Internet Connectivity on The John Muir Trail

In this post I'm sharing the hot spots of internet connectivity we encountered along the John Muir Trail and our experience staying connected and sending updates from the trail. You may find this useful when planning your gear.


This article is part of our series: Along the John Muir Trail in 18 Days.


We had this thought that we were going to try and share our adventure live, while it happened, right from the trail. Little did we know, nor did we ask or read about, that the connectivity on the trail would be so deceiving. We heard accounts that various regions had great connectivity, and, for some reason, we decided to not investigate any further. So, we went on with our hike hopeful that we would be able to, at least every two or three days, post an update on our progress.

Tuolumne Meadows: No Connectivity

We started in Tuolumne Meadows and, to our mild surprise, connectivity abruptly ends as you enter Yosemite National Park. We were a little disappointed because we thought that we could at least post the beginning-of-the-hike photo from Yosemite. 

Donohue Pass: Full LTE

On our first day we hiked all though Lyell Canyon, and spent the night below Donohue Pass, with no signal whatsoever. Then, the following morning, we hiked Donohue Pass, and to our surprise, we got full LTE, good enough to not only upload a few pictures, but to have a video chat with family and friends. We were so excited to be able to share the experience of reaching Donohue, and share the fact that we were into day 2 of our multi week adventure. We theorized that maybe we were getting our connection though the Mammoth Lakes ski resort, which was barely visible to the south at the horizon.

South of Garnet Lake: Full LTE

We continued our hike to reach Thousand Island Lake. Here we didn't get a signal, but we knew that once we'd get into line-of-sight with those towers, we would get a connection back. And the following morning we did! Right after passing Garnet Lake and climbing the switchbacks at the south east of the lake to reach the saddle. This was almost a second Donohue in terms of chattiness, but this time, we limited to about 15 minutes and continued our hike. On this day we reached Rosalie Lake and the following day we would be arriving at Reds Meadow for our first resupply. We were convinced that this level of on-and-off but consistent connectivity was the norm on the JMT, so we carried on with collecting thoughts to be posted from the trail.

Gladys Lake: LTE

On our way to Reds, we reached the third hot spot, right after we passed Gladys Lake, a connection that would last for a couple of hours as we descended into Reds and had Mammoth in our sight again. Happily uploaded another picture, and shared the joy of hiking into a semi-connected wilderness.

Reds Meadow: Full LTE

All hell broke loose at Reds where we were back to full services, including showers, a store, a restaurant, laundry, and of course LTE! At this point there was no doubt in our minds that, indeed, JMT was very well connected (no pun intended).

Bear Ridge: 4G

So, we started on day 5 off from Reds, spent the night at Purple Lake, the following night at Silver Pass Lake, and started to get worried that we didn't get any signal whatsoever, and maybe won't get another shot at all. Then, all of a sudden, before we reach Bear Creek Trail on day 7, we get a connection again. Woohoo!

Muir Ranch: No LTE, No WiFi, Slow Shared Sat Laptop

Upper bear creek trail is also dark, then comes the Muir Trail Ranch, where we were absolutely sure there will be connectivity. But here's the stunner! MTR has only one option for you, and that is an old Mac Book, running a slow satellite connection that's shared with everybody else willing to pay the $10 fee for ten minutes of usage.

So, no WiFi or LTE at Muir Ranch, unfortunately. 

But wait, this was not all. This would be the end of our connectivity! This was where we went completely dark until we reached Whitney. Seriously, there were absolutely no more chances to get any photo uploaded during the second leg of our trip. None.

Did We Really Need It?

But that's fine, because the second leg of the trip is where the true wilderness starts, where you climb the Golden Staircase and enjoy the Palisades, where you climb Mather, and Glen, and Forester, and where you enjoy the Painted Lady and Rae Lakes, where you hike among endless open views at Evolution, Wanda, and Helen Lakes, Muir Pass, and so many more!

You "don't need no internet" on the trail! We thought we did, but we actually didn't! :-)

Summary

These were the places on the JMT where we had an internet connection:

  • Donohue Pass
  • Ridge above and to the south east of Garnet Lake
  • Descending from Purple Lake, Past Gladys Lake, towards Reds Meadow
  • Reds Meadow
  • On the Bear Ridge before starting the descent towards Bear Creek Trail
  • No WiFi or LTE connection at Muir Ranch, only a wired satellite connected laptop to share with everybody else

 

This was the story of our internet connection on the John Muir Trail. We hope you found it useful for your planning.


This article is part of our series: Along the John Muir Trail in 18 Days.