John Muir Trail resupply planning

Before you began your resupply planning, it’s useful to understand how long you will spend on the trail, what you will eat each day and what non-food supplies you will need, including fuel. This will allow you to decide how many days you need to account for and what supplies you will need, between the different resupply locations. From here, you can start to think about the logistics of where you will stop, and how you’ll actually get the supplies to yourself!

There are a few different options and probably not one plan that is ‘right’ for everyone. To help you decide, I’ve shared my SoBo plan, along with alternative options.

Note that fuel cans are available at all of the locations detailed below.

Starting the trail at Yosemite

Destination: Red’s Meadow

Distance: 60 miles

Days of supplies: 6 plus 1 day for side trip to Half Dome

I bought my first lot of supplies in Mammoth Lakes and took it with me to the start. This worked out pretty great as there is an excellent supermarket there (Vons, 481 Old Mammoth Road). I redistributed everything in my hotel room into Ziploc bags, using measuring spoons from the kitchen (thanks guys!). Removing shop bought packaging saves a surprising amount of space and weight. I also bought my fuel at an outdoors shop there.

If I wasn’t travelling from so far away I’d have prepared my food at home.

Alternative options

Extra resupply at Tuolumne Meadows

  • You may want to plan an additional resupply at Tuolumne (around day 3), to save weight. You can send a resupply bucket to the Post Office:
    • (name)
      c/o General Delivery
      Tuolumne Meadows
      Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
      Arriving by: ETA
  •  Post Office is located in the same building as the store and grill and is about ten minutes’ walk from the backpackers campsite.
  • The shop was well stocked when I was there, but I don’t think that’s always the case.
  • They have fuel but I bought an extra can at Mammoth, just in case.

Resupply one: Red’s Meadow

Destination: Muir Trail Ranch

Distance to destination: 50 miles

Days of supplies: 4 plus a little extra

I got the shuttle into Mammoth to buy food at Vons (again). This worked really well for me as I had a zero day and plenty of time.

USA 510
Buying the essentials

Alternative options

  • Had I not had time to go into Mammoth, or not wanted to, I would have used the resupply company.
  • If I lived in the U.S.A. I would have mailed my resupply to the post office at Red’s or potentially even dropped it off on my way to the trail. There is a small holding fee. More information is available here.

Resupply two: Muir Trail Ranch

Destination: Mount Whitney

Distance to destination: 120 miles

Days of supplies: 9 + a little extra for the long walk down to Whitney Portal!

I sent myself a bucket via Zero Day Resupply who took care of the logistics. If you send your own bucket the instructions are available here.  I’d originally intended to have an extra stop and resupply at Onion Valley, but I had sent a little too much food anyway, so combined with some freebies from the hiker buckets, I had plenty for the nine days. There is SO MUCH food in the MTR hiker buckets.

Going straight through for nine days does make for a fairly tough hike, but I’m so glad I did it.

Alternative options

Vermilion Valley Resort

  • You can resupply here in addition to MTR and/or Red/s, and in rare cases (very high mileage generally) instead of.
  • I chose not to do this, as it requires quite a detour (five mile hike each way and a ferry). It also didn’t make sense for me to resupply there as I’d only been at Red’s about two days before, and would be at MTR two days after.
  • A big plus of VVR over MTR, is that they have a restaurant, showers and a shop that are available to backpackers. MTR facilities are only available to people staying there. So it could be worth a detour for that alone!
  • More information here.

Additional resupply at Onion Valley

  • A lot of people have an extra resupply at Onion Valley. This means that you’ll carry less food and can take longer over the slightly tougher second half.
  • I decided against this, as it would have involved hiking out around 7 miles over Kearsage Pass to the Onion Valley trailhead, and making my way from the trail-head into the town (and back again).
  • Some people had friends or family who hiked in to meet them with their resupply, saving this detour.
  • I had planned to use the Mount Williamson Motel hiker resupply package, sending my bucket with Zero Day Resupply. The package includes a ride from the Onion Valley trailhead to the motel, bucket holding fee and a night’s accommodation with food. They are hugely helpful and experienced in supporting hikers, so if you are really not keen on carrying the nine/ ten days of food, or don’t have someone who can help you, I think it’s a great option.

Pack mule resupply

  • You can arrange for someone to meet you at Kearsage Pass with your resupply carried on a mule!
  • This starts at around $500 which was too much for me, although it can be split by multiple people/groups.

Other considerations

You will need to make sure that your food will fit into your bear canister. The park rental ones are supposed to accommodate up to six days for one person, but I manged to get in 8 days’ worth at one point. You can buy or rent canisters that take as little as four and as much as 10 days. Remember that you don’t need to be able to fit the first days’ worth, as you’ll have eaten it all by night.

Think about how much weight you are happy to carry. A good rule of thumb is  about 1.5 – 2 pounds a day per person, so factor that in when considering how many stops you’ll need. Also bear in mind the weight of your canister – they are heavy!

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