If your trip is outside of the peak summer season check to makes sure that services are up and running. Much of what goes on in the mountains closes seasonally.
Long term parking is available at both ends of the trail. In Yosemite Valley, use the backpacker’s lot near Curry Village, a half-mile from the Happy Isles trailhead. At the southern end, parking is available at Whitney Portal. Both locations may be full. You might have to wait for a spot to open up. In Lone Pine, long-term parking may be available in the overflow parking lot of the Dow Villa Motel (ask before you park) and at the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce (for a small fee). At all parking sites near the trail, be sure to remove all food and scented items and conceal anything that would look like food to a bear (e.g., coolers).
If you don’t have a two-car shuttle option, leave your car at your exit trailhead and take public transportation or a private shuttle to your start point.
Visit climber.org for an exhaustive set of driving directions to JMT trailheads.
This can be complicated, but there is a remarkably effective system in place. Visit the bus company websites and ask online if you need help.
- Along Highway 395, Eastern Sierra Transit runs between Reno, Nevada and Lancaster, CA. It includes stops in Mammoth Lakes, Lone Pine and other JMT trailhead communities.
- YARTS runs between Merced, CA and Mammoth Lakes through Yosemite National Park. YARTS has a timed connection with Amtrak in Merced, CA. In Yosemite Valley, you may need to transfer to another YARTS bus if you wish to continue further. You can transfer between YARTS an Eastern Sierra Transit in Lee Vinning and Mammoth Lakes.
- To reach Yosemite from the west side, Amtrak connects to YARTS (and thus Eastern Sierra Transit) through Merced, CA. You can reach the Merced station via Amtrak from lots of places, including San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and Fresno.
- Inside of Yosemite, local buses (Valley shuttle; Tuolumne Hiker Bus; Tuolumne shuttle) take hikers to their trailheads in addition to the two YARTS lines (to Merced and to Mammoth).
- On the west side, Sequoia Shuttle and Big Trees Transit ferry passengers from Visalia and Fresno into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- Reno, Nevada is one of the easiest airports to access the JMT from. The Eastern Sierra Transit bus stops at the airport and will bring you to Lee Vinning, Mammoth Lakes or Lone Pine, CA. From Lee Vinning or Mammoth Lakes, you can transfer to YARTS for your connection to the northern terminus of the JMT.
- San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and Las Vegas all provide reasonable access to the John Muir Trail as well. From California, you will take a taxi to Amtrak to YARTS (in Merced) or a taxi to Greyhound or Amtrak and then on to connect with Eastern Sierra Transit (in Reno).
- Flying into the Mammoth Lakes airport and then hiring a private shuttle or connecting to Eastern Sierra Transit is also a great option for accessing the JMT.
- Hitchhiking is also an option for some. The stretch of road between Lone Pine and Whitney Portal is commonly hitched. Hitchhiking is definitely not recommended on the west side of the Sierra.
- On the east side of the Sierra, various private shuttle companies can pick you up or drop you off at JMT access points.
- Options are few on the west side. For hikers hoping to join or leave the JMT around the mid-point on the trail, Vermillion Valley Resort runs a shuttle between Edison Lake and Fresno, CA. See the Sequoia Shuttle above for another option.