Well, I think this is a good idea. I'm always looking around for ways to get to hiking destinations without a car (I own one, but I like to keep the carbon out of the air when I can). Generally speaking there aren't that many such services, but I just read about a new bus called Bundubus. They have quite a bit of service originating from SF, LA, Las Vegas, Salt Lake, a few other places, and going to Bryce, Arches, Capitol Reef Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and elsewhere. It seems like Las Vegas is their main hub. I don't entirely understand how it works, and service is limited at this time of year, but it increases mid April through fall It has a feature that would allow you say to get off for a few days in Death Valley en route to Yosemite, then spend a few days in Yosemite before going on to SF. Again, I don't have any experience with them but there aren't many options out there that seem to do this sort of thing. There's Green Tortoise, and there are some places served by Amtrak. If anyone has any experience with them, please let me know.
I agree that it's a good idea. For the past 15 years my wife and I have taken cheap vacations by virtue of free flights (Southwest credit card buys all my business supplies) and flying into Vegas or more recently, Albequerque, with backpacks. We've been renting economy cars from Hotwire, but we would seriously consider bus services if available. In my late teens, I did take Greyhounds to various places, but they still had flag stops and would stop the bus and let you off if it was legal and feasible. I got dropped off in the Sierra below trailheads several times. That type of service does not exist any longer. I can't even find bus service available to the larger towns along the east side of the Sierra. I did link to the Bundu Bus site and punched in the numbers for an upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon, sans the planned side trip. It would cost us 424.00 round trip, or about 150.00 more than what we've been spending for a 10 day car rental and fuel. Not as attractive as I like, yet, but it may improve with time. We also had the option of a flight to the GC, but that's double the price. Apparently, Bundu Bus can also sprout wings.
Eastern Sierra Transit provides reasonable bus service along the eastern Sierra front. There is bus service between Reno and Lone Pine MTThF and, IIRC, more often between Lone Pine and Mammoth. ESTA also connects with YARTS in Mammoth and Lee Vining for transport to Yosemite. One can travel from Lone Pine to Yosemite in an easy day leaving LP at 6:30 am and arriving in Yosemite about noon.
yeah, years ago I used Greyhound for quite a few trips, but they've dropped most of their routes, and they don't guarantee a seat, even if you buy a ticket in advance online: I couldn't get a seat on a bus I had paid in advance for a few years back because it was full. They wanted me to wait all night in a bus station for the next one! "%#!*&!" is what I said! I didn't look into Bundu details, seems like maybe they are a start-up that only runs service when there is demand. Probably their best bet are foreign tourists flying into LA or Las Vegas and wanting to see parks, too. I may never use them, but I'm glad they exist. Yosemite is definitely the rare exception by being so well served, those connections you mention Pika work great! Other good ones I've used are Amtrak to Glacier (links to easy park shuttles) and Grand Canyon (you hook up with a tourist train in Williams AZ for the last bit to GC, or a bus shuttle from Flagstaff). One of these days I'm going to use Amtrak to Grand Junction CO, to visit next-door Colorado Monument and some nice BLM land around there. Amtrak to the Maroon Bells worked great: just need to take an easy bus from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. I highly recommend that. If someone wanted to, they could get to Point Reyes by bus from the Bay Area for backpacking easily enough (I drive I wish there were ways to get to Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon, or to some of the SoCal desert parks by bus, but I haven't been able find them, except for Green Tortoise, which is not a backpacking service. Anyone have their favorite tips for bus or train served backpacking trails or camping? Thanks.
Not west coast, Bobito, but I've been amazed at how easy it is to take a train from Manhattan to get on the AT and 200 miles of other trails in Harriman /Bear Mt. Park 40 miles north of NYC. It's common to run into backpackers there that don't own cars. My wife and I shared a shelter there on New Years with a great young couple that worked for Green Peace. I took a bus from the flag stop at the southern end of the June Lake Loop on 395, took it to Reno, on to SF and another local from there into Marin and backpacked Point Reyes many years ago. A great trip. I put a lot of miles on my thumb, but "riding the dog", as they use to call it, was a lot safer and sure.
What about using Uber in a nearby town? I bet there is Uber in Fresno. There is good bus service in the San Francisco bay area. One bus stops at Point Reyes. There are also commercial shuttle services on the east side of the Sierra. Also a shuttle service out of Pinedale Wyoming. Not cheap though, at least $100 to be taken to a trailhead. I still occasionally hitch hike between Sierra trailheads. So, far pretty good luck.
Going solo is expensive. If two people drive in one car that's half the cost and pollution. Also, since entry fees to National Parks are per car, only one entry fee. I used to meet people in towns near Yosemite and then we would go in with one car. Many of the costs associated with backpacking are "group" based. The solo backpacker gets hit hard with fees. Always kind of irks e when I go into King Canyon that I pay the same backcountry fee for my permit as a group of 15 even though I do 1/15th the trail damage and other impacts.
Yeh! for Yosemite with its per person fees for the backpacker campgrounds and Camp4 in Yosemite Valley.
I can see how that's true about the AT and other East Coast trails. It's a good argument for going there. Probably lots of trailheads to access. I guess I also have to add a shuttle service I took from Anchorage to Denali State Park once. It was pretty reasonably priced. Yeah, as Daisy mentioned, the economy of scale is better for two to drive than one, but I travel alone a lot of times. The parks entry doesn't bother me so much, because I usually buy an annual pass,but the campsite fees are irritating when you're alone. Living in the Bay Area, I am quite familiar with transit to trailhead options here, but sometimes it's tricky figuring out options elsewhere. I figure there are probably buses that go to trailheads near cities like Salt Lake or Portland, buses like that regional bus I took from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. It would be cool if there was a compendium of such options one could refer to. Truth is, our society is really structured around the use of the private vehicle...of course I could do like john Muir and walk from here to the Sierra
Loc: Washington State, King County
"Anyone have their favorite tips for bus or train served backpacking trails or camping? Thanks."
Amtrak to Glacier National Park, then use park shuttle.
I've used a bus (Trailways I think) to get to a PCT trailhead, then a combination of ferry, bus, and train to get back home from another trailhead on the same trip. Takes a bit of planning, but sometimes it's do-able. A downside if you're stitching together multiple such public transport options is that your total cost and time can go up if the schedules align such that you need to stop somewhere overnight en route.
As others have mentioned YARTS plus I forget what else ("Eastern" something I think) to get from one end of the JMT to the other.
I've hiked by that train station stop on the AT. Didn't use it, my only friend in NYC wasn't free to hang out, but it's there.
Also on the AT, there's a cog train that goes to the top of Mt. Washington (no idea if public transport gets you to/from the base of the train or not ...), that might be a nice way to get up into the White Mountains.
If you're willing to hitchhike, of course, a whole range of "connect to public transport" opens up to you. Perhaps Uber and Lyft offer new options now too, beyond standard taxi? Dunno.
For established trails, consider trail angels. A trail like the PCT, the AT, and the Florida Trail I can confirm also will have trail angels and/or other trail maintainers and/or others who can be found and contacted to see about things like shuttles or other support. These are volunteers, and should be treated as such (with great appreciation and consideration, and certainly renumeration where appropriate --- and for shuttle help this typically IS). But they can help tremendously. Getting to the southern terminus (start point) of the Florida Trail is a real PITA; a trail angel kindly drove my friends and I quite a long distance from Miami last month to make this easy.
For the really established trails (AT primarily) there can also be paid services available. On the AT in particular there are a lot of hostels along the way, and talking to those folks can often help figure out a ride, whether someone there will do it for a fee or they know someone who might.
The YARTS schedule is posted on the internet. They do not determine the actual schedule until much closer to their opening season, usually not until July. Last year I heard rumors of the free shuttles from Mammoth Lakes being reduced or discontinued. It is a really nice system and I hope it can survive. It is supported by local Mammoth Lakes businesses.
I think parking issues prompt people to use public transportation more than the cost factor. Particularly in the Bay area where you have to pay $5 or more just to park a car and then most parking lots do not even allow overnight parking. Right now public transportation for backpacking is so awkward that there is little demand for it, and without the demand, there is little incentive to provide more transportation. Yosemite public transportation works because of the traffic mess and parking problems in the valley. Yosemite is also waiving entry fees if you take YARTS. The system in Mammoth Lakes works because there is a big central parking area at the ski area and Devils Postpile Park does not allow cars so you have to take the shuttle.
On the other hand, the eastern Sierra trailheads are so spread out that shuttle service would not work very well. The private shuttles do work well, for the wealthy. It also is quite easy to hitch hike.
Ride sharing services are quickly changing the concept of public transportation. I am not sure that the "old school" bus/train services will be expanded in the future. The Uber model seems to be more in line with our personal preferences. I sure would use Uber over a bus, even if it cost a bit more. I would love to see someone start a service where you could find shared car-pooling transportation for backpacking - put in the dates of your trip and then be connected with others going the same place.
One other method is key exchanges. This works well in the Sierra for trans-Sierra hikes. Definitely restricted to people you trust.
bobito9- yes, I wish you could walk to the Sierra and re-create John Muir's trip. Alas, could not be done now with all the private land and highway restrictions.
ok, for anyone interested, I found another way to access trails without a car to add to the list: fly to Jackson Hole and take an easy $15 shuttle to Grand Teton Nat'l Park http://www.jacksonholealltrans.com/ I haven't tried it, merely done a little internet research