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Red's Meadow and Mammoth Lakes Backpacking Resupply: John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails
Reds Meadow and Mammoth Lakes Resupply Forum
Resupply along the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails
Resupply and Trail Culture
I do not "hit and run" at Reds Meadow, picking up my resupply and immediately continuing down the trail. But you can, if that suits your view of an ideal resupply.
My philosophy requires I explore and enjoy each resupply point on the trail between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney as if each was a unique part of the trail experience.
Each resupply point between Tahoe and Whitney is different. Each one has a different mix of outdoor people who visit and inhabit it, making each a unique outpost of trail culture.
Reds Meadow Backpacker Resupply
Trail Guide Information
Reds Meadow-Mammoth Lakes Resources on this page
Reds Meadow: Location and Culture
Why Mammoth Lakes: Unique urban and trail culture.
Full-Service "city" Medical, gear repair-replacement
The Bottom Line: A Must-Stop rest and recover point
Tuolumne to Whitney Portal: Resupply Strategy.
Mammoth Lakes: Unique & Banal
Mammoth Resupply: Many Backpacker Resources
Reds Meadow: Location and Culture
Though Reds Meadow is a pack station, (pack stations are cowboy country) Reds sits just South of The Devils Postpile, and West of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort. The resort town of Mammoth Lakes sits just a bit further East of Mammoth Mountain.
Reds Meadow's unique location assures they get a steady stream of tourists out of Mammoth Lakes who are taking the shuttle in from Mammoth Mountain. They are there for the same reson as us backpackers, to explore Agnew Meadow, Devils Postpile, Rainbow Falls, and Reds Meadow.
The fundamental difference between us is that they are looking at the wilderness from the outside-in, mostly through the window of the shuttle-bus today. Backpackers engage the scenery.
This constant flow of pale tourists carrying tote-bags while sporting dockers shorts and alligator shirts gives Reds Meadow more the air of a Western tourist destination than an outpost of cowboy culture.
The cowboys and horse packers are there at Reds, and at their sub-stables at Agnew Meadow, but they do not interact with backpackers at the store and restaurant. I've met more of Reds' guys out on the trail than at Reds Meadow.
Trail culture is much different at Reds pack station than at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, where the cowboy-country music culture sits right on the trail, rubbing elbows with the backpackers. Reds is kind of a sterile environment.
Don't let me give you the wrong impression. I've camped with Reds' trail crews. They are great guys. The staff at Reds' store and at the restaurant are top-notch. They professionally handle backpacker's resupply and service needs.
But Reds Meadow is a beach head on the edge of wilderness where shuttle-fulls of tourists arrive and depart on a clockwork schedule. Mammoth Lakes is the place to properly fill-out your resupply experience when you arrive at Reds Meadow.
Mammoth Lakes has a delightful character born out of its role as a four-season sports-related resort town. Mammoth Mountain is Los Angeles' favorite ski destination during Winter, making Mammoth Lakes a very expensive and busy ski town.
During Summertime Mammoth Mountain converts its ski slopes into mountain bike tracks, drawing the LA mountain bike scene by the busload. Backpackers, bikers, and conventional sight-seeing tourists appear to make up the majority of Summer visitors to Mammoth Lakes.
During Spring and Fall Mammoth Lakes is a locals town. When the tourist population diminishes the locals become the majority in their own town you will see that the locals from Mammoth do it all. They ski, bike, hike, climb, backpack, and engage themselves with the wilderness that most of them moved there to enjoy.
The Mammoth Lake locals are a pretty cool bunch. If you spend any significant time on the trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney you will meet a lot of people from Mammoth Lakes hiking the trails.
Eastern Sierra Cultural Mecca
Mammoth Lakes is also the center of local culture up and down the Highway 395 corridor along the Eastern Sierra. Local folk, trail crew, Yosemite's many workers, and people from the towns up and down the Eastern Sierra are drawn to Mammoth Lakes for its concerts, festivals, stores, bars and restaurants.
Mammoth Lakes is the only full-service city where you can obtain full repair, replacement, resupply, communications, transportation, and medical services so close to the main crest trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney.
The next, and only other location along the whole length of the Sierra Crest where a full-service city is located in such close proximity to the Sierra Crest trails is a couple of hundred miles North at Lake Tahoe.
As the start-point of my Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney backpacking trip is at Meeks Bay in the Tahoe Basin, Mammoth Lakes is the only full-service city I will visit between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney. I am going to enjoy it.
Most trailheads along the Sierra Crest are at least a 60 mile drive to obtain full services after you get to the trailhead.
Access to Mammoth Lakes is simple. Hike into Reds Meadow. A shuttle to Mammoth Mountain will pick you up there. Pay the driver $7.50. Stash your return-trip ticket. A second shuttle brings you down to Mammoth Lakes from Mammoth Mountain for no charge.
All of these factors combine to make Mammoth Lakes a "must stop" destination for me.
I've been on the trail between 30 to 35 days by the time I get down to Reds Meadow from Lake Tahoe. I always take the shuttle into Mammoth Lakes and get a hotel room, seriously kick-back, seriously feed up, and sleep in a bed for the first and only time during my Tahoe to Whitney excursion. Thanks Boo!
In fact, I'm going to enjoy a bed for two nights of rest, backed up by two days of relaxation, easy resupply shopping, and especially to enjoy the fine dining and meet the fine people who inhabit and are visiting Mammoth Lakes.
This forum is set up to provide you with basic information about the pleasures and utility of Mammoth Lakes for the Long-Distance Backpacker. This Forum is also the place for you to post-up about your favorite places and backpacker resources at Mammoth Lakes, or places for backpackers to avoid.
I'd like to hear about your favorite lodging, restaurant, and/or an overview of your experiences staying at Mammoth Lakes-if you are willing to register and post up a stand-alone forum page.
But if you've got just a few words to say about Mammoth Lakes, I invite you to post up your advice, information, or questions and comments through the comments link for this page, or the one at the bottom of this page.
Your perspective and experience will widen and deepen our knowledge of Mammoth Lakes.
Reds Meadow Pack Station Backpacker's Resupply
Reds Meadow is our 5th possible resupply point coming South out of Meeks Bay from Lake Tahoe. Depending on our route South, we have hiked between 190 to 220 miles.
Reds Meadow is close to three other resupply points. Vermilion Valley Resort on Lake Thomas Edison is South of Reds, and the Post Office at Tuolumne Meadows is a short distance the North. Muir Ranch is one night to the South of Vermilion Valley Resort.
A strong backpacker hiking at a fast pace can cover the distance between Tuolumne Meadows and Muir Ranch in 4 nights, arriving early morning on the 5th day feeling good. At a moderate pace you could take 7 nights for this same distance. There is a significant alternative route between Reds and Vermilion.
Fish Canyon will bring you by Iva Bell Hot Springs on your way over Goodale Pass to walk-in to Vermilion Valley Resort.
Overnight vs Hit and Run
Four resupply locations are spread over this relatively short distance, independent of pace or route. I suggest tuning your resupply plans primairly for maximum experience. You can overnight at three of these resupply locations.
Spending a night or two camping at a classic resupply spot like Tuolumne Meadows or Vermilion Valley Resort gives you the time to soak up the local color. I understand that you may have time constraints or a Need for Speed that limits the time-frames of your resupply experiences. I respect that, and offer basic information that only you can decide how to use properly.
Tuolumne Meadow has a cheap backpacker camp, Mammoth Lakes has Motel 6, Vermilion Valley has free backpacker camping, while Muir Ranch discourages nearby camping.
Tuolumne Meadows is a crossroads of global, national, and local backpackers, climbers, hikers, car campers, photographers, and tourists. It is beautiful. Everyone loves it. It is worth a night or two of your time. I describe Mammoth's utility above.
But I would not spend a night-or resupply-at Mammoth Lakes if I started my trip to Mount Whitney at Tuolumne Meadows. Mammoth Lakes is just too close to Tuolumne Meadows to require a night off for my tastes. I would still consider heading into Mammoth Lakes for a few hours to eat some fresh food and see the town.
That reduces the typical John Muir Trail hiker's stops to two: Vermilion Valley and Muir Ranch. As I mentioned before, Muir is not an overnight destination for me, though many speak highly of the hot springs near Muir as a camping destination.
I always arrive very early at Muir after spening the night at Selden Pass. I stay long enough to socialize with the ladies and hang out with other resupplying backpackers, then try to get myself up to Evolution Meadow for the evening.
Vermilion Valley is a backpacker's Disneyland. If you are low-budget, you can wash dishes for food. The food is great, and the people there are,...errr...unique! I would not miss VVR for the world. I will always spend two nights at Vermilion. Thanks Boo!
This gives you a number of resupply options. The extremes are all or two, with the two resupply points consisting of Tuolumne Meadows and Muir Ranch. At Muir Ranch you will need to resupply for the last, and longest leg of your whole Tahoe to Whitney trip, the 130 mile (+/-) segment between Muir Ranch and the Whitney Portal.
Two resupply points consisting of Tuoumne Meadows and Muir Ranch are the logical minimum for strong backpackers, or backpackers who are short of time, to cover the whole distance between Tuolumne Meadows and Whitney. The other two, Reds Meadow and Vermilion Valley Resort are optional for all hikers. You can do it without stopping at either. I suggest you stop at all of them for three good reasons, independent of your strength or speed.
First, if you are hiking the John Muir Trail or the Tahoe to Whitney for the first time I strongly suggest that you try to see every part of the trail, including visiting all four of the resupply points between Tuolumne Meadows and the Whitney Portal. Second, resupplying at all the possible resupply points will minimize your pack weight.
Third, and most importantly, you will miss the unique experiences of observing civilization, even an outpost of civilization like Vermilon Valley, from the viewpoint of a long-distance wilderness traveler.
These short visits to "civilization" as you travel down the long trail may measure just how much your perspective has adjusted and sensitized to the long trails. Visits to civilization every now and then will also serve to mitigate the shock of rentering "civilization" after your extended wilderness travels are finally over. Reentering civilization can be a rude shock after a couple of months on the trails. Give yourself some small doses to minimize the potential shock.
Reds Meadow has a store, restaurant, showers, laundry, and a backpacker resupply package service.
The store has few items of utility for backpackers, the resturant is expensive for the portions, and the showers are universally rated as "excellent" by backpackers. Backpackers love unlimited very-hot natural mineral water showers.
Between the Laundry facilities, the Showers, and the Resupply Service, backpackers can get everything they need at Reds Meadow to refresh, resupply, and continue their trip without visiting Mammoth Lakes.
1>Resupply Season Dates: June 15 to October 1
2> $35.00 fee sent separately from the resupply package.
3>Signed authorization for package pick-up. Address the package to yourself C/O Reds Meadow Pack Station, and make sure you send your authorization with your payment, separately from your Resupply Package.
4> Your resupply package must be sent via US Postal Service to Reds Post Office Box.
5>Mailing Address for both the fee and the resupply packages. Send your fee with the authorization separately from your Resupply Package to:
Reds Meadow Pack Station
Post Office Box 395
Mammoth Lakes, California, 93546
Phone: (800) 292-7758
Reds Resupply Information: PDF
Website: Reds Meadow
Email: Reds Meadow Pack Station
You can drop off your own Resupply Package at Reds, and they charge a dollar a day to hold it until pick it up. Remember, auto traffic on Minnaret Summit Road is prohibited from Sunrise to Sunset during Summer. Thus the shuttle service.
It appears in the wording of Reds Resupply Instructions (the PDF) that Reds is charging a dollar a day for Resupply Packages that are sent to Reds for storage longer than 5 days. This means that your timing in sending your Resupply Package to Reds is very important. They have never charged me with this fee before. I may have not noticed it, never exceeded the limit, or it might be a new or altered policy.
Reds states that Parcel Post is taking more than 30 days to arrive. They suggest First-Class mail if your arrival date at Reds is less than 30 days from the time you post your Resupply Package.
I always suggest sending your resupply package in mouse and varmit proof packaging. Any packaging that a small animal can easily knaw, claw, or chew through may be compromised.
One Spring at Tuolumne Meadows a series of factors lined up that brought a population explosion in the field mice community. The mouse population, as well as the human staff at Tuolumne Meadows, was subsequently displaced by a big Spring flood..
By the time the staff was able to return the mice had overrun the Post Office, and knawed into every Resupply Package posted in cardboard boxes. My plastic utility bucket was unscathed by moisture or mouse.
There were a hell of a lot of really bummed out John Muir Trail backpackers that year. Their Tuolumne Meadow resupply packages had to be replaced at Tuolumne Meadow Store prices. Ouch.
The classic packaging for a Backpacker Resupply is the plastic utility bucket. These are rodent and varmit proof enough, and strong enough to survive some harsh unexpected conditions. These buckets have the best chance to survive the combined destructive powers of both the Post Office and of Nature..
I always put my name or mark every 45 degrees around my resupply bucket, and on the top too. This allows my bucket to be easily found even when it is stacked up with 50 others.
Text of Reds authorization form:
Enclosed is $35.00 per package, I authorize Red‛s Meadow to pick up my package(s)
in accordance with the above policies on or about ____________.
(approximate date you expect us to pick up your package)
Showers: $5.00 Legendary Showers up and down the trail for their very HOT mineral water.
Laundry: $1.75 wash/.50 dry.
Restaurant: Expensive, $8.35 burger...I do eat here to support Reds. I support all local resupply points that support backpackers with my business. Then I head into Mammoth Lakes where food is cheaper and better!
Pack Station Services: Cabins-Horses-Pack Trips. Have you gotten fat, lazy, and rich? Well in that case it's luck for you that Reds Meadow is indeed a Pack Station. Want a nice backcountry experience without the walk?
Reds will gladly mule-pack your gear, your beer, your supplies, and even your fat ass into the backcountry, (I suggest you have them bring you to Iva Bell) stash it for your hike-in arrival, and pick your gear up when you are done. I depend on you guys for some fine meals and cold beer deep in the mountains, so get on it!.
I really enjoy Mammoth Lakes as a two-night rest and resupply stop. There are great places to eat, nice walks around town to relax the legs, and all sorts of cool people to meet that live there.
On the other hand, Mammoth is for Los Angeles what Lake Tahoe is for San Francisco: The "local" resort getaway. There are lots of rich jerks from Los Angeles hanging about. They have built some pretty fancy yuppie malls & McMansions at Mammoth, just like the recent development at South Lake Tahoe.
And then I met old Bud from Indiana. Bud was in his late sixties, and he and his wife had come out to Mammoth Lakes to check out his daughter's new town. Bud was typical of many of the people who come from all over the country to visit Mammoth Lakes. You will meet the nicest people in Mammoth, if you are nice to people.
But "Old" Mammoth, consisting of the country and mountain folk who live in Mammoth full-time need L.A.'s snotty, but rich, idiot yuppies to keep their town prosperous. I just hope the local community can keep their economy going without the drawbacks of urbanization and gentrification getting out of hand. I don't think we have to worry too much about a housing/building bubble for a long time...
The Southbound Pacific Crest Trail crosses Agnew Meadow prior to Reds Meadow, while Southbound hikers on the John Muir Trail hike directly to Reds.
No matter-both Agnew and Reds Meadows are serviced by the same shuttle ($7.50 for a Round-Trip Ticket in 2009) that will bring you from either location to the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort.
One of the shuttle drivers is an expert naturalist, and if you are lucky he will give you a good natural history of the area as he drives you through it. Miss Jen is another of the shuttle drivers who well represents the fine character of the locals.
At Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort you can pick up a free local bus to take you into Mammoth Lakes proper. This same free local bus will also bring you back up to Mammoth Mountain to catch the round-trip of the shuttle you already paid for back to the trailhead at Reds when you are ready to hit the trail again.
The town of Mammoth Lakes features a local shuttle service during the Summer high tourist season that circles downtown and runs up to Mammoth Mountain. You know what's funny? I thought it was a free shuttle for years. None of the drivers said anything. I had no larcerny in my heart, but I was hell of embarassed when I found out it is not a free shuttle! After I become rich and famous I've got to send the town of Mammoth Lakes a check!
In Mammoth Lakes the first thing I want to do is live pack-free for a couple of days, so the first thing to do is get a room to stash my pack. I stay at the Motel Six, because they generally have the best rates in town, they have good rooms, they are centrally located, they have laundry, and most importantly they have always treated this trail-trashed dirty backpacking bum well.
Backpackers have spoken well of the Holiday House and the Davidson Guest House, but I have no first hand experience with either. If you have information about any of the places or topics on this page, post up what you know.
I always ask them for a backpacker discount when I check in, and they have given me discounts almost every time I've stayed there. I am a backpacking bum, and I am almost always running tight down the trail. I ask for a through-hiker's discount, telling them I've walked a hell of a long way to enjoy their hospitality. And it's all true.
Your best bet of getting a hiker discount is during mid-week and at the beginning and end of the hiking season. But I've gotten discounts even when they appeared busy during the high Summer backpacking season. This is a large Motel 6, and there is a lot of local competition in Mammoth Lakes. I've always had to dicker to establish a backpacker discount, and I've always had to initiate the negotiation.
Start by asking the rate for one night, then ask for a backpacker's discount on that. If they demur, I tell them that I come back every Summer, and you can tell them you saw them promoted by backpackers on the internet, which will bring yet more backpackers.
If they don't counter with an offer for a lesser daily rate if you take two nights, you should make an offer.
If Mammoth Lake is full of people on a weekend during the high backpacking season, don't even try to negotiate a discount. All of the hotels and motels in Mammoth appear to charge higher prices, or at least not cut their rates, on big weekends during the high backpacking season, and when the town fills up for big local events and activities.
Be especially careful about not hiking into Mammoth when they are having one of their big festivals or concerts, unless you are planning on enjoying the festival, and have already booked reservations. I've seen it get really-really busy at local motels when a local festival and a big mid-Summer backpacking weekend line up. You will likely get a room, but it will be expensive and far off the beaten track.
Hostel: There is a hostel in Mammoth Lakes that is rumored to be a good deal in a good circumstance. I have not researched it out on the trail by foot yet. If you have any information about the hostel in Mammoth, register and post up a page about what you know in this Resupply Forum.
Motel 6: 3372 Main. Laundry facilities, lots of free coffee, good beds and color cable. These people have always treated me real well. Discounts for backpackers! I've seen this place really fill up during July weekends, so don't expect backpacker deals during the high season, but give it a try. They like their backpackers at this Motel 6.
Roberto's: Classic excellent Mexican food, lots of it, and great service. I always have a huge doggie bag for later. I have eaten here for decades and never been disappointed. Don't miss it.Good Prices. Very busy, especially on weekends.
Angels BBQ: Classic BBQ food and good service. 5.99 for a quarter chicken and fries...Don't miss it. BBQ is expensive, but it sure tastes good after a month on the trail. Treat yourself. Very busy, especially on weekends!
Breakfast Club: Main and Old Mammoth. (2987 Main.) Classic excellent breakfast and service. Don't miss it. Again, a real efficient and friendly staff. Good Prices. Very busy! The counter service moves pretty quick for us solo backpackers.
Good Life Cafe: 126 Old Mammoth. Veggie fare, healthy and light, very good for you vegitarians. And the good life does Meat too, which is pretty much required for their Mexican dishes as well. I have not tried the Mexican food at the Good Life, but I would guess it's as light on fats as possible judging by the rest of their light and healthy menu.
Sausa's Tacos: 588 Old Mammoth. A bit South of Vons on Old Mammoth. Cheap, quick and tasty lunches...Well, cheap for Mammoth Lakes. These are the type of tacos that you will find on your local taco truck in Los Angeles or Bakersfield, in Mammoth Lakes.
Perry's Italian Cafe: 3399 Main St (760) 934-6521. Small pizza and salad bar deal: all you can eat salad with a little pizza for nine bucks. I can eat thirty bucks worth of food when I get off the trail...and it's real good. Fresh Salad is so tasty after such a long time on the trail. I only eat here for the salad bar-pizza lunch deal.
Resort Town Pricing
All of the restaurants listed above do lunch...Prices for everything in Mammoth Lakes are higher than a normal town. The reason is that Mammoth Lakes is a Resort Town, which is always a bit more expensive than normal towns...which is exactly why I searched-out the restaurants listed above. Their prices are almost resonable anywhere in California for the same level of quality and quanity of food.
I am one hungry backpacker when I arrive at Mammoth Lakes. I can eat large amounts of food. My body craves fresh, bloody nutrition. The restaurants linked and listed above easily clear my hunger/quanitiy/quality/cost calculation.
Let's have a Beer
Spike's Liquors: 3241 Main. Actually called Mammoth Liquors...Spike owns and works there, Spike is cool, and so are the guys he has working there. Right next to Rick's Sports. Sign above door: 150 BEERS.
Backpacking Personal Supplies and Grocery Store
Rite Aid: Corner of Old Mammoth and Main. Full first-aid and about everything for the backpacker's personal needs: Travel sized moisturizer, toothpaste, and little stuff for trail and town. The cheap ice cream old-school "Thrifty" cones are a hit with locals, visitors, and this backpacker..
Vons: Old Mammoth. A big full-service grocery with all the bells and whistles. Deli, salad bar, and some bulk foods. Send your irreplaceable and important trail food supplies to Reds, such as your freeze-dried dinners and custom foods. You can buy the rest, or supplement your food supplies at Vons.
There are many outdoors stores in Mammoth Lakes. I found these two +1 to be the best stocked for backpackers and most helpful.
Mammoth Mountaineering Supply: 3189 Main. Real cool staff who will try to help you out: Thanks Jason...
Mammoth Sporting Goods: 452 Old Mammoth Road # 1. Great folk working here, and they had cheap Mountain House freeze dried dinners when I came through in 2009
Kittredge Sports: 3218 Main St. Lots of stuff, expensive, snobby to me. But hey, I'm a ratty backpacker, not a rich LA yuppie, so I guess that's OK...
Access Business Center: Old Mammoth, in the same mall as Von's. If you need internet access or use of a computer/printer, this is where to go. I made new "trail cards" with the link to this site when I ran out of "trail cards" passing them out to backpackers on the trail down from Lake Tahoe. ABC has a staff-dude that was very helpful to me, and all the other customers who walked in.
Castoff: Cheap used clothes, 3095 Chateau, off of Old Mammoth behind Vons. I needed a shirt and trunks for my Mammoth Stay. I wanted to wash all my backpacking clothes at once, and keep them fresh for the trail.I got a shirt, trunks, and new socks here for around 7 bucks.
Why Mammoth II
I had hiked from Tuolumne Meadows to the first lake just South of Island Pass. This made me hungry. I threw down my pack, dug out my food supplies, removed a ramen noodle pack, and quickly did a "day hang" of the remaining pack. It was only 5 pm. I was only concerned with basic security as I was just beginning what was going to be a long meal.
As I was cooking my noodles, I heard something behind me, where I had hung my food. It was a huge bear, a Yosemite Valley bear, up here near Island Pass.
The next morning two hikers coming by on the trail recognized me, and asked, "what happened with that bear that was following you? We saw you at the trail junction, and about a minute later a huge bear came by, following you."
Well, needless to say I had quite a time, resulting in a nine-mile foodless hike down to Reds the next day. Life sucks on the trail without food.
I had to resupply for the run down to Vermilion at Mammoth, as I was planning to skip Mammoth. After one night there I spent another, and since that disaster first drove me into Mammoth Lakes for an emergency resupply I have never failed to stop and visit since.
I'll post up the rest of the details of this robbery soon, but right now it's 4:11 AM, and I'm done...
Because this page is under construction, this is only a partial listing of the wide variety of backpacker's resources available at Mammoth Lakes.
This page will not be done when I'm finished, as your input, experiences in Mammoth, as well as your questions and comments are vital to building and maintaining the best backpacker's resource for Mammoth Lakes on the whole darn internet...
Never finished, this Reds-Mammoth resupply page will be updated with each of my backpacking trips that touch Reds-Mammoth, and by your future input.
Check out the rest of the Resupply Forum
Post your impressions through the comments link below the map.
quot; passing them out to backpackers on the trail down from Lake Tahoe.