Dividing the food into each bucket before repacking each supply for backpacking
Muir Ranch Bulk food
Proper Resupply is Critical to Long Distance High Sierra Backpackers
Hiking from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney
Between Meeks Bay at South Lake Tahoe and the Mount Whitney Portal there are 7 resupply locations out of our 10 potential stops along the trail where we can send ourselves a package to cover the next section of our backpacking trip.
We also have resources we can draw on before beginning our backpacking trip in South Lake Tahoe, and at Lone Pine after walking out the Whitney Portal to end our journey, pushing up our total of resupply spots to 9. The 10th is Yosemite Valley, if we hike down to the Valley along the way to Whitney.
Below find the links to the Tahoe to Whitney Resupply Page listing the resources, practices, and policies of each resupply spot. Below that is a link to the Backpacker's Forum for that resupply spot. The forum is for supplemental information, your reports about services, and backpacker's general or specific comments and questions. Last is a link to the website of each resupply service.
Post up your experiences and feedback about each resupply spot in its forum.
Rest, Recovery, & Resupply
High Sierra Backpacker
Though neither of these locations offer resupply delivery or services, highway access makes it possible for friends to hand-off supplies, or desperate backpackers to easily catch a ride from either of these locations down to South Lake Tahoe.
I have found that many Pacific Crest Trail hikers plan to take a couple of days off in South Lake Tahoe to rest and resupply, sometimes even meeting friends and family.
I hope this page on South Lake Tahoe Resources and Transportation is helpful.
Planning the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail,
For your thoughts, experiences, questions, or comments about resupplying between Tahoe and Whitney.
High Sierra Bookends: Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney
Many Possible Beginnings
South Lake Tahoe is fairly close to the beginning of the trail at either the Meeks Bay, the Echo Summit, or the South Upper Truckee Road trail heads. Though I describe these three trailheads, there are many more around the Lake you can begin your trip from.
In fact, the guide down to Mount Whitney from Lake Tahoe is broken down into sections of trail between Resupply Points. You can craft custom backpacking trips of varying distances by starting your hike to Yosemite, or on to Mount Whitney, from any number of trailheads up and down the main trails.
At South Lake Tahoe full backpacker resupply, repair, and recovery resources are available. This may be helpful for Northbound hikers along the PCT who find it necessary to replace their boots, repair gear, or just want a night or two off in a bed.
The proximity of each of your different Lake Tahoe trailheads to local resources differs.
One End Point
All the trails on this guide are targeted on one end point: The Whitney Portal.
Just past the Whitney Portal, Doug's Mount Whitney Portal Burgers offer hungry backpackers a delicious repast. The hand-cut fries are especially good. Doug, his Son, staff, and friends are all great people.
Off the mountain in Lone Pine, which sits in the Eastern shadow of Mount Whitney, tired backpackers will find restaurants, stores, and even a backpacker's hostel (Established by Doug-I'll work up better information soon) where they can find a cheap place to crash.
The Hiking Plan
Hiking Plan in Motion
Hiking Plan Update
Resupply Thoughts and Suggestions
The people who staff our resupply points work hard, most for little pay to provide us with good food, a store, showers, and many other resupply services balanced right on the edge of the High Sierra Wilderness.
That can be a tough balancing act...
Most who live and work in the mountains do so for the same reasons you and I are drawn to the High Sierra Wilderness; to experience the grand terrain, the fierce weather, the stunning sunrises and sunsets, and the sturdy web of life within it.
To live in the mountains these people must make money. This requires that many of them haul food and supplies great distances, or pay premiums for someone else to do it. Half of them have set up, run, and maintain their facilities far from the grid.
I have no sympathy for the big corporation that runs Yosemite concessions (DNC), nor the yuppie jerks that overflow out of South Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes, but these fools do not justify being rude to the kids who work in the Tuolumne Meadows Store, the Cafe, and the Post Office.
There are kids working for the lousy pay and long hours at our Resupply Points up and down the Sierra Nevada. They are working these jobs serving our needs in exchange for their own access to the High Country. Remember these things when you are getting ready to complain about the high prices in the mountains, brag about what a badass hiker you are, or give the locals a hard time. Be Nice.
Oh, and they see right through the braggards and "eco-egotists."
Separate yourself from the herd; BE NICE.
If you are really broke, cheap, or in a big hurry you can grab your resupply and stay on the trail. But you may be doing yourself and the resupply people a great disservice. Trail culture is a significant part of the trail experience, (If you like it or not) and each resupply point has its own particular character and culture. I treasure them all.
But first and foremost, I consider it a pleasure to help these people make money, and maintain their operations for all of our benefit. I have heard far too many complaints over the years not to believe that there are those who differ.
In the case of the very high prices at the Reds Meadow Cafe and the Lake Alpine Lodge Restaurant, I can only say that other options are available. Bear Valley has a nice cheap (for the mountains) deli. At Red's you can catch the shuttle into Mammoth Lakes, and have a choice from a wider price range of foods.
Oh, and the Lake Alpine Lodge strives to put top quality fare near the Sierra Crestline.
Broke Backpackers, Backpacker Boxes, and Labor
If you really are broke, you still have options. At Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, Tuolumne Meadows, Vermilion Valley, and Muir Ranch there are generally substantial "hiker boxes," containing free supplies of leftover backpacking food left by earlier hikers.
But be forewarned that Lake Alpine does not have a hiker box. But it won't hurt to ask Kim, who manages the Lake Alpine Lodge, if there are any unclaimed, refused, or abandoned resupply packages.
The Excellent Ladies at Muir Ranch (one of which is the delightful Pat Gray) had sorted out their free backpacker food into types, and displayed it on benches under a sun tarp for backpackers who wanted to fill out their resupply to choose from! They set up a virtual backcountry store for free backpacker food. What delightful Ladies.
At Tuolumne Meadows talk to the Postmaster (Teech!) about the hiker box. He will do his best to take care of hurting hikers. These hiker box supplies may be a bit short early in the season, but will build up as the season progresses. The hiker boxes are generally made up of the contents of unclaimed hiker resupply boxes, and the extra food contributed by hikers who over-resupplied themselves.
Help the Helpers
If you sent yourself a resupply package that you cannot pickup, call the resuppy point and tell them to contribute it to their hiker box, use it to start a hiker box, or distribute it to passing backpackers who are short on food or funds.
Vermillion Valley has a long standing tradition of trading a huge meal and a bit of beer for anyone who works as their dinnertime dishwasher. I've done it repeatedly. It's hard work, but they have a great staff, and it's as fun as you make it. Work can be traded for food at Vermilion, especially if they are shorthanded. Vermilion is a kind of backpacker disneyland, where hikers from all over California, the US, and the world meet, rest, and party.
Until they hired that bitch "Olive," who makes a sport out of tormenting backpackers. VVR lost its high ranking and approval by Tahoe to Whitney after observing and experiencing the cruelty and apathy of the VVR staff in 2012. Fat, Lazy, and Stupid are only superficial descriptions of these worthless folks. Looking deeper one sees that they are spiritually bankrupt and ethically damaged. They are cruel, mean, and selfish.
I am hopeful the new owners will have a backpacker's spirit, unlike the current ownership.
I will skip VVR until it is under new management. That's a shame, as I loved that place under Butch and Peg..., now it's run by, here's my trail names for the VVR owners, "Bitch and Drag," an experience I can easily do without.
Reds Meadow and Muir Ranch are close enough together to make VVR as necessary as a sixth toe.
I ONLY stopped there because it was so fun. That's over...
ZERO MONEY OF MINE WILL GO TO VVR.
Tahoe to Whitney recommends
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station (Highway 108, fourteen miles West of Sonora Pass) has the best food for the best prices between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney. Though Kennedy Meadows is very backpacker friendly, its focus is providing cowboy and hunter resort services.
As you can see, each resupply point has its own culture and character, which reflects the particular nature of its location, its owners, its clientele, and its history. Part of your hike down the trail will involve encountering the various perspectives different people bring to the Sierras. I find that I enjoy the company of about anyone who enjoys the wilderness, even if they enjoy it differently than I.
I enjoy encountering horse packers, Mule packers, Lama-packers, and I've even ran into some goat packers, (who really cracked me up) on the trails. Across the spectrum of resupply points between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney you will run into every type of Mountain Culture, and every possible approach to the High Sierras. You will encounter backpackers, cowboys, hunters, fishermen, trail crew workers, all the various animal packers, rangers, and the country folk who work at the re supply points. I suggest that you find out as much as possible about how they all approach the Sierras, their favorite places, and their mountain stories.
Hell, I've even met bunches of nice car campers at Tuolumne Meadows and Lake Alpine. In any case, trail culture is an enjoyable aspect of backpacking down the trail as well as when you hike into a resupply point.
Some places are cowboy, as is Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. As I have long hair and live in Berkeley, the Kennedy Meadows Cowboys tend to discount me a tad. Until we get to know each other over a few beers at the Kennedy Meadows Bar, or a few miles on the trail, and they realize that I love the mountains as much as they, but I just do it from ground-level, rather than from the back of a horse.
"I don't need no god-damned mule. I am my own damn mule," always gets them laughing, until they realize that I am not kidding, and more stubborn than any damn mule...
Other places are more upscale, like the Lake Alpine Lodge (and more expensive-check out their bar menu for cheaper food, or hitch 3 miles West to the Bear Valley Store Deli!), while Tuolumne Meadows is a major crossroad of the backpacking and climbing worlds, not to mention a destination of global outdoor tourists and car campers of every conceivable character.
The American Cultural Elite
Muir Ranch is on the other side of the wilderness business spectrum, specializing in providing solitude to the highest levels of the American Urban Elite. Muir Ranch has only recently begun to demonstrate more enjoyment with, rather than toleration of, backpackers. Muir Ranch has even begun offering backpackers the opportunity to fill vacancies in their accommodations when available. And I must say, dealing with Pat is always a real pleasure, even before Muir became "Officially" backpacker friendly.
I like Pat. You will meet the nicest people at the resupply points.
In any case, to fully enrich your backpacking experience you should drink as deeply as possible from the human, as well as the natural character of the terrain your travel through.
I suggest you enjoy every aspect of your trip, from the beauty of crystal blue lakes suspended in a high granite valley, to the simple pleasures of just hanging out with other backpackers and the resupply crew, after they get off work.
If you possibly can, give yourself enough Time, Money and Supplies, and therefore time on the trail, to soak it all in.
I suggest you dedicate a minimum of 40 days, and a maximum of 50 days, to walk between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, so you can cover the distance without missing too much. I've walked the complete distance four times, and I've barley scratched the surface.
That's why the forum is vital: Add your experiences.
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Below left: Good Morning, frosty pack Below right: Hey, I want to camp here!
Your guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails