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 can mean 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 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

Aside from unavoidable travel and accommodation costs, my budgeting was probably somewhere in the middle, compared to the other hikers that I met. I went for a level of comfort and convenience, and was definitely a bit flash in terms of on trail accommodation. But I both spent and saved in most areas.

What I’ve shared isn’t completely exhaustive.  I’ve almost certainly missed out some small things such as food in airports or little extra snacks from stores. I’ve also not included the cost of my ‘training’ activity, as whilst this was definitely important in getting me through the trail, it will vary greatly depending on what you decide, or are able, to do.

 £  $
To America  £        334  $        445
To and from the trail  £        100  $        133
Back home  £        386  $        515
Subtotal  £        820  $    1,093
Off trail (3 nights)  £        501  $        668
On trail (2 nights)  £        341  $        455
Subtotal  £        842  $    1,123
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  £ 3,142  $ 4,189

A detailed review of my expenditure


Where I spent

The internal flight from L.A. to Mammoth Lakes was a bit of a splurge. However, it was by far the easiest option for me and didn’t come out too badly compared to routes.

Where I saved

I didn’t have much of a choice coming from London – I had to fly – so I booked in advance with a budget airline. Flying is one of the few times that it pays to be a short arse and I was pretty comfortable! I also booked my return flight in advance. I chose a different super budget airline which was pretty grim to be honest, even by my standards. But you can’t argue with the price, and I was so tired that I slept the whole way!

I used public transport including shuttle buses and YARTS to travel within America. 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 get to the John  Muir Trail (and home again)


Where I spent

My hotels in LA were at the cheaper end of the scale, although they felt quite expensive to me (LA is pricey people!) 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..! My pre hike nerves were definitely calmed by being in such a lovely place, although it could also have been the Merlot.

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 onward journeys by public transport to international airports.

My main splurge came from deciding to get accommodation on the trail. I had been genuinely unsure how I’d manage for three weeks in a tent (embarrassed as I am to confess that!) and had booked three nights to coincide with my resupplies and zero days.

On trail accommodation is obviously completely optional, so had a been on a tighter budget I wouldn’t have booked any. I did really enjoy my stays on trail 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. 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. My decision to change wasn’t financially motivated, but I’m glad that I did, and would stick with my revised plan if there was a next time.

Coming soon: on trail accommodation 

Food and 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 from the stores.

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 or 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, but they’re expensive. I bought limited pre made snacks (e.g. Cliff/ Pro bars) as these are pricey too and I prefer eating nuts and other ‘real food’ where possible. However, I became 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, or the shops at Tuolumne and Reds Meadows.

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

My resupply plan and other options 

Clothing and gear

Where I spent

It’s a good rule of thumb to spend on larger items and save on the smaller ones, investing as much as possible on three key items; tent, sleeping bag, and backpack. I spent a chunky amount on these and a few other smaller items, including a Jet Boil stove and water bladder.

Whilst my new gear did cost a lot, I went fairly mid-range in my choices. I could have spent a lot more (especially on the big ticket items) had I gone for ‘ultra-light’ models or brands.

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 around 15% off in many stores 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).

When an item of clothing doesn’t need to be ‘outdoors’ specific I save money by using what I already have. My old running gear was perfect for day time on the JMT, and I wore my old skiing thermals at night. I also saved a small amount by avoiding brands where it didn’t really matter in terms of quality.

You also don’t always need to buy new or ‘outdoors’ specific gear. I was a big fan of my water bladder, but an old plastic bottle works just fine – I actually used one in camp. I even met a few impressive people who had made their own gear, including stoves and even backpacks.

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!

Had I been on a tighter budget, I would also 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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