Last week I discussed the advantages of taking one or more zero days on your hike. This week we’ll look at the first two places one can do that, if you are hiking southbound.
Tuolumne Meadow. Tent cabins, without electricity or plumbing, are as good as it gets at Tuolumne, but they are practically adjacent to the trail, so you don’t have to walk far out of your way. They have a communal shower and toilet. The snack bar is an easy walk from the tents, and the Tuolumne Lodge (which is mostly tent, itself) serves breakfast and dinner. (If you intend to eat dinner there, be sure to inform the staff when you check in.)
It’s tough to get a reservation at Tuolumne, unless you’re doing your planning thirteen months out. The park allows you to make a reservation a year and a day in advance, so if you intend to stay here, you must either reserve early, or get lucky.
Should you spend a zero day here? If you are intending to take more than three weeks on the trail (because of your physical condition, not just to spend some extra time in the woods), I would say, “Yes.” Chances are you will have arrived late on day three, or early on day four, and your body could probably use the time to recuperate.
If you are hiking the entire trail in around sixteen to twenty-one days, I would recommend a “half zero day.” Try to arrive in Tuolumne early on day three (which is easy to do if you camp at one of the Cathedral Lakes the night before), and then spend the rest of the day off your feet and that night in a warm and comfy bed.
Red’s Meadow. The cabins at Red’s Meadow are the best accommodations you’ll encounter on the trail. They have electricity, indoor bathrooms with showers, and comfortable beds. Like Tuolumne, they are practically right on the trail.
There is a small store on the grounds (where you will pick up your supplies, if you have sent them ahead), and right in the middle of the cabins is the Mulehouse Café! The meals I’ve eaten there are among the best that I have ever experienced, although that may be more of a comment on how hungry I was when I sat down, instead of the quality of food. All kidding aside, the food is really quite good.
Red’s Meadow is about a quarter of the way along the length of the trail, which makes the timing about perfect. You’ll be ready for some quality rest, particularly if you didn’t stop at Tuolumne. They have a washer and dryer (remember to pack some quarters and laundry soap in your resupply box), and an inexpensive bus that you can take into the town of Mammoth, via the ski lodge.
Easy to get to, relatively inexpensive, and comfortable, Red’s Meadow is a great place for a zero day.
Good hiking, Ray