Last time we visited Mammoth Lakes, we decided to check out Devils Postpile National Monument. The Devils Postpile formation is a geologic wonder and as you know, I love cool rocks. You will have options to extend the Devils Postpile Loop hike by adding Rainbow Falls and/or Minaret Falls. We added Minaret Falls to ours.
We were nicely surprised when the rangers at the entrance told us it was a fee-free day. We drove by the Beck/Fern Lakes Trailhead parking lot and saw it was getting full but decided to check out the Devils Postpile Trailhead parking lot anyway. Well, it was Saturday after all so the parking lot was full. So we drove back to the Beck/Fern Lakes Trailhead parking lot and parked there instead.
If you park in the Beck/Fern Lakes Trailhead parking lot as well, follow a wooden sign for “Ranger Station” and take this 0.33-mile trail to the Devils Postpile trailhead.
From the Devils Postpile Trailhead, Devils Postpile Loop is a short hike with a total distance of less than a mile. It’s good for the whole family. The loop takes you to the top of Devils Postpile and back down.
You have an option to do the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. There is no better option. If you want to do the loop clockwise, follow the first “LOOP TRAIL TO TOP OF POSTPILE” sign after 0.3 miles. We did it counterclockwise and saw the postpile from the bottom first.
Devils Postpile’s columns tower 60 feet high and display an unusual symmetry. The formation ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt.
Follow the trail until you get to the next sign. Here, you can either go up to the top of Postpile or continue on to Rainbow Falls first and check out the top of Postpile on the way back. Rainbow Falls is 2 miles away one-way from this junction.
Heading up to the top. Check out the columns from the sideway!
Nature’s Wonder at the Top of Devils Postpile – Hexagon shapes like these appear throughout nature because of its ability to save space and energy. Think of beehives and turtle shells. Now, that’s cool!
We completed the loop trail and got back on John Muir Trail toward the trailhead. Now off to Minaret Falls.
Follow the signs for Minaret Falls and you will get there without getting lost.
I found out later that the best time to visit the Rainbow Falls and Minaret Falls is early summer right after the monument is open for the season in mid-June. You can expect amazing water flows usually until at least the 4th of July weekend. You might even see some patches of snow at that time.
Although Minaret Falls weren’t gushing at the time of our visit, it was still pretty. Not having to deal with summer crowds is always worth it for me. If you are up for climbing the boulders, you can get close to the waterfalls. I was happy with just watching it flow and listening to the waterfalls.
When you are ready, go back to John Muir Trail as you came in and head over to the trailhead.
Good to Know:
- Hike Date: 9.28.19
- Distance: 4.4 miles RT
- Elevation Gain: 800 ft
- Maximum Altitude: 7,840 ft
- Difficulty Rating: Moderate
- Trailhead: Devils Postpile Trailhead in Devils Postpile National Monument
- Fee/Permit: If you wish to camp in the monument campground, campsites are $20/site/night or $10/per site/night for Senior or Access pass holders
- Check the National Monument website before you go for Operating Hours and Seasons
- Toilets available at the trailhead
- Notable: waterfalls, partly shady, rock climbing, dogs on leash, seasonal, kid-friendly