The most frustrating thing (I hope) about hiking the John Muir Trail involves getting to and from the trail. I’m flying into San Francisco because I want to spend a couple of days exploring the city. I don’t regret that decision, but I do regret that relying on mass transit to get me to Yosemite will take up so much of my vacation time. I’ll enjoy taking in the scenery while in transit, but I feel like I’m being inefficient with the logistics of the trip.
Getting from San Francisco to Yosemite
Note that I have already secured my accommodations for everything on this list besides Uber and BART.
All times Pacific, all costs concerning travel only.
|Wed, 8/30/17||5:30am–5:45am||$5.00||Uber ➤ BART (Embarcadero Station)|
|Wed, 8/30/17||5:45am–6:55am||$4.65||BART (Embarcadero Station) ➤ BART/AMTRAK (Richmond Station)|
|Wed, 8/30/17||7:54am–10:37am||$24||AMTRAK: (San Joaquins Line) Richmond Station ➤ Merced Station|
|Wed, 8/30/17||10:55am–1:25pm||$13||YARTS: (Run 5 picks up outside Merced Station, (the bus driver waits for the train if it's running late) ➤ Yosemite Valley Lodge|
|Wed, 8/30/17||1:25pm||Free||Eat lunch at the food court, pick up ticket for the Hiker bus to Tuolumne Meadows the next morning, check pack at the hotel|
|Wed, 8/30/17||2:30ish||Free||Free shuttle bus ➤ Explore Yosemite Valley|
|Wed, 8/30/17||7:00ish||Free||Pick up pack at Yosemite Valley Lodge, eat dinner at food court (closes at 8:00pm), free shuttle bus ➤ Half Dome Village (shuttle stops at 10:00pm)|
|Wed, 8/30/17||8:00ish||$158.62||Check into canvas tent/cabin at Half Dome Village|
|Thu, 8/31/17||6:00am||Free||Walk or take Free shuttle bus (starts at 7:00am) ➤ Yosemite Valley Lodge, eat breakfast (opens at 6:30am)|
|Thu, 8/31/17||8:00am–10:25am||$23||Hiker bus: Yosemite Valley ➤ Tuolumne Meadows|
|Thu, 8/31/17||10:30am||Free||Pick up permit for 9/1/2017 thru-hike out of Lyell Canyon, buy stove fuel, eat lunch at Tuolumne Meadows Grill|
|Thu, 8/31/17||11:30am||Free||Explore Tuolumne Meadows (what to do with pack?)|
|Thu, 8/31/17||4:00pm||Free||Dinner at Tuolumne Meadows Grill (closes at 5:00)|
|Fri, 9/1/17||5:00pm||$6||Camp at Backpackers' Campground (available the night before a thru-hike with a valid permit)|
I would love to sleep late enough to justify sticking around for breakfast at 8:00am on the first day of my hike. A big meal and a couple of snacks could tide me over until dinner. That would lighten my load. I’ll be very glad to be leaving the touristy parts of the JMT before Labor Day weekend starts in earnest.
Subtotal cost for travel and accommodations to the JMT: $234.27
Campsite and meal planning while on the trail
I’ve already written a detailed post about my JMT campsite schedule and meal planning. This bit is relevant to my travel situation.
For the record, I’ll be surprised if I stick to this schedule. I’m trying to keep my mileage relatively low to protect my knees, but also because of the odd schedule of the ESTA bus that I need to catch when I’m done. It doesn’t run on Wednesdays or weekends. If I finish my hike a day earlier, there’s no bus and I’m stuck in Lone Pine, California doing nothing for 2 days (which doesn’t actually sound too bad). I’d have to finish at least 2 days early to be able to catch a shuttle to the AMTRAK station. I might end up doing that if I’m feeling good, but I also want to take my time and enjoy the scenery.
Getting from the Mt Whitney Portal to San Francisco
Note that I haven’t secured my accommodations for anything on this list. I may finish my hike early and don’t want to lose any deposits. The part of the itinerary involving Lone Pine is fairly rigid, but I’ll be there on a weekday, Lone Pine has several motels, and I can pay the ESTA driver directly. Everything else is flexible. Plus, it’s possible I may meet someone on the trail that can suggest or even offer a better solution than what I have planned. All costs are estimates based on search results.
All times Pacific, all costs concerning travel only.
|Tue, 9/13/17||4:00pm||$24.00||Eat at Mt Whitney Portal Store (closes at 8:00pm on Tuesdays), camp at campground|
|Wed, 9/14/17||8:00am||Free||Hitchhike ➤ downtown Lone Pine|
|Wed, 9/14/17||All day||$100||Eat breakfast, clean clothes, shower, eat lunch, check into motel, eat dinner, clean gear|
|Thu, 9/15/17||6:15am–12:15pm||$59||ESTA bus: Lone Pine (McDonald's) ➤ Reno (Greyhound Station)|
|Thu, 9/15/17||12:15pm||$10||Uber ➤ UPS store to mail pack home, buy small bag (keep wallet, toothbrush, phone charger, glasses, puffy jacket, rain jacket, meds)|
|Thu, 9/15/17||12:30pm||$160||Uber ➤ lunch, casino, find a place to stay.|
|Fri 9/16/17||8:36am–3:59pm||$42||AMTRAK: Reno Station ➤ Richmond Station|
|Fri 9/16/17||4:00pm–5:05pm||$4.65||BART: Richmond Station ➤ Embarcadero Station|
|Fri 9/16/17||5:05pm||$10||Uber: Embarcadero Station ➤ AirBnB|
Subtotal cost for travel and accommodations from the JMT: $399.65
It’s costing me $633.92 to travel from San Fransisco to the JMT and back again. I’m not disappointed that I’ll get some downtime in Lone Pine and that I’ll squeeze in an afternoon in Reno; I like that I’m getting to see the area. But I believe I could have paid someone in the Bay area $400 cash plus gas money to drive me the 4 hours to/from the trailheads, each way (8 hours per trip for the driver). That would be an income of $25 per hour for the driver over two days.
That means I could have been driven to Yosemite the day I picked up my permit. I could have been picked up the morning after I summited Mt Whitney. That would have brought my accommodation charges down to a mere $30 for two nights at the trailhead campgrounds. And it would have saved me 3 full days of travel. Think of the opportunity cost!
In this scenario, it would cost me $400 plus 3 tanks of gas (let’s call that $100). That’s $500 total, which is $134 less than what I’m currently spending. But those extra days would put me in San Francisco—one of the most expensive cities in the world—for those 3 days. Accommodations for one night would erase that savings.
So I’m technically saving money and exploring more of the region by doing it this way. It just feels like an inefficient use of my time. Then again, walking hundreds of miles for no particular reason is a bigger waste of time, so maybe I just need to learn how to relax.