I’ve already decided that in the summer of 2020 I’d hike the JMT. I pretty much decided that the first plan would be JMT NOBO and the second JMT SOBO. Extending that for a LASH of the PCT looks a bit unlikely as that’s going to mean taking 5 weeks off work. As a note, I have already given my employer a heads up a year ago that I was going to take some time off for a long hike. And remind them from time to time. I think this is just good practice and avoids surprises while letting me read if their mood is changing. So on to Matt & Keenan’s awesome adventure – JMT Planning part 2!

Getting a Permit

Last year I hiked the Sierra in early July – this worked very well from both a timing and a snow level perspective. So this year I decided we’d try for a NOBO permit from Horseshoe Meadows, leaving on the 7th of July. This works well from a school holiday perspective for Keenan and is not too early in the season, as long as it’s not a high snow year. Leaving from Cottonwood Pass or Cottonwood Lakes is historically the easier of the permits to get.

You can apply for the permits 6 months in advance. So I kept a keen eye on recreation.gov in early January as the permits become available. For the first couple of days, there was plenty of availability for the early season. And when the 7th of January comes around there is not a problem at all in grabbing a permit for 2 from Cottonwood Pass. I decided on this rather than the Cottonwood Lakes TH as it is supposedly a little easier and will give a slightly milder first few days to acclimatize.

Proposed Itinerary

This is the planned itinerary I submitted with the permit:

Day 1Horseshoe Meadows
Day 2SEKI – Rock Creek (84)
Day 3SEKI – Crabtree (83)
Day 4SEKI – Tyndall Creek (80)
Day 5SEKI – Kearsarge Lakes (64)
Day 6SEKI – Twin Lakes (56)
Day 7SEKI – Palisade Basin (45)
Day 8SEKI – Evolution Basin (34)
Day 9MTR
Day 10Quail Meadows JMT – Mono Creek
Day 11Purple Lake JMT
Day 12Reds Meadows
Day 13Ruby Lake JMT
Day 14Tuolumne Meadows
Day 15Little Yosemite
Day 16Happy Isles
JMT NOBO Itinerary

It’s a little aggressive and I may go back to add a few extra breaks later (easy to do on an Inyo permit). I am assuming I can make the trip to MTR without having to resupply. There are a couple of thoughts that helped here. I already know I can get about 10 days of food into a BV500. Secondly, going NOBO, there are quite a few bear boxes at the first few campsites. This means you can carry more food than will for in the BV500 and store it in the bear boxes. For a complete list of bear boxes in the Sierra, check out this very handy map.

This will mean sending a resupply to Muir Trail Ranch. That’s something I can worry about later. North of MTR resupply becomes much easier and I doubt I’ll bother to send any other resupply, just buy some additional supplies at Red’s Meadow and Toulumne Meadows – both of which have pretty decent stores for backpackers.

For an additional stop, it might be worth taking a zero here or there – possibly at Evolution Basin or a small detour to Vermilion Valley Resort. VVR is a hiker favorite for a rest, but it’s only a day or two past MTR. So many options!

Permit Availability

Seem like shortly after the 7th of January, the frenzy for permits started and now all the permits from the start of the season have gone and each day you have to be online just before 7 am PST to make sure you can grab a spot. No doubt some will free up later on.

Yosemite SOBO Lottery

In addition to the NOBO permit, I also put in for the lottery out of Yosemite. This is the more typical JMT route, starting in Yosemite Valley and finishing on Whitney, and then exiting through Whitney Portal. The SOBO permit is a little more complex. Firstly it is a lottery and by all accounts very oversubscribed. Secondly, it’s a little more complicated as there are five available trailheads. I don’t expect to get a SOBO permit and if I do it will be a hard decision which way to go. I have got quite excited by the prospect of going north! To try your luck at the SOBO permits go to the JMT lottery website. Currently, I’m getting the rejection emails every day. I wouldn’t recommend relying on this SOBO permit for your JMT planning!

Just remember that if you end up with more permits than you need, cancel the ones you don’t want – this is good etiquette so that others have an opportunity to use them.

Travel Plans

Having got the NOBO permit – I decided to make some JMT Planning for travel as well. To get to Horseshoe Meadows is a bit of a challenge – the nearest town is Lone Pine. There are two possible routes from Portland that make sense – either fly into Reno and travel south down 395 or fly into Burbank and come across through Lancaster. There is pretty decent public transport from both airports. For details see the resources at the end of the post.

I decided to book tickers to Reno (luckily I have enough Airmiles for this trip) and from Reno, I can take ESTA directly to Lone Pine. It’s a bit of a long time on a bus – around 6 hours – but it’s direct and the times work out fairly well. I’ll reserve the bus tickers later.

In Lone Pine, I booked one room at a hotel for one night. This will give us a little time to go shopping, get supplies, especially butane, and a little bit of relaxation. Then to get from Lone Pine to Horseshoe Meadows is a little bit trickier. It’s certainly possible to hitch – but Paul at East Side Sierra Shuttle comes highly recommended. I reserved Paul to drop us off at Horseshoe Meadows.

Costs So Far

Inyo Permit$16.00
Hotel in Lone Pine$150

All of these costs are refundable except for the shuttle service, which is not refundable but can be rescheduled. This should work ok if I change the date or the trailhead.

All this seems pretty cheap for a 3-week vacation!

What’s Left for the remainder of JMT Planning

I feel like this covers the majority of the major JMT planning. I haven’t worked out the return route from Yosemite and may either fly back from Reno or be lucky and have my wife pick me up!

Additionally, the resupply bucket is critical but plenty of time to worry about that!


Shuttles From Lone Pine

East Side Sierra Shuttle – Contact Paul
Lone Pine Kurt – Contact LonePineKurt@aol.com

Accommodation in Lone Pine

Best Western Plus Frontier Motel
Quality Inn
Mt. Whitney Motel
Mt. Whitney Hostel
Dow Villa Motel

Public Transport

ESTA Route – Eastern Sierra Transit Authority
YARTS – Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System


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