the trail. I may have missed a few small things, but it covers what I can remember!

 £  $
Travel
To America  £        334  $        445
To and from the trail  £        100  $        133
Back home  £        386  $        515
Subtotal  £        820  $    1,093
Accommodation
Off trail (4 nights)  £        650  $        828
On trail (3 nights)  £        491  $        626
Subtotal  £        1,141  $    1,454
Food and resupply
Before the hike (4 days)  £          68  $          91
During the hike  £        702  $        936
After the hike (1 day)  £          30  $          40
Subtotal  £        800  $    1,067
Clothing and gear
New clothing and gear  £        680  $        907
Subtotal  £        680  $        907
Total  £ 3,441  $ 4,521

A Detailed Review Of My Expenditure

Travel

Where I spent

The flight from L.A. to Mammoth Lakes was a little pricey. However, it was the easiest option and didn’t come out badly compared to other routes.

USA 135
Arriving in Mammoth Lakes

Where I saved

I booked my flights to/ from London in advance with budget airlines.

I used public transport including shuttle buses and YARTS to travel within California and Yosemite. They were all efficient and good value. Uber was very useful in L.A. as there are limited public transport options and normal taxis are pricey.

I was very lucky to get a lift from the end of the trail to L.A. (thanks Ken and Janice!) This not only saved me money; it was a lot of fun.

How to travel to the John  Muir Trail (and home again)

Accommodation

Where I spent

My hotels in LA were at the cheaper end of the scale, although still felt expensive. I could have saved some money through Air BnB, but as I was arriving quite late on both occasions a hotel seemed sensible.

There are a few motels in Mammoth Lakes. The Inn that I chose wasn’t the cheapest, but it did offer free wine and cheese..!

I was unusual in being able to travel for a while after the trail, so I have included only one night’s accommodation post trail. However, you may need budget for two or even three nights’ accommodation post trail to accommodate an onward journey by public transport.

My main – avoidable – splurge came from deciding to get accommodation on the trail. I had a night booked at Red’s Meadows, one at MTR and one in Independence (later cancelled). I ended up having a second night at Muir Trail Ranch as I got there a day early.

USA 675
Amazing food at MTR

On trail accommodation is obviously completely optional – and very expensive –  so had a been on a tighter budget I wouldn’t have booked any. I did really enjoy my stays on trail however, and was very grateful to have them!

If there was a ‘next time’ I’d perhaps not book Reds Meadows as you can use their facilities as a camper (unlike MTR). And whist I was definitely ready for a shower, I was still very happy in my tent.

Where I saved

I cancelled my final stay at the Mount Williamson Motel in Independence. I’d planned to receive my final resupply there as part of their hiker resupply package. This saved me around $150, although I lost the cost of the actual resupply and holding fee by cancelling so late.

Coming soon: on trail accommodation 

Food & resupply

Where I spent

I treated myself to some food at the diners in Tuolome and Reds Meadows. This wasn’t expensive, but it added up over the course of a few meals. If you’re on a tighter budget you could avoid them altogether, or treat yourself to a beer.

USA 488
Celebrating at Red’s

I used a company for two of my resupplies, which was a little costly, but fairly necessary as someone coming from abroad. If I was able to I’d have packed and posted all of my resupplies.

Where I saved

I saved money by putting together my own meals. I can see the appeal of ready-made meals and snacks, but they’re expensive. However, I did become a big fan of Pro Bars along the way and was lucky to be gifted a fair few by people who were sick of them!

I also saved quite a lot by doing my first and second resupply in Mammoth, rather than using the resupply company.

Lastly, I saved by not doing a pack mule resupply at Kearsage pass. This would have been tempting if it didn’t cost around $500.

My resupply plan and other options 

What I ate on the John Muir Trail 

Clothing & gear

Where I spent

I spent a chunky amount on ‘the big three’ (tent, sleeping bag, and backpack) and on a few other smaller items, including a Jet Boil stove and water bladder.

2016 and 17 482
My trusty JetBoil

Whilst my new gear did cost a lot, I went fairly mid-range in my choices. I could have spent a lot more had I gone for ‘ultra-light’ models or brands like Z – Packs.

Where I saved

I saved a small fortune on my new items by getting BMC membership (U.K. only). For £15 a year, you get 15% off in many shops including Cotswolds and Blacks. I also took advantage of sales along the way.

I already owned some of the clothing and gear that I’d need, including waterproofs, gloves, poles, compass and boots. I’d put a ball park figure on these of £400 ($530).

I saved money on clothes by using what I already had. My old running gear was perfect for day time and I wore my old skiing thermals at night. I also saved a small amount by avoiding brands where it didn’t matter in terms of quality.

I could have saved more money (and pack space/ weight) by asking myself if I really needed a couple of items. For example, I bought an expensive light weight bowl, but ate out of a zip lock bag every night! Also, I was a big fan of my water bladder but an old plastic bottle works just fine – I actually used one in camp.

If I was on a tighter budget I would have looked into borrowing gear, or buying it second hand.

My clothing and gear for the John Muir Trail

3 thoughts on “How much does it cost to do the John Muir Trail?

  1. Good itinerary overview you provided

    Liked by 1 person

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