Food / Logistics Planning for the John Muir Trail

If I could eat whatever I wanted while hiking, it would probably be potato chips. Fat, carbs and salt delivered in crunchy deliciousness… Unfortunately, potato chips are bulky and won’t fit efficiently in a bear can. Boo. I am going to be eating a lot of potato chips right before my hike and when I get to my resupply points.

A JMT food plan is basically a JMT logistics plan. There are limited options to resupply along the John Muir Trail. If you start from the traditional beginning of the trail at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley, the first possible resupply point is Tuolumne Meadows (mile 22.8), then Red’s Meadow Resort (mile 60), then Vermillion Valley Resort (junction at mile 88 with a number of options to get there), and Muir Trail Ranch (mile 110) is the last on-trail resupply point. After that, your options are to (1) book it to Whitney Portal in 10 days or less, because all your food has to fit in a bear canister, (2) hike down to town via a lateral trail (most commonly over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley), or (3) pay for a horse packing outfit to do a food drop or recruit some friends to hike your food up to you (also most commonly at Kearsarge Pass).

To make a JMT food/logistics plan, I first made a loose itinerary of my hike to figure out how many days of food I would need and where I would resupply. I plan to hike an average of 10-12 miles a day and used the Wenk book to review trail descriptions and figure out where I might want to camp each night. I am starting from Tuolumne Meadows, and estimate it will take me 7 days to reach Vermillion Valley Resort from there and then another 8 days to reach Onion Valley and 5 more days to exit at Whitney Portal.  The private businesses that serve as resupply points along the trail each charge different fees and have specific instructions for sending resupply packages. So, I made some tough decisions, like “Do I want to spend $40 for the privilege of sending a package with only 2-3 days food in it to Red’s Meadow?” (No, I’ll suck it up and carry a bit more food and if I am short I can eat more burgers at Red’s and supplement from the General Store.) and “Do I really want to spend $265 for the Full Resupply Package at Mt. Williamson Motel?” (Yes, I may need some pampering by then…).

Here is what my resupply plan looks like:

LocationNo. of days foodBreakfastLunch/SnacksDinnerNotes
Tuolumne Meadows (Start)6+1 breakfast666
First day brekkie in civilization, Nero at VVR — possible to get food from Red’s if short
VVR8787
First day brekkie at VVR, last day dinner in Independence
Onion Valley5454
First day brekkie at Mt. Williamson Motel, last day will be back in Lone Pine!
TOTAL171917
Resupply packages I sent myself in 2017. Only sending two packages this year.

As for what I am eating, I am not being too fussed about being healthy or calorie counting. The JMT is only going to take me 3 weeks so I can’t really malnourish myself. Based on rough calorie estimates from the backs of food packages, I’m trying to bring about 2500 calories per day. Since how much food you can bring on the trail is limited by the size of your bear can, you want to bring calorie dense food. Fats are the best. The other thing I am trying to do is fatten myself up before the trail. When backpacking, generally I like to have hot dinner and breakfast (since I need to boil water to make coffee anyway) and then I just snack throughout the day without eating a real lunch. Here’s a list of what I will be eating on the trail:

Breakfast
Coffee (Starbucks Via)
Coconut Oil Packets (Trader Joe’s)
Nido (whole milk powder)
Granola
Instant Oatmeal
Freeze dried fruit

Lunch/Snacks
Tuna Packets (in oil for more calories)
Peanut Butter packets
Nutella Packets
Hummus
Cheese
Summer Sausage / Pepperoni
Tortillas
Prunes
Dried Apricots
Crasins
Nuts
M&M’s
Fruit Leathers
Meat bars (Epic)
Cliff Bars
Candy Bars

Dinners
Olive Oil Packets
Idahoan Mashed Potatoes
Tuna Packets
Chicken Packets
Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry dinners
Non-caffeinated tea
Hot Cocoa

If you’d like to learn more about food planning for the JMT, here are a couple great resources:

I also have a great JMT trip planning Google sheet I inherited from a friend, who inherited it from another friend, that I am happy to pay forward if you PM me.

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