Not everything you eat during a John Muir Trail hike comes from your bear canister. There are other opportunities before, during, and after the hike. These restaurants may not be considered fine dining or feature famous chefs, but the meal you eat in each will be special, especially compared to what comes out of that bear canister.
Yosemite Valley. Remarkably, there aren’t any really good options here. The main dining room at the Ahwahnee was once superior, but my experiences there lately have been unexceptional. The pizza in the dining room above Degnan’s isn’t bad. Perhaps your best bet is the Mexican place at Curry Village.
Tuolumne Meadow. There are two choices here, and both are good. First is the Tuolumne Meadow Grill. Located on the south side of the Tioga Pass road, it shares the same building as the store. Breakfast has all the necessities, with portions that are the appropriate size for hungry hikers. For a JMTer who is shooting for ten-to-thirteen miles a day, and who started at Happy Isles, you will likely come across the TM Grill at breakfast time on day three. If you are taking a half-day off and spending the night at the Tuoulumne Lodge, be sure to make a reservation at their restaurant. The food is terrific, the menu changes frequently, and (unless there are eight of you) you will be seated with strangers. It is hard to beat good food AND good conversation with new friends.
The Mule House Cafe. Since I take a zero day at Red’s Meadow, I get to eat at the Mule House Cafe more than once. My first meal, usually midday on day six, is their patty melt. It is superb. The tuna salad isn’t bad, either, and the fruit pies are amazing. Oh, and anyone who is walking more than ten miles a day for two or more weeks can drop a couple scoops of ice cream on that pie.
The Dining Room at Muir Trail Ranch. This is another place where I spend two nights and a rest day. The meals are amazing. One breakfast I particularly remember was an egg/tomato/avocado combination that was well beyond tasty. Dinners are delightful and—weather permitting—are served outdoors. The morning you leave MTR for the last half of your hike, make sure you make yourself a sandwich for lunch. In fact, make two!
Seasons in Lone Pine. Why on earth does Lone Pine have a restaurant as good as Seasons? Don’t get me wrong, I like the town of Lone Pine, but it isn’t a very big place, and one would expect the Denny’s to be about as good as it gets. Instead, based on the quality of their food, Seasons would succeed anywhere. The steaks are quite good, and they have a twist on an insalata caprese that is out of this world.
The further along the trail you get, the food just keeps getting better. Another reason to hike southbound!
Good hiking, Ray